As April comes to an end it’s time to look back at my 30 day challenge for the month: writing for 30 minutes every day. This challenge didn’t leave me with the same kind of immediate positive benefits that the previous one did. I don’t know that I’m coming out of it with any lasting changes to my routine that I plan to make. There’s still a list of things that I’d like to write about but I’m not sure if I will, especially as I move on to other challenges. I have some mixed feelings about this. It’s not as if I expected to start writing daily or even weekly, but I wanted to learn how to lower the effort that it takes to get started writing in the future and I’m not sure that I did. Writing can be unpleasant. It’s not easy to sit down in front of a blank editor and will words into existence. It’s not easy to read and re-read something, trying to figure out if it really sounds the way you want and gets your point across. But there’s something that feels valuable in setting aside time and forcing yourself to do it. Even when it wasn’t really the thing that I would have preferred to do, sometimes I’d get going and not notice the time going by until I was almost done. I’m hoping that I can find a way to get to that state more consistently.
What did I write? I managed to publish a several posts here, as well as make a good start on a number of others. Perhaps the most notable thing is that I finally got started on a technical blog, which had been an on-and-off goal of mine for years. I haven’t gotten it quite ready to publish but I have several posts ready to go when I do. So that’s not nothing.
The first thing to get out of the way is that I didn’t manage to get the writing in every day. Schedules are already busy and when extra things come up it’s easy to lose that window of time. Ultimately, I decided that while I could have replaced morning exercise or stayed up later, that wasn’t something I wanted to do for this challenge. At first, when I missed a day I would make it up by writing twice as long the next day. Approaching the end of the month though I missed a couple days in a row and it got harder to stay motivated to make all those up at once. So I ended up about 3 or 4 days short on this one. I’ll take that as a lesson that next time when I try to do something every day I shouldn’t let myself take on debt to make up on other days.
Did I notice any changes? I had hoped that by writing every day I would notice that it started to get easier and that I would be able to organize my thoughts more quickly and clearly. At best I think I could allow that I saw a hint of this being possible. From time to time I find that I can write in something more fluid but not quite a flow state where I don’t have to stop frequently to consider and reconsider what I want to say. Writing prose remains more challenging and more unsatisfying in many ways than writing code. In this regard, perhaps 30 days is simply too short of a duration to notice a change or perhaps I needed to aim for more than 30 minutes a day.
On types of challenges
One counter-intuitive thing that I noticed during this month is that it’s easier to challenge yourself to not do something that you would normally do than it is to do something that you normally wouldn’t. I assumed that when I went without using my phone at home last month that I would constantly be thinking about it and wanting to use it but that wasn’t the case. Instead, I found lots of other things to do instead. I think that’s the key point. When you choose not to do something, you have any number of other activities that can take its place. By choosing something that you must do, you have to set aside all of the other activities that you could be doing with that time. It’s much harder to do one particular thing no matter what else you want to do than it is to be able to choose a replacement to something that you might have done.