What I Learned from My Year of Writing

This week marks one full year of writing and publishing at least one original blog post a week.

I’m proud to announce that this act of showing up and writing stands as a personal milestone.

See, for years I wanted to be a writer but convinced myself that the time wasn’t right to undertake such an endeavor. So I found often frivolous ways to busy myself, to lie to myself.

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Call it maturity, call it a fear of living an unfulfilled life but for the past year I have shown up and wrote almost everyday.

Now please understand these sessions were not carnivals of creativity where I tore through sentences with wild, Shakepearean abandonment. No. Often these sessions were slow, painful exercises. Equivalent to a literary Tough Mudder or shoe shopping with the wife.

Sometimes it took cups of coffee, bowls of Fruity Pebbles and every ounce of energy to grind out a few terrible, ill-fated sentences that never came close to sniffing the sweet air of a final draft.

However, sometimes with the proper balance of caffeine and high fructose corn syrup cartwheeling through my veins, I found a groove. And in these groovy moments the writing came easy, naturally. And writing was well, fun.

Either way, a year of consistent writing has been a tremendous teacher. A teacher of both powerful writing and life lessons.

Lesson# 1-  “Too busy” is simply too convenient of an excuse.

When I was 18 I told a friend I wanted to be a writer. Then I blinked and I was 33. For 15 years I was always “too busy” to write. For 15 years I was hoping “writing” would just magically happen. It saddens me to think how many ideas, how many stories were ultimately lost and will remain forever unwritten because I was “too busy”. Commitment to writing required me to quell my excuses and take ownership of my life.

Hope without action is a meaningless exercise.

Lesson #2- Even in our desensitized world, people still like to feel things.

The internet is saturated with nonsense (Clearly, any knucklehead can start a blog). And sometimes I like reading nonsense. But over the year my most read posts were To Robbinsville, New Jersey, The Day I Learned I Could No Longer Jump, and Bowling with God.  All three posts were described as a “tough reads”. All three explore death and the fragility of life. Not that I necessarily like the gloom (hell, a bowl of Fruity Pebbles is one of go to writing fuels) but I learned that people want to be moved. They want to be entertained and informed yes, but people want their emotions stirred. I believe people secretly enjoy entertaining the big, scary, unanswerable questions about life and death for awhile.

We can say we understand another’s pain but no matter how accurately we articulate, our words fall tragically short of what is swirling in our heart and head– further exposing the flawed nature of the human design.

Lesson #3- Writing allows me to better understand myself.

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Here I am looking pensive, slightly pretentious as I try to understand myself.

There’s something about turning intangible thoughts into tangible words that deepens your understanding of yourself and the world at large. A few months ago I wrote a piece called, “In Good Company” and explained how, when I write, I imagine that I’m sitting down with an old friend in a local bar and how the magical mix of alcohol, dim lighting and a familiar songs rolling out the jukebox coax me to let my guard down, strip away layers of pretentiousness, question my core and gain a deeper perspective of myself.

It takes more courage and less energy to say “I don’t know” than pretend you do.

Lesson #4- Writing can be done anywhere, under any condition.

As I’m writing this sentence my two sons are speeding around the kitchen table dribbling basketballs. For years I thought I needed optimal conditions to write. A big mahogany desk sitting quietly in a quiet room. Turns out this “perfect condition” was just another excuse. I’ve learned that the conditions for writing (or for anything else) will never be optimal, there will always be chaos and distractions and waiting for the “perfect” time to start anything is our way of procrastinating everything. Part of the challenge and excitement now is finding the focus to work through those imperfect conditions.

It’s as if life is daring me to write. That’s why I treat every writing session like a snarling act of defiance.

Lesson #5-Do you.

For years I was concerned about what “they” will say about me and my writing. This is destructive thinking. It’s guarded and soul-sucking and cowardly. This year of writing has taught me that to write authentically I have be willing to expose and expound upon my fears and insecurities. I have to invest in myself. I have to be me.

The easiest way to ruin your life is to allow other people’s opinions of you become your reality.

I’m truly humbled and honored by all the support I’ve received over this year. I simply hope that my writing, my story has improved your day, your life in some way.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening.

Be well,

Jay

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