5 lessons from writing every day for 3 years

January 28th 2014, I challenged myself to write every day for a month. I wanted to improve my writing and thought the best was to write more.

Over 1000 days and 1 million words later, I’m still going and have no temptation to stop.

I want to share a few things I’ve learned from writing consistently for three years.

  1. It’s possible.

After my 30 day challenge, I realised  it was something I enjoyed it and decided to continue. The streak was still young so I wasn’t concerned about breaking the streak.

Without noticing, it slowly evolved into something much bigger that I could have expected. I’d wake up, and want to write. I’d think about my day and make sure that I could find the time for writing. I’d tell friends while on holiday that I’m going to disappear for 15 minutes and write a bit.

I’d carve out time instead of just hoping that I’d be able to get round to it. As the streak grew and grew, I became more attached to it.

Did I aim for 3 years? Never. If I did, I don’t think I would have achieved it.

Thankfully, this applies to other habits as well. With some persistence, the habit eventually grows into something you can’t not do instead of something you try to do.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

2. It’s OK to write bullshit.

So much of me is glad that I haven’t sat down to just publish everything in the journal. Half of it doesn’t make sense and the other half just repeats the same thing.

You can dance like no one is watching and you can write like no one is reading. It’s yours.

Surprisingly enough this gave me the confidence to write work then publish it because the first draft of your work is yours and hidden away. Write like no one is reading then edit the life into it. It doesn’t matter how repetitive, boring, and verbose it is.

Good writing comes from writing loads then editing the rubbish away.

Write. Write. Then edit a bit more.

3. It’ll pass.

For those who don’t know, I deal with chronic pain. I’ve written a lot about it in my journal (and much of that led to me writing Living With Chronic Pain) but I’ve also noticed that in the darkest times I’ve experienced, I’ve felt that it’s going to go on forever. It doesn’t.

Emotions pass with time. Especially if you give yourself permission not to latch onto them and see what it’s like to let them go.

This doesn’t mean the depression will just leave or the anxiety will turn into comfort but I do have a greater appreciation of myself and the problems I see myself experiencing. There’s a lot of shit that comes with disability or just living life in general. Having a log of some emotions is somewhat nice.

With time things pass. And that is comforting.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

4. You learn more about yourself.

Occasionally, I’d just spend time writing about my day. Maybe I had a particularly good day and I wanted more time to experience it and relive it as best I can.

Then I moved onto writing more about myself and the values that I hold. It’d take some struggle and time because I often didn’t know what I believed about myself and the world. It was something I’d studied but never really taken the time to reflect and learn.

It took a lot of time but the value in being slightly more reflective, even if it is 15 minutes every week or month, is remarkable. It showed me that there’s still so much for me to learn and improve upon as a person. How to treat other people better and with more respect or even how to treat yourself with more respect.

Taking time to reflect is important. Writing about it occasionally is helpful and better yet gives you a log of how your views have changed over time.

5. It’s OK to change your mind.

When I would sit down and write about something substantial, I’d occasionally find myself just changing my mind. Sometimes I’d dislike it.

But changing your mind is vital to being able to assess the world honestly. It’s uncomfortable. But worthwhile. Most worthwhile things are difficult.

And those are some of the things I’ve learned. It’s been enjoyable and something I hope to continue. As the streak grew, I gained more and more confidence in my ability to keep long streaks like this going. When I reached 2.5 years, getting to 3 years felt easy. When I was at 30 days, getting to 60 seemed impossible.

Start one day at a time. Ignore the end goal and focus solely on creating.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

Now if only I could apply this to the blog…


As always, thanks for reading :)

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Have you ever tried maintaining a journal?

Don’t Break the Chain

One of the most helpful ideas in habit creation is making and keeping streaks.

It’s as simple as it sounds. Start something, do it every day and you’ll see the benefits.

I’ve tried holding a number streaks and there are a few I’ve kept for a very long time. They’ve ended up becoming quite special because they literally happen every day. Here are some of my most significant streaks:

  1. Written at least 750 words every day for 561 days.
  2. Meditated for 303 days.

These streaks might look difficult to keep up but it becomes automatic and turns into a normal part of the day that doesn’t feel like a significant effort. How so?

For three reasons.

  1. They’re easy to start
  2. It’s done daily
  3. They’re important

I’ll discuss them separately.

They’re easy to start

Changing behaviour big steps at a time is difficult because comfort zones are really easy to stay in.

Right now, your bed is a comfort zone because it’s warm and …for lack of a better word, comfortable.  It’s even more comfortable when it’s cold and raining. The cold wind is meant to represent new behaviours like going to the gym or writing in a journal every day.

Hopefully you see what I’m going for here. In order to make leaving your bed easier, you need to start with a small step instead of jumping out and dancing in the rain.

Writing every day actually started with jotting a few sentences down in a paper journal. I later started writing on 750words which might have taken me 30 minutes to write. After a year, I now average over 1000 words a day.

Meditating every day started with 1 minute every day. Then 2. Then 3 and so on. It capped at around 20 but I’ve settled down to 5 to 10 minutes every day.

Some other examples:

If you want to start exercising, commit to running for one minute.

If you want to eat healthy, commit to buying apples instead of chocolate bars.

It you want to meditate, meditate for one minute.

You might think that these are too easy and they should be more significant. What’s the point in running for one minute? They’re meant to be easy to start and keep up. A big mistake is to overestimate what we can maintain over a few days and weeks. Lifestyle changes never happen overnight.

It’s done every day

A habit is essentially a behaviour that’s near enough automatic. Like brushing your teeth or checking Twitter in the morning.

Doing something every day is more likely to change an occasional action to a habit because you’re used to doing it and being a part of a positive feedback loop more often. If you choose to do something once a week and miss it, it’s very easy to dismiss it and say you’ll do it the next week. If you choose to do it every day, it’s always on the list of things to do and harder to ignore. If you do manage to miss it, to get back on the routine, you pick it up the next day. It stops you from losing track of your habits due to a simple mistake.

If you want to write, try to write a small amount every day instead of a big amount at the end of the week.

If you’re starting the gym, go every day instead of twice a week. [1]

If you want to wake up earlier, commit to it every day including the weekends.

It’s important

In the beginning stages of habit creation, we need reminders before they become more automatic and easier to do. This is why importance helps.

I’ve experimented with waking up at 6:30 every morning and realised I didn’t care about it. I didn’t do it so I could meditate for longer or write more. I tried to wake up at that time simply because I read that successful people did it. That justification ignored why it was done and the need to continue disappeared.

The value of the tasks will grow and change the longer you do them but the initial desire to start a new habit should be found through research rather than doing something without understanding the potential benefits. Meditating is important to me because it helps me find peace during my day and has made me more mindful. Waking up early just to wake up early (and spend the extra hours doing nothing at all) is a much more likely to end in failure and feel like a waste of time.

With this being said, feel free to experiment with different habits. If you don’t want to keep one up, don’t. Sometimes the benefit of the task takes a while to be realised but research helps with picking some habits you might want to start with. I can recommend reading for 10 minutes and meditating for 2 minutes a day.

Keeping streaks going is great. They’re an interesting test of dedication as you begin to make time for them rather than find time. All to continue a streak you created for yourself.

I’m a space bird and I’m going to graduate to a space monkey eventually.

If you have any streaks going, what are they? Is there anything you’d like to start?

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If you found the post helpful/amazing/super amazing or any other adjective, use the links at the end to share it with the whole world (or a few friends. That’s cool too.)

Some stuff to read:

  1. One step at a time
  2. Stop doing so much
  3. 5 Reasons to start meditating
  4. A Very Short Guide to Meditation

[1] I mentioned going to the gym every day and can already hear the cries of ‘but rest days!!1!’

In the initial stages, going to the gym every day isn’t a bad thing. You don’t need to do an intense workout daily since it can vary from heavy weights one day to mobility work the next.

You can still measure streaks without making them daily. Count towards the streak on dedicated days (e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and if you miss those it’s broken. I advocate working on the habit every day because it makes it automatic quicker.