What I learned from a 12 Week Writing Challenge
“You don’t really finish anything” said my friend. “You tend to dabble and float around but you never really commit to something and finish it” I wasn’t really sure how to handle that. I could think of plenty of arguments but at the core of it he was right. I tend to be an explorer. I try this and that but once I have satiated my curiosity I usually am happy to discard what ever it was and move on to something else. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear but it was true none-the-less. I had been listening to a lot of motivational folks like Gary Lee and Chris Do and felt I needed to do something. To set a goal and make it happen. So I thought back to an article that Matt Tanner wrote and said “I can do something like that!” So right then and there I set a goal.
3 months (12 weeks). One article per week. There were times I almost didn’t make it and several times I wanted to abandon the project all together but I did it. So here is a retrospective to mark the end of this chapter and a couple lessons that I have learned in the last 12 weeks.
Let go of perfection
When I first started writing I had this terrifying idea that I would write something and everyone would laugh at it and it would show up in some big design influencer’s tweet about what not to do. This thought that somehow my content would blow up in my face paralyzed me to the point where I couldn’t publish. When I decided to publish it took me forever to get the content out due to checking, double checking and revising and editing for hours. In the grand scheme of things two truths hold.
- Nobody is paying attention to you so there is plenty of room to fail.
- There will always be room to improve.
The first realization that helped me ship was when I realized that nobody is watching. There isn’t a big important client sitting behind their keyboard waiting with bated breath to see my next article. (If I am wrong about this and you are indeed a big important client waiting with bated breath for my next article please reach out and let me know how wrong I am). In fact most people will scroll right past it and not give it any more thought than that. There is plenty of room to make mistakes, try new things, experiment with tone and content.
The second realization is that there will always be ways to improve. Don’t burn yourself out trying to find all of the hidden mistakes and errors. Do your best and let it go. Always strive to improve but let the idea of perfection go. It isn’t productive and it doesn’t help you achieve anything that you set out to do.
Being Proactive > Genius
I began to realize that around week four or five I started to get feedback from folks who admired the consistency that I was building. I began to hear things like “Your production is amazing”, “You’re so consistent!”, “I could never do that!”. I wasn’t doing something exceptional. I didn’t have any special talent for writing. I just chose to do it and did it. I realized that I often say similar things and think in similar ways about the things I want to do but haven’t done.
“They are special”
“I just don’t have what it takes”
“I could never do that!”
Being on the other side of these types of comments expanded my view and gave me a perspective that I probably wouldn’t have come to otherwise. All of my heroes aren’t some sort of ridiculous miracle. Mike Monteiro didn’t wake up one morning and have Design is a Job sitting on his nightstand. Chris Do didn’t drop out of the sky and straight into a Youtube channel, Instagram following and successful design company. There wasn’t some cosmic burp that created Matt Mercer and Critical Role. Each of them spent years making specific choices, developing expertise and cultivating their businesses and since it wasn’t some accident it meant that I could do it to.
Regardless of what you are looking to achieve you have to be intentional about what you want and make it happen. On more than one occasion I found myself at 11pm Saturday night staring at a blank page or a garbage outline and had to force myself to put words on the page. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to give up and go back to playing video games or something. Instead I set my priorities, faced my fears and got to work
The last 12 weeks have been a real roller coaster of emotions and fears. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it and yet here I am sitting on as many articles in 3 months as I had written in a year prior. I’ve been able to learn a lot in that time and would highly recommend giving it a try on your own. You’ll be great and learn your own lessons along the way. I can’t promise fame or fortune but I can promise that you will have learned a lot along the way about writing and design, sure. More than that though I think you will find that more than ever you are in the drivers seat and the journey is yours. You just need to get started.
My 12 Week Writing Challenge Articles
Week 12: What I learned From my 12 Week Writing Challenge