The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 30: The End

Ah, here it is, Day 30 of my writing and publishing project. The final day.

So first just let me say: Ha, I did it! I did it, I did it, I did it! I published a new blog post every day for 30 straight days. Good for me.


There were a few reasons I wanted to commit to this project, a few questions I wanted the answer to.

One of those questions was, what would happen if I devoted myself to my chosen craft publicly for 30 consecutive days? How would it make me feel? How would it advance my business goals? Or would it advance them at all? And if it didn’t, would it matter?

Mostly I wanted to find out if there was some magic in pursuing one’s muse/chosen creative work/passion for 30 straight days to see where it would lead. When I started I believed something magical might happen, I believed that 30 days of writing devotion might change some things for me in BIG way, though I didn’t know exactly what that would look like by the end of the project.

I have some insights to share about all this, and share them I will, very soon.

But as I mentioned yesterday, I’m visiting my family for a few days, family I haven’t spent time with since last Christmas, and I’m leaving to drive back to the coast tomorrow. So today I’ll simply post this short update, and do a “what I learned from publishing a new blog post every day for 30 days” post in the next few days.

Stay tuned.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 29: Change of Scenery

For me, there’s never been anything quite so useful as a change of scenery for getting off the hamster wheel of trying, trying, trying to come up with a solution to an intractable business or life challenge and coming up empty-handed.

I can be worrying something to death in my mind for days and weeks, go out of town for even a short weekend, and come back with a big a-ha or insight about how to solve the thing I was letting wear a new “I can’t figure it out” groove in my brain.

Though I’m not always wrestling with a specific problem when I leave town, I always come back with a fresh perspective and new ideas on my business and my life.

So I’m hoping it is with this short trip.

I’m visiting the family this weekend, a few hours from my home in Wilmington, NC.

It’s Saturday morning, and already I’m getting ideas for new blog posts and essays I want to write, new ways to deliver more value to current and prospective clients, and some big a-has about a new marketing campaign I want to roll out soon-ish.

Who knows? By the end of the weekend I may have figured out how to save the world, ha ha.

And since I’m here with the family, and the smell of something decadent and delicious I usually don’t allow myself to have is wafting out of the kitchen right now (Bacon? Pancakes? Eggs? Mmmm . . .), I’m going to have to say goodbye for now. 🙂

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 28: Some Thoughts on “Success”


It’s a loaded word.

What “success” looks like to you and what it looks like to me may very well be two totally different things.

When you’re trying to build a business using online marketing and outreach methods, as many of us are, success often becomes defined by how many email subscribers you have, how many people follow you on social media, and how many “figures” you make – weekly, monthly, yearly.

I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of spending far too much time thinking about those kind of metrics.

And sure, if you take your business seriously, you have to concern yourself with those metrics. But if you allow yourself to get beyond the numbers, beyond the day-to-day math of running a business, what does success really look like?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I fervently want to break out of the mental loop of judging myself based on the daily, weekly and monthly numbers, and often coming up feeling lacking.

Recently I was re-reading some notes I took during a Deepak Chopra 21-Day Meditation Experience back in March of this year called “Manifesting True Success.”

One of the ideas Chopra shared during the 21-day experience was “success is a living reality.” I was struck by this idea, and instantly felt better about what I was up to in the world based on that metric, which is essentially this:

Look at your priorities, and if any of them are already in your life, then you are “successful.”

My priorities are:

:: Pursuing creative expression.

:: Being of service.

:: Expressing compassion for all, unconditionally.

When I look at that list, I realize that I pursue creative expression every day, 7 days a week; I’m of service to my clients, my email subscribers and my blog readers, and offline, to my friends and family with support and kindness.

And I find ways to express compassion for others most days, though I admit I have room to grow in this area.

By the “success is a living reality” metric then, I’m successful.

So on those days when I feel like my business isn’t yet where I want it to be and I’m letting subscriber numbers and social media followers and revenue levels wrestle with my happiness and win, I remind myself that business-minded numbers are only one very small sliver in life’s full menu of metrics, and I can choose to focus on the ones that really matter instead.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 27: Stop Giving Your Dreams a Pass

Normally I don’t speak “life coach” around here, but today I’m afraid I’m going to have to.

Of the many lessons I need to learn, one of the biggest is that it’s A-OK to put myself and my priorities first.

I don’t mean in a selfish, “the-world-revolves-around-me” kind of way. No, I mean, when reviewing my projects and tasks for the day, it’s ok to make the choice to work on my writing and other creative projects first thing in the a.m., before I start on client work and other obligations. Or to take a yoga class in the middle of the day. Or to let myself off the hook by knocking off of work by 5:00 pm occasionally.

I’m not always successful at this, but I’m trying.

Still, most days find me doing the client work first, then working on my own writing at the end of the day when, frankly, my mind is more frazzled and my energy is diffuse. And blowing off yoga. And working until 7:00 pm or beyond.

A recent email from life coach extraordinaire Susan Hyatt reminded me that this practice sends a powerful negative message to my – oh, I don’t know, inner creative, I guess – that my own projects and priorities are less important than everyone else’s.

And it’s not just the creative work that always seen to come in second, it’s also all the other little things that make life joyful rather than a constant day in, day out work slog. All the things we say we want, yet put off in favor of something more important, more pressing, more “necessary.”

According to Hyatt’s email:

If you flake on yourself on a regular basis — skipping the gym, bailing on a yoga class, not making the time to eat well, sleep well, work on your blog or your business, or get that pedicure you’ve really been looking forward to — then the message you are repeatedly hammering into your own mind is, “I am not worth it.” Along with: “Other people’s needs and dreams are more important than mine.”

Well, I declare, as we say here in the South. Ain’t it the dang truth?

From that very list above I can tell you that I’ve scheduled, then nixed, a pedicure, a yoga class, and getting 8 full hours of glorious, blissful sleep on more than one occasion in the last two weeks.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, one I’ve shared here many times before:

I knew that my dreams were as valid as I was prepared to make them.

~ Actor, Director and Author Sidney Poitier

Our dreams, even that little dream of getting a pedicure or taking a yoga class –  gasp, in the middle of the day on a weekday, if we feel like it – are as valid as we are prepared to make them.  

So let’s make our dreams valid by putting ourselves first place from time to time, shall we?

 I say this to myself as much as to anyone else.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 26: Releasing the Fear of Failure

In Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, there are wonderful lessons and sage advice aplenty for writers and other creatives.

In the chapter, “A Short Bad Book,” Shapiro shares the story of one of her friends who wrote a prizewinning best-selling novel by telling herself she was going to write “a short, bad book.”  Anytime she talked about the book, this friend referred to it as her short, bad book. This strategy, Shapiro tells us, “released her from her fear of failure.”

Shapiro says that, as writers, “the more we have at stake, the harder it is to make the leap into writing,” and shares her own story of getting an assignment to write for The New Yorker, only to sit down each day to work on the piece and not get any actual writing done.

Instead, she imagined what the piece would look like in New Yorker font, and wondered if it would have an illustration, and what that illustration would be.  But she couldn’t write. “I was strangled by my own ego, by my petty desire for what I perceived as the literary brass ring,” she says.

Eventually she did write, of course. She put words together that made sentences, and sentences that made paragraphs, and paragraphs that made pages, and pages that made a finished article. And she was published in The New Yorker.

I find the “short, bad book” strategy really useful.

When I worked in politics, we called it “lowering expectations.” What you do before, say, a debate with other candidates or a particular primary, is lower expectations of how your candidate is going to perform, then when said candidate does pretty well against the now lowered expectations, you come out smelling like a winner.

When writing this 30 day blog post series, I wasn’t all that concerned with failure, per se, but I was at least a little worried about the quality of the daily posts. I knew I didn’t have the bandwidth to spend as much time as I usually do on blog posts – several hours – if I wanted to publish daily and take care of client work and other obligations too. What I did to psych myself up to put fingers to keyboard and just write, already, was to tell myself that I would not devote more than an hour, hour and a half, tops, to writing, uploading and formatting each day’s post.

I also told myself that most of the posts wouldn’t be much more than a “shitty first draft,” to use Anne Lamott’s wonderful phrase, with a little light editing thrown in to create a draft that was a little less shitty, and just ever so slightly more polished than a first draft, and that’s what was going to get posted to the blog each day for the duration of the project.

So, in essence, I was using the “short, bad blog post” strategy. Now truth be told, I hope they aren’t really bad, but I know they aren’t stellar either. But the point was to publish every day for 30 days come hell or high water, shitty first drafts or lightly edited second drafts or whatever the case may be.

And the “short, bad blog post” strategy got me to do the work, instead of belaboring every comma, semicolon and turn of phrase right into do-nothing writing paralysis.

So far, so good, with 4 more days to go.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 25: Faux Time-Scarcity

I recently read one of the best articles I’ve ever found on managing your work flow while still devoting time to your other life priorities.

Reading this article was like a punch in the gut for me, because I’m one of those people who used to go around saying, “I don’t have time, I don’t have time, I.don’t.have.time!

But everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, and if folks with many more obligations than I have can run their successful businesses AND get their beloved creative projects done too, yet still find time to exercise, and socialize, and even relax occasionally, then I can too.

I’m not saying it’s not challenging, but it is possible.

And while there is no such thing as time management – you can’t “manage” time, that’s like saying you’re going to “manage” the sky or “manage” all the oxygen on earth – what you can do is manage the activities you undertake in your allotted time.

My favorite thing about this article was the effective short-cut it shared for getting yourself on track with what you say your priorities are:

Try replacing the phrase “I don’t have time” for “this isn’t a priority.” As the article points out, that’s not going to feel too good, and that’s the point. Powerful stuff.

I tried it on for size by saying to myself, “My writing isn’t a priority,” instead of “I don’t have time to write today,” and “my health isn’t a priority,” instead of “I have too many project deadlines to find time to exercise today,” and “my family isn’t a priority,” instead of “my project schedule is too packed right now to take off a couple of days to go visit the family.”

Yowsa. Saying those things did make me feel bad.  

And reading this next bit felt like a firecracker being set off in my brain:

“This shift in perspective can also help you see when you’re borrowing too much time from long-term priorities for short-term deadlines.”

Yes! I’d never thought of it that way.  But indeed, it makes so much sense – health and well-being, writing, and family time are significant long-term priorities for me, while the things on today’s to-do list, while important, are mostly short-term deadline-oriented tasks.

There’s a balance to be sure, but when I thought about it, I realized that lately I’ve been “borrowing too much time from long-term priorities for short-term deadlines.”

But with this new mindset shift in my tool kit, I aim to change that.

If you’re interested in learning more about this handy little mindset shift for yourself, check out Escaping the Time-Scarcity Trap by Janet Choi.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 24: My Four Favorite “Rules” for Becoming a Better Writer

Two of the books I’ve read again and again over the years are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

It occurs to me that if you took the most instructive kernel of writing advice from each of these two books, you’d have all the guidance you need to succeed as a writer.

Let’s start with Anne Lamott.

After reading her book multiple times and considering what Lamott calls “the two single most helpful things I can tell you about writing,” I wrote the following on an index card and put it on my desk:

Short assignments + shitty first drafts = MAGIC.

Short assignments: Lamott tells us that to avoid the sense of overwhelm we often feel when working on a writing project, to simply write about what we can see through a one-inch picture frame. Instead of sitting down to write with the notion of a big, looming expansive project in mind, all you have to do is write about what you see through that one-inch frame at the moment, and you’ll get the writing done, and all will be fine.

She says:

Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman her will marry. That is all we are going to do for now. We are just going to take this bird by bird. But we are going to finish this one short assignment.

~Anne Lamott, from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Shitty first drafts: As Lamott says, “All good writers writer them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.”  She goes on to tell us that of all the great and talented writers she knows, not a one of them writes elegant first drafts.  She says, “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”

What a relief. It’s so much easier to get the work done when we know the first draft is just about getting it down, and if it’s shitty, as it no doubt will be, that’s a natural part of the process.

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts,” she says. “You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.”

{When I decided to write and publish 30 blog posts in 30 days, for example, I knew I didn’t have the bandwidth to write a shitty first draft, a good second draft and a terrific third draft of each post I published during the project, so I committed to simply writing a shitty first draft, tweaking it a bit, and getting it up on the blog. Letting go of perfectionism this way has been challenging, excruciating really, but it’s helped me to just get the damn writing done, and that is the point.}

Stephen King’s writing advice is no less powerful, and I love it for its simplicity and its brevity.

No need for me to scribble this quote down on an index card and put it on my desk. It’s easy to remember, and always on my mind:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

~Stephen King, from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

And there you have it, my four favorite “rules” for becoming a better writer.

What would you add? Let me know in the comments below.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 23: The Bliss of Beginning a New Book

Barbarian Days surf book

I recently bought a new book.

A book I’d read about and heard about for weeks. I read about it in Oprah Magazine. I read a review of it in the New York Times Book Review. Then I read another piece on it, also in the New York Times, in some other section of the paper that escapes my memory at the moment. I went online and read interviews with the book’s author. So many interviews.

I worked up so much anticipation about getting my hands on this book that I was fairly salivating all the way over to Barnes & Noble last week to buy the thing.

Then when I got there, I looked in the memoir section, and it wasn’t there.  Oooooh, how disappointed I was! I mean, really disappointed. Like, curse-under-my-breath disappointed.

But then . . .

Then I remembered that because of the wacky way booksellers sometimes categorize books, the object of my intended affection might actually be located in the Sports section, of all places.

And indeed, there it was. Oh, glory!  My heart started beating rapidly as I spied a copy. I picked it up, raced to the counter to pay, and drove all the way home in a state of new-book-induced euphoria.

The book that caused this happy delirium?

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan.

In a previous blog post I mentioned how besotted I’ve become with surf memoirs lately, and this is, hands-down, the best one I’ve read so far.

John Lancaster writes of the book in the Washington Post:

“Elegantly written and structured, it’s a riveting adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, and a restless, searching meditation on love, friendship and family.”

That’s just one of many glowing observations made by reviewers of this wonderful book.

I’m up to page 72 and there are 447 “elegantly written and structured” pages to read, so I’ve got a couple of weeks of languorous reading pleasure ahead of me.

Ah, life is so good.  

And now I’m off to spend the rest of my Sunday afternoon reading.


Read more about Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

Get the goods on William Finnegan.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 22: Ode to the Nice Ladies at the Local DMV Office

Yesterday I went to my local DMV office to get the study guide for renewing my drivers’ license, which expired on my birthday in early July. It’s been eight years since I last renewed my license, and back then, there was an entire book of NC rules and regs to study.

I’m happy to report that things are much easier now. There’s a road sign test, and one little handout, a card, really, with regulatory signs on the front and back, that can be “studied” in about 5 minutes flat prior to taking the test.

This is really all it takes, because that’s about how long I spent reviewing it, and I passed the test. Yay for me! Legal to drive for another eight years! 

When I got to the DMV office, I wasn’t actually planning to get my license right then, I just wanted to grab the study guide, review it over the weekend, and renew my license next week.

Which is why I didn’t bother showing up until 5:45 pm, 15 minutes before they closed up shop. There wasn’t another soul in the place except for the 2 ladies who worked there, and they could not have been friendlier or more accommodating.

When I arrived, I mentioned that I just needed to pick up the study guide. The nice lady who met me at the door convinced me to “just come on in and get it over with, we’re open for 15 more minutes.” When I protested that I hadn’t had a chance to study for the test yet, she handed me the little card with the regulatory signs on it and said, “Here you go.”

“But, but . . . if I only have a few minutes to look at this, I might not pass the test,” I said.

“You’ll be fine,” she said, and led me over to the desk where I would actually take the test.

A different nice lady at that desk started asking me the usual questions about my address, weight, height and so on. Once again I said, “But I need time to study this handout, what if I don’t pass?” To which she replied, like her cohort before her, “You’ll be fine, just look that little road signs card over while I’m asking you these other questions.”

I was doubtful, but it turned out she was right. I “studied” the road signs card briefly, easily identified 12 of the 20 or so signs she showed me, which was all I needed to do to “pass,” and that was it.

Then I paid my $32 fee, exchanged pleasantries with the kind DMV ladies, and left.

The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

I know DMV horror stories abound – the rudeness, the long waits, the inane rules (if you’ve never lived in North Carolina, you have no idea how arbitrary and just plain nuts some of the rules for owning and operating a motor vehicle can be) – but this was the most pleasant DMV visit I’ve ever experienced.

It restores my faith in humanity, I tell you.

So I just want to say to the nice ladies at my local DMV office: you made my day. 

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 21: 6 Books on Creativity I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Read {Yet}

As an insatiable reader, and especially as a creative person challenged by blocks and resistance and every other inconvenience in the bag of tricks that plague creators of every stripe, there are a few classic books on creativity and the creative process I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read.

These are the books my creative cohorts have seemingly all read, many of them dozens of times (so they say), and long extoled the virtues of in every corner of the interwebz.

Books that every person trying to create some kind of art, whether through writing, painting, filmmaking, photography, business-building or any other creative pursuit, “should” read.

And I agree, these are books I feel like I “should” have read by now, fer cryin’ out loud.

On the plus side, they are on my list. (Yes, I have an actual list, which lives on the Notes app on my iPhone.)

So here they are, in no particular order:

:: The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

:: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life – Twyla Tharp

:: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Steven Pressfield

:: Do the Work – Steven Pressfield

:: Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

And though it doesn’t end up on many of the 36,600,000 list posts on the web that turn up when you do a Google search for “Books Every Creative Should Read,” I’d also add:

:: The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level – Gay Hendricks

There are many other books on creativity in addition to the ones above I want to read, and they’re on my list too, but the 6 books here are those I consider must-read classics for most artists and creatives, and the ones I simply cannot buh-lieve I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

Which books would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!