The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 10: “Nothing is a Cliché When You Really Do It from the Heart”

Most creative people I know consume reams of information each day. Maybe on the way to finding inspiration for our own work, or simply in the course of the work we do that pays the bills, if that happens to be different from the passion work.

Sometimes in the course of this daily consumption, we find a quote or a passage that sticks with us long after we read it, and even changes the way we think about something important, or the way we approach our work.

In December 2013 I read an article about director David O. Russell, of American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, and Three Kings, among other movies, fame. There was one specific passage in the article, a quote from Russell, that changed the way I think about what’s “ok” to write, and what’s not.

Here’s what he said:

Nothing is really a cliché when you really, really do it from the heart.  And if you really feel it, and it’s real, and you know people who have felt it, there is nothing clichéd about it. It will bring you to your knees. It will make you cry. And that’s my job: To tell those stories in ways that surprise us and remind us of the opera that we’re living with every mistake and every new chance.

As creators, we all have times when we look at our creative output and think it can’t be good, it can’t be worth sharing, because it’s cliché, because it deals with well-worn territory that’s been trod a thousand times before.

Often when I read over what I write before hitting “publish,” I’m thinking that. And if not, “That’s been said a thousand times before, so why bother?,” then “Everybody already knows this,” or “This isn’t new, different, or interesting enough to write about,” or some derivative thereof.

And then I start to feel constricted creatively, because here’s a thing I want to write about, but I’ve told myself I can’t.  I can’t because it’s been done before. Which when you get right down to it, is patently ridiculous, because practically everything’s been done before, written about before, explored in writing or art before. “There’s nothing new under the sun,” as the saying goes.

But the truth is, like Russell says, “ . . . if you really feel it, and it’s real, and you know people who have felt it, there is nothing clichéd about it.”

And besides, each person’s approach to life’s big (and small) themes is their very own, a unique expression of that writer’s or artist’s perspective.

So whether your art is about heartbreak, overcoming obstacles, embracing love, finding the courage to do something different with your life, or any of the other “big” topics that art typically explores, it’s yours to write about, paint about, photograph, illustrate, or whatever it is you do, with wild abandon.

Because nothing is a cliché when you really do it from the heart.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 9: It’s the Little Things

Sat nite soccer

Last night I went to a soccer game with my friend, Kristal, to see our hometown team, the Wilmington Hammerheads, play.

It was a beautiful night – balmy, breezy and not as god-awful hot and humid as it usually is this time of year, for which we were both very thankful.

Alas, our team lost, but being outdoors in a stadium surrounded by other fans (some so fanatical they glue plastic hammerhead shark figures to their hats, as you can see in the image above), drinking a cold beer, and hanging out with a great friend – there’s nothing better.

It’s the little things.

After the game, we went out for tacos and beer, and let me tell you, the pulled pork taco I had at this new place in town called Beer Barrio was heavenly. So heavenly, in fact, that I may write an ode to it – “Ode on a Pulled Pork Taco” – it was that good. (Do people still write odes? Or did that practice die with Romantic poet John Keats, who famously wrote “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to Melancholy,” and “Ode to a Nightingale” back in the 1800s?)

It’s the little things.

Today when I woke up, the first thing I did was check the weather on my phone, and discovered it was only 68 degrees out. 68 degrees!  This was around 7:00 a.m., but like the balmy weather last night, this is uncharacteristically cool for this time of year here in the hot, humid, dirty South y’all.

Learning it was so nice out made me really happy, giddy even.  I immediately turned off my air conditioner and opened my patio door. I walked outside with my coffee, practically overcome with joy at the simple pleasure of being able to sit outside and read the Sunday paper in the late July southern summer, something that hasn’t been possible since May.

It’s the little things.

Now, if I can just hold on to the calm centeredness I feel as I sit here and write this on Sunday night, this happy, relaxed, reveling-in-the-small-moments joy, throughout the coming week full of deadlines, work demands, must-dos and should-dos, I’ll be all set.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 8: Finding a Sacred Rhythm

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of habit. Of routine.  . . . So much can be accomplished in one focused hour, especially when that hour is part of a routine, a sacred rhythm that becomes part of your daily life. 

~Dani Shapiro, Still Writing

Since committing to this daily writing & publishing project a week ago, I’ve been trying to find an hour or two early in the day in which to get the writing done. When I started out, I thought I’d get up at 6:00 am every morning and write for 1-2 hours, hit publish, then move on with the rest of my day.

That was the plan.

But what’s happened instead is, I get up at my usual time of 6:30 a.m., do my daily practice, which consists of, first, the making of the coffee, obviously, then meditation, writing in my journal, and some other personal growth practices.

I’m usually at my desk by 8:30 a.m., but I always feel like I must, must, must, knock out the client work first, then I “get to” do the daily writing afterwards. But by 5:00 or 6:00 or 7:00 pm when the work, work is out of the way, I feel creatively spent.

I write and publish to the blog anyway, but it feels like I’m not giving the writing the attention it deserves (after all, this is my craft, the thing I really want to do, do well, and get consistently better at doing). But, alas, the writing has been relegated to second-place position.

In the past, when I’ve gotten up a wee bit earlier than my usual time and written before I begin on the client projects for the day, I feel accomplished, joyous, and inspired, a feeling that carries over into the client work, making me feel more productive, efficient, and overall happier about the landscape of my work days.

This thing Dani Shapiro speaks of, “a routine, a sacred rhythm that becomes part of your daily life,” is something I’ve wanted to establish for my writing for a very long time. But I’ve tried and failed, tried and failed. The writing gets done, but as for time of day it gets done, it’s all over the place. And that makes me twitchy. I long for the calm knowing that every day at X time, I’m going to sit down at my desk and write, and I want that “X” time to be in the early a.m.

So, next week I’m going to try that practice on for size again. Writing first, client work, second. This won’t be easy since I have a big load of client deadlines next week, but hey, I’m gonna give it the old college try! (You know what popped into my head just now, writing that? The quote from Yoda in Star Wars, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”)

Then I remind myself that my current daily routine of meditation and journaling in the a.m. took me a couple of years, I’m ashamed to say, to become habit.  So if I stick with the attempt to write every morning, before the work day starts, I’ll get there eventually.

I’ll share how it goes here on the blog very soon.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 7: Essentialism

I recently watched a talk given by Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, to employees at Google. I’d been hearing about this book for weeks and it was already on the “Books to Buy” list I have saved into the Notes app of my iPhone, so I paid close attention to the ideas he shared.

In the talk, McKeown asks, “How do you build a habit or routine that supports the things that are the most essential, so that it becomes the default position, even when we’re not aggressively trying to pursue it?”

I’ve been thinking about this, and reading more about McKeown’s book and its premise over the last few days. I gather he’s talking mostly about our work lives, and some reviews I’ve read of the book over on Amazon suggest that that is, in fact, the case.

So for the purposes of this blog post, let’s assume we’re not talking about the really big things that we all understand to be essential. Things like good health, love, meaningful relationships with family and friends, and so on.

As artists, creators and writers, we may feel that our creative work is the most essential thing in our day-to-day lives, the thing that gives our lives meaning and purpose. But do the schedules we set for ourselves reflect that?

McKeown says, “We need to design our lives deliberately, or they will end up being designed for us by people that aren’t as invested as us in achieving the essential mission of our lives.”

This is one of the reasons I left my corporate writing gig at a medical center in February of this year. While I enjoyed the work I did and the colleagues I worked with, I knew it wasn’t what I was “meant” to be doing, not even as a day-to-day work to pay the bills gig. But pay the bills it did, so obviously, I couldn’t up and quit.

Although I was running my copywriting business at the same time, by necessity it remained a side hustle, and I wanted to make it my full-time thing. But I knew that as long as I stayed at the corporate gig, I would never fully develop my own business; instead, my work life would be designed for me by default by people who weren’t invested in helping me achieve “the essential mission of my life.” They were working on their mission, and it’s a good one, but it wasn’t mine.

This isn’t to say that my “mission” per se is running a successful copywriting business, but it’s one element of my plan for world domination, bah ha ha.

But seriously, folks, the copywriting business allows me to do other things that are a part of my mission, such as more writing in general, and writing of a different kind – essays, narrative non-fiction, memoir, etc. – and to submit that work for publication.

I don’t have the essentialism thing licked by a long shot – just take a look at my daily to-do list and you’ll see what I mean – but when I think back to leaving the reliable corporate gig for the peaks and valleys of doing my own thing, business-wise, I see that I was indeed making a choice to pursue the things that are most essential to my creative mission.

And that is a darn good feeling, especially when I think of all the terror and self-doubt I experienced right after leaving the corporate gig.

McKeown tells us that living a life “built around the voice inside instead of the noise outside” is the key to being happier and more fulfilled, and I genuinely feel like I’m getting closer to that ideal every day.

Because for me, as scary and uncertain as it was to leave something solid and reliable that paid the bills and then some to go out on my own, with all its potential risks and pitfalls, the payoff has been well worth it.

I believe that when we choose the thing that makes us happiest, even when we haven’t arranged for a safety net to catch us if it doesn’t work out {raises hand}, it will eventually pay off.

And your creative mission deserves at least that much respect.

Read more about Greg McKeown and Essentialism here.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 6: All Procrastination is Fear

Once upon a semester when I was an undergraduate in college many years ago, I took a full load of classes, worked two part-time jobs – one at an architects’ office for a few hours every afternoon, the other as a waitress at a high-end restaurant Friday-Sunday nights – had a serious, committed relationship with a boyfriend that needed regular tending, and a kept up a very active social life full of friends and family visits and nights out with girlfriends.

It exhausts me just thinking about it now. Where did I get the energy? 

But that semester, the one full to the brim with activities and relationships and school work and paid work, and another semester very much like it later in my college career, I made the Dean’s List. When I had less going on in my life, I still did well in college, grade-wise, but, alas, no Dean’s List.

It took me a while to figure out that the more I had to do, the more I could do, and the better I could do it. 

As writers, we often feel like we need vast expanses of uninterrupted time to create our great work, or even that 500 word blog post that needs to get published by close of business today.

“If only I had all day to write,” we think, “how much I could get done.” Oh, for an entire day stretched out before us with no obligations to distract from the work at hand. Or for a series of days like that, even better. Oh, yes. It sounds positively dreamy.

I don’t know about you, but even when I do manage to get that blissfully uninterrupted day of writing space, I don’t always use it well.

Sometimes on these days, I find distractions.  Seek them out, I tell you. On purpose.

Here’s this thing I love doing above all else, this thing I want so badly to have more unfettered time to do, yet when the time to do it does present itself, I don’t always use it well.

It’s maddening.

And so I think back to those halcyon college days, days of knocking out research and socializing and studying and boyfriend time and 20 page papers on terrorism in literature (I am not making that up) without once uttering, “I don’t have enough time,” and I wonder how I can get that groove back. The groove in which I just suck it up and get.the.work.done, instead of frittering away time reading the latest articles on Huffington Post or Muck Rack Daily.

I recently listened to a podcast in which writer Elizabeth Gilbert was having a conversation with another writer about this topic. This writer, a mother of two young children, desperately wanted uninterrupted time to write, yet when she got it, she didn’t work on her book.

What Gilbert shared with her was this:

All procrastination is fear. Anything you do that stops you from doing the work that is gnawing at you, the work that wants to be made through you, the creative project that’s begging you to release it, the treasures that are hidden inside of you, anything you do that blocks that is fear. And it might look like fear very obviously or it might not – fear has a lot of shady disguises. Fear shows up as perfectionism, fear shows up as insecurity, fear shows up as guilt, fear shows up as procrastination. All of it is just something that you’re too scared to do.

Aha. So if this thing that prevents me from writing when I actually have time to write is fear, then the best way to deal with it – not overcome it, because I don’t know if that’s possible, but deal with it – is to sit down in front of the computer and write anyway, in spite of whatever shady disguise fear chooses to wear that day.

Just write, every day. Even if the writing is bad. Even if it’s nonsensical. Even if it never rises to the level of publishable or shareable.

That’s partly what I’m trying to accomplish with this 30-day project – I’m hoping that by making myself accountable to write & publish here daily, no matter what, I can learn to kick that procrastination, er, I mean fear, devil right where he lives.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 5: All Hail the True Break: Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain for Maximum Creativity

Vacation isn’t a luxury. Neither is daydreaming. Don’t skimp.

This was the pull-out quote from a recent article in the Sunday New York Times called “Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain.” Written by Daniel J. Levitin, director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University and author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, the article reminds us that to experience peak creativity, we need to stop multi-tasking, take real vacations (you know, the kind in which we don’t compulsively check email or answer work-related calls, etc.), and allow plenty of true downtime in our daily lives.

When I started thinking back over the last few months, what I noticed was that “true” downtime is practically non-existent in my life. I used to work 7 days a week, then about 6 months ago, I started giving myself Sundays off. Sundays are now mostly work-free, though about two Sundays a month are spent doing some kind of work-related something for a couple of hours.

Some of that manic work activity I chalk up to having a writing business, a business in which it feels as if there is something important to be done nearly every minute of the day – client work; taking a business-building class; marketing, outreach and promotion; honing my writing skills; looking for and acting on opportunities to “build my platform;” social media interaction, and other assorted activities.

This is the cost of doing business, as they say, but the cost lately feels high. No play, no fun, no frivolity, not even one full day a week where I’m not doing something to move my business forward or thinking about what else I could be doing or should be doing.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this lately, because I’ve spent a lot of time feeling spent – worn out, wrecked, exhausted, fried, dog-tired.

And for months I’ve been brainstorming ways to slow it all down and build in unadulterated fun and carefree do-nothing time into my schedule. So when I read Levitin’s article, it felt like a permission slip.

Daydreaming as part of the creative process, how logical. Of course, right?

Then I remembered a glor-i-ous day I had recently, back in March. (Ok, so not too recently, but still.) I made plans to go to lunch with my friend Carolyn and her 7-year-old daughter. Before meeting up with them, I did the usual morning routine – gratitude practice, meditation, the drinking of the coffee, and so on.

I do this every day, but this day, for the first time in a long time, it didn’t feel rushed. I didn’t race through what’s meant to be languid and slow, all so I could hurry up and get to my desk and work, work, work. Instead, I dawdled. I dilly-dallied. I loafed. It was lovely.

Then I met up with my friend and her daughter a couple of hours later for nice leisurely lunch. Afterward, we strolled over to the bookstore, where we spent an hour or so wondering around, reading from books that intrigued us, and drinking coffee in the café.

There were plenty of other people doing the same thing, and as I looked at them sitting there enjoying their coffee and magazines, I thought, “So this is how regular people spend their Saturdays.” It was a revelation.

Then I drove home, read from the new book I’d bought earlier that afternoon, and napped. Later, I went for a walk at the park near my house, then made a Whole Foods run. For the rest of that evening and all the next day, I felt, relaxed, happy, and deeply rested. Like my creative well had been replenished.

It was the best day I’d had in a long, long time. Even now, a calm sort of washes over me as I write this, remembering it.

And the best thing was, I didn’t feel the least bit guilty the next day for taking the day off, which is miraculous. I’ve worked every Saturday as long as I can remember, and on the rare occasion I don’t put in at least 5 or 6 hours on a Saturday, I usually end up feeling like a guilty slacker, like I’m not doing “enough” to build my business.

But on this day, I actually felt like I deserved the time off, and my work the next week was better for it.

I’d like to say I kept up the habit of allowing myself a day like that glorious one last spring at least once a week, but that’s not the case.

But I’ll always have the memory. And because it did me so much good in the mental health department, and helped me have a more productive week the following week, the goal is to find a way to carve out many more Saturdays just like it in the very near future.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 4: Daily Practice

{This post is inspired by illustrator David Litchfield’s Drawing a Day Project. Check out his Ted Talk about the project here.}

People asked me during the project, ‘How do you find the time to do this?’ … ‘How do you find the time to do what you love?’ . . . You find time. If you’re passionate about something and if you’ve got a goal then you find time – and in many cases you have to almost kind of create time.  ~ David Litchfield

When I decided to publish a new blog post each day for 30 days, I had no idea what the organizing principle for the project would be.

What topics would I write about? Would there be some kind of end point or logical destination I was trying to get to? Would there be a “framework” or a “hook,” a unifying theme that held the posts together? Would I even have time to write and publish something each day?

I have to say the answer to those questions is “no.”

While I would love to say that I thought all these things through thoroughly before embarking on this project, with my 30 days of content perfectly planned and organized, and the time required to write each day duly scheduled into my calendar, the truth is I just jumped in without knowing what the heck I’d be writing about from day to day, or with any idea of how it would fit into my busy schedule.

But as I mentioned in my Day One post, if I waited around until I had the “perfect” conceit on which to hang this thing, or loads of free time to devote to it, I would have never gotten started.

And since I have a long history of wanting to do this or that creative project, with many, many ideas collected in a Notepad document, most of which resulted in exactly no follow through, I knew what I had to do this time around: decide to do this thing, make an official declaration to a few people who would hold me accountable, and jump in with both feet, organized plan or no. So that’s what I did.

I believe that when we commit to doing something, the universe conspires to help us.

Or, to put it more eloquently . . .

At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

So I’ve found that plenty of inspiration for daily blog posts has come to me in the last few days, such as the Ted Talk linked at the beginning of today’s post. I’ve made a long-ish list of other possible topics as well, which I’ve been adding to daily.

In fact, I think, there’s no way I could write eloquently or well about all these ideas in 30 short days. In fact, right now I feel plum lousy with ideas. On the plus side, I’m sure some of them are dreadful, and in no danger of seeing the light of day here.

But what I want to say is that there’s magic in committing to something, even something as small as saying you will publish a new blog post daily for 30 days.

There’s magic in knowing you must show up to the page every day because you said you would, and because a few people believed in you enough to cheer you on and agree to check in on you from time to time. (Those people are angels, cheerleaders of the highest order.)

There’s magic in committing to your craft, even when you’re feeling bereft and out-of-sorts. And there’s very special magic in believing that practicing your craft daily will help pull you out of the dark-night-of-the-soul/I-feel-so-“meh”-about-everything slump you’ve been in for, oh, about a year now.

And it’s working.

It is working.

Small fragments of light are finding their way in.  

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 3: Reading is Everything

Books I'm reading now

 

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit order medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

~Nora Ephron, from the essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

That’s one of my all-time favorite passages from one of my all-time favorite writers, and incidentally, exactly how I feel about reading too.

I am a buyer of books.  Hardcover and softcover, new and used. Not digital, usually.  I love reading old-school style after a day of sitting in front of my laptop for 8+ hours, the sensory experience of holding a real paper and ink book in my hands as I drink a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, or some sparkling water with a splash of pomegranate juice. I love books unreservedly.

Are you a reader too?

I’ll bet you are.  Almost every creative person I’ve ever met is besotted with books and ideas, with discovery, with knowing more.  As creatives, we read to uncover new ideas, to find inspiration, and sometimes, for validation.  There are as many reasons to read as there are books, I’d wager.

I’ll share my current reading list with you here. These books are all on the bedside table now. Some I read from every day, others I dip into once or twice a week. And some I’m re-reading for the umpteenth time.

  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed
  • Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, by Sarah Hepola
  • Writing is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too), by Theo Pauline Nestor
  • The Most of Nora Ephron, by Nora Ephron
  • Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett
  • The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, by Mark Nepo

(Then there’s the very long list of “Books to Buy Next” in the Notes app on my iPhone.  I reckon I’ve got about 50 books on that list. Wait. Yep, just counted, it’s 50.)

So how about you?  What’s on your nightstand right now, or on your Nook or Kindle or other reading device? If you feel called to, tell me in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for wonderful new worlds to discover between the pages of a beloved book.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 2: Writers Write

I'm a writer

I love the story Ann Patchett tells in “The Getaway Car,” an essay from her wonderful book, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage, about making a commitment to her writing.

She and her husband are having dinner with friends, one of whom was a musician named Edgar. Patchett shares that she was traveling too much, giving too many talks, and not getting any writing done. Edgar commiserates – he was also doing a lot of traveling and not finishing the compositions he had due.

Edgar tells Patchett about a trick he used to get his work done: he decides to put a sign-in sheet on the door of his studio, where he writes down the time he enters the studio to compose, and the time he stops composing. The simple yet profound thing he finds, of course, is that the more hours he spent composing, the more compositions he finished.

As Patchett notes, “Time applied equaled work completed,” and says, “It’s possible to let the thinking about process become so overly analyzed that the obvious answer gets lost. I made a vow on the spot that for the month of January, I would dedicate a minimum of one hour a day to my chosen profession.”

She sticks with her commitment all of that January and into the rest of the year, and ends up doing “some of the best writing I’d done in a long time.” She notes, “I’m sure it worked in part because I already had a story in my head and I was ready to start writing, but it also worked because my life had gotten so complicated and I was in need of a simple set of rules.”

When I decided to commit to this 30-day writing project, I was in need of a simple set of rules.  Between client work, marketing my business, and the usual life obligations, my weekdays are ridiculously full. Many weekends find me working as well. Usually only if I’m on a client project deadline, but even when I’m not on a strict client deadline, I still generally spend all of Saturday doing business-related stuff. I fit writing in, but it’s typically writing to market my business – blog posts, newsletters, and guest posts for other sites, etc.  

And the writing I do that’s not related to my business? The “other” writing – essays, narrative non-fiction, etc. – that I love? I spend time on that too, but only after all of the above is done, which means not too damn often.

So while in the throes of this dilemma and the beating-up-of-myself over it, which happens to show up regularly, I sought solace in the best place there is for right advice on writing and the creative process: other writers.

Because it’s universal, right? We all struggle with the same thing. This quandary is common to all creative people trying to practice their craft – when life gets in the way, how do you find the time?

Today I found the answer while re-reading Ann Patchett’s “The Getaway Car.”

If you’re a creative person who also feels challenged by the time puzzle, I hope Patchett’s words will inspire you the way they’ve inspired me:

Now when people tell me they’re desperate to write a book, I tell them about Edgar’s sign-in sheet. I tell them to give this great dream that is burning them down like a house fire one lousy hour a day for one measly month, and when they’ve done that—one month, every single day—to call me back and we’ll talk. They almost never call back. Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it. Are you not writing? Keep sitting there. Think of yourself as a monk walking the path to enlightenment. Think of yourself as a high school senior wanting to be a neurosurgeon. Is it possible? Yes. Is there some shortcut? Not one I’ve found. Writing is a miserable, awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world.

Here’s to putting our creative projects back on the daily to-do list and devoting time each day to working on them. Word!

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 1: Commit

Commit

Image by quicksandala

I’ve probably read the book Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously at least 10 times.

There are many reasons for this:

I love the story of how Julie Powell blogged her way to a different life – from boring job as a government secretary to full-fledged national best-selling author after “The Julie/Julia Project,” her blog documenting her year of cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, blew up.

I love her sense of humor; reading her book always makes me feel better if I’m in a foul mood, even when I’m not at all interested in laughing.

I love that she was an ordinary person who decided to do something rather extraordinary, and created a wonderful new career out of it.

But I think most of all, I love it because it’s the story of someone deciding to commit to something daunting – whipping up French food every night for a year, and getting up in the wee hours to write about it each morning before hauling herself off to a soul-sucking job – and seeing it through, even when it was hard, even when it would have been easier quit and go back to sleeping an extra hour each day. (I don’t think I would have lasted 3 days of her herculean project.)

And each time I re-read the book, as I’m doing now, I get a hankering to do a “project” of my own. I want desperately to find something I can commit to doing and writing about, and actually see through, just to prove to myself that I can.

This urge is powerful. I’ll wake up each morning while re-reading the book and brainstorm ideas for something similar I could do. I’ll root around in my notes and scribblings, searching through every corner of my hard drive, seeking inspiration. I’ll write notes in my journal about it, I’ll open up a Word doc and start tippety tappety typing away, in an attempt to freewrite my way to a grand idea. I’ll do an Internet search for people doing similar projects of their own.

But over the years I’ve done the re-reading of the book and the brainstorming of the project ideas, I’ve never come up with anything I believe will hold my attention long enough to make a solid commitment to. And I’m not talking about for a year, mind you. No, I’m thinking more like 30 days. 

And so I ask myself, what does it say about me that I can’t find something interesting enough to commit to and write about for just 30 short days? I find this fact about myself disheartening.

(Also: I tried to do 30 straight days of blogging once before, and quit after, hmm, I believe it was 3 days. My excuse? I felt like I had no bandwidth to write my own stuff because of how much writing I was doing for my copywriting clients at the time. Could have gotten out of bed an hour earlier to make it happen, of course, but alas, did not.)

Anyhoo.

I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it, and I have decided . . . . ta dah . . . that  every day for the next 30 days, starting today, I will publish a new blog post. My commitment is to write, just to write, no other conceit or “hook” necessary (unless I come up with something interesting), for my 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project.

It’s not enough to write every day, because I do that already, whether it’s sales-generating web copy for clients, my copywriting and marketing tips newsletter, guest posts on other sites, essays in my secret-hidden-away writing folder, or scrawlings in my journal. 

No, the key here to publish something new to this blog each day for 30 days. That is the success metric.

I have no idea what this will look like – the length of the posts, the topics, overarching themes or ideas I want to cover, whether the content will contain marketing and copywriting lessons, or be totally unrelated to those things, etc. But, to use some Oprah-speak I happen to love, “what I know for sure” is that if I wait around for an organizing principle, I will never get started.

So today I start; on Sunday August 16, I finish.

And so it is.