After 1 year of writing 3,000 words a week...
It's been over a year since I started this blog. Three hundred and ninety-two days to be exact. Looking back on a year of three 1,000-word posts a week, I've seen a few things from my creative process that - at least for right now - I know to be true.
1. It doesn't get a lot easier
Of course, my writing took on more form and style and the process itself became easier as I learned more about structure and story. But the problem with any form of artistic expression is that you'll always run into the same issue whether you're 28 or 88: creative block. I find myself regularly staring at a blank page because the process of creating isn't as simple as turning a switch on and off. It's either an intentional, slow process or an unexpected burst of creative inspiration. From that perspective, the issues that plagued me as a young writer still plague me now as a... slightly older, young writer.
2. But it's all worth it
Though the creative process can bring its fair share of difficulties, it also is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding tasks I've put my hand to. Because I know that I must crank out 1,000+ words after I get home from work, I find myself living life more aware and more observant of what's going on around me. Thoughts or happenings throughout the day that would ordinarily be dismissed without a second thought, I look to unravel and understand. The ideas that spawn from that more observant lifestyle are then crammed through the mental equivalent of a meat processor - chopped up, mashed together with other ideas and compressed into a semi-recognizable form. Then served up on a digital platter. Awareness and logical thinking are not tools that I pull out when I find myself on one side of a heated argument - they're second nature!
3. I write because I have to
Writing can be a lonely art because it's often done from behind a computer screen wondering if anyone will ever read what I'm writing. Thankfully, every once in a while, someone will share a story with me about how something I wrote made an impact on their life. That reminds me that I'm not alone in this. But I'll be honest, there are many periods of time when it would be immensely easier just to stop writing. Every time I sit down at my computer and can't think of anything to write. Every time my blog traffic drops to nearly nothing. Every time I come home from work exhausted. In the end, I write because I have to. Because I believe what I'm writing has some value for someone out there - even if that someone is me.
4. You should write even when you don't have anything to say; you should only publish when you have something worth saying
Writing, like other arts, is a discipline. Improvement is not found in a do-it-when-you-feel-like-it mindset. It's found in a mindset of rigorous practice. Any athlete would tell you that some mornings they hate the idea of going to the gym. Any comedian would tell you that some nights they hate the idea of standing up in front of a crowd and cracking jokes. Any writer would tell you the same. Because doing it when you hate the idea of it is not easy. But we do it anyway because most of the time we love the idea of it. Most of the time, we have something to say. And all of the time it's worth it.
Publishing, on the other hand, should not be done when you're bull-crapping the post. My audience (all of you guys) and your audiences deserve only the best. I believe that our following should be taken care of, whether through Twitter, a blog or a company. How are we leading that following? How are we giving them the best value that we can? Publish only when you have something worth saying.
5. Consistency is more important than volume
Okay, so I actually didn't learn this until today. I was talking with my dad about this blog and he told me, "You can post three times a week or two times a week - the key is to be consistent so your audience knows what to expect from you." Good call, Dad. In the end, the most important part of blogging (other than providing value to your audience) is being a reliable source of quality content. It goes back to the whole "leading your tribe" thing.
6. To create, you must first consume; dry spells should be met with new experiences
I find my idea bank coming up dry sometimes. That's no fun because writer's block sucks. But you know what doesn't suck? Living a life full of unique experiences. When the idea bank dries up, it's time to refill it - go live! Isn't that what life is about anyway?
After 150,000+ words over the past year, writing has significantly changed the way I think, consume and communicate. It's been a wonderful part of my life and I hope more people give it a shot. I promise, if you stick with it, it's all worth it.