My friend Leannah asked me yesterday how I would celebrate being finished this 30-day challenge.
“I don’t know,” I told her. “Probably eat something?”
It hadn’t occurred to me. Just being finished felt like celebration enough.
I’ve been officially teaching writing for six months now, and actually writing for way longer than that. But the first thing all of this has taught me is that challenging yourself is a very valuable life experience.
I would never call myself an “expert” writer, because that would be obnoxious, and also because I don’t think we can be an expert at anything non-linear, and creativity is nothing if non-linear.
But I do have my ways. I work on my book most mornings, and on my client work in the afternoons. And every month or two (or more…) I think, hmm, I should really write a blog post. Then I put it off for a while. Then I sit down and write copious amounts of notes and worry about how much time blogging is taking away from my other writing, and then remember how much I love blogging, because it connects me to readers right in the moment, rather than writing for future readers from a room, by myself, or with Ruble, who doesn’t appreciate anything aside from cookies or someone throwing his squeaky alien toy.
I put hours and hours into those blog posts. I usually stretch out writing them over days, or weeks. And there is nothing wrong with that. But having to write a post every day for the last month has sure as shit helped me turn that idea on its head. Here are some other things I’ve learned about art and life in this 30-day challenge: 1. Accountability is a powerful thing. Want to do something? Tell a bunch of people you’re going to do something every day for 30 days (or whatever) and suddenly, you’re doing it. What else do you think you can’t do? What else might you be totally wrong about? I cannot emphasize this enough. 2. One of the things my friends/support group remind each other of is “done is better than perfect,” which comes from Liz Gilbert’s brilliant book, Magic Lessons. Again, this probably does apply to building bridges, or performing surgery. But while patience, attention to detail and love are all valuable and important aspects of making art, sometimes, you just have to get your shit out there so that people can experience it. And then be surprised by the fact that it’s better than you think it is. And if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter, cause you’re just going to keep getting it done until it is. 3. I can’t imagine being one of those people who have to constantly social media-ize their lives, because of their careers or their status or they are a Kardashian or whatever. I will very much enjoy a break from whipping out my notebook any time a friend says something funny or I get stuck on an elevator because I don’t want to forget each detail. I will looove getting to the end of the day and being able to turn off. And not do Instagram hashtags for a while. 4. And yet, even throughout this journey, how many times do you think I got to the end of a day and thought, “What in god’s name am I going to write about?” More than half the time. Probably 60% of the time. People who want to be writers often say they have nothing to say. I get it. But because of whipping out that notebook – and because I had to – I made a habit of being an observer. It wasn’t traveling around Europe that made me do it. It was watching for stories. Which is what I love about stories: they are all around us. They are in our eyes and in the air and in everyone we meet and in everything we struggle with. As long as you are alive, there will be stories. And the more you try to see them, the more you will. 5. In this crazily disjointed world where we mostly connect through little rectangular screens we hold in our hands, blogs and social media can count for a lot. I’ve been amazed at the responses I’ve gotten from this project. I’ve gotten comments and reads from people I haven’t spoken to in ages, people I’ve just met, total strangers. And I write to connect, so I’ve loved a lot about the last 30 days. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a very long nap. But to answer Leannah’s question: I do want to celebrate, and with something aside from this bottle of Romanian Pinot. (Trust me.) So I’m inviting you to celebrate with me. First off, if you’ve been reading any of these posts, please write and tell me so. Not because it will stroke my ego. Well, a little bit because it will stroke my ego. But more because I want to know what you liked, and what you didn’t like. What you’d like more of, and what you’d like less of. What moved you, and what didn’t. This will help me more than you can imagine. People don’t realize how much writers love 2-way communication. After years of doing this, the topics or themes I often think are the weirdest or most out there or unique to only me often get the most responses, whereas the stuff I think everyone is going to get sometimes falls flat. I would love, love, love to hear from you, even if it’s just to say, “Hi! I read you! Bye!” Facebook me, DM me, text me, call me, tweet me, email me. I will also accept messages written on cakes. Secondly, one more time with feeling, if you’ve enjoyed even one of these posts, and haven’t done so yet, please donate what you can to a charity of your choosing, or one of the three below. Just $2. Maybe more. I would really love that. It would be nice for all this energy to go towards making other people’s lives better, since ultimately, that’s why we’re here. I wish I had something more poetic or dramatic to say, but this says it better than I ever could: I really do. Thank you so much for being here, Natalie
I met some refugees from Syria while in Turkey. We’ve all heard the stories, but the ones they shared, which I will write about soon, made me wonder how it is that we inhabit the same planet. Every little bit helps. I saw that firsthand.
Edja was founded by the wife of Jackson Kaguri, director of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project where I volunteered in Uganda two years ago, to combat child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. As you can read about here, this is a huge issue.
Living in Bali put animal rights in a whole new light for me. Wild and homeless dogs in Bali suffer terrible states of health, are not fed or watered properly, and are sometimes used as sacrifice. BARC does amazing work.