Why take on the challenge of writing 500 words every day for a month?
What do I hope to accomplish?
What’s my over-arching theme?
The truth is, I’m not really sure. When I started this challenge there was nothing specific I wanted to write about, or a project I had lined up to finish. The only tangible goals I hoped to accomplish were becoming a better writer, and writing more frequently.
There were two main factors driving these desires.
First, writing is a muscle I’ve wanted to strengthen since college graduation. The type of creative writing I used to view as a strength simply isn’t required in the modern workplace. And since the ability to write in a way that’s clear, compelling, and entertaining takes practice to refine, I felt myself losing a little more of the skill every year.
Secondly, I’ve been thinking a lot about the skills I want to develop, and what it would take to attain them. I just finished reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a career advice self-help book written by successful blogger, author, and computer scientist Cal Newport. In his book Newport talks about the value of deliberate practice as a means to develop skills that are rare and valuable. It’s through the process of acquiring rare and valuable skills, Newport argues, that one develops the competence to eventually create the career of their dreams. If you can identify the skills required to achieve your dream career, the logic goes, you can use regular, deliberate practice to help you master those skills.
I’d say quality writing is a skill that’s absolutely rare and valuable. And since I’m a knowledge worker with aspirations of expressing myself through the written word, it makes sense that writing is a skill I should develop with a high level of competency. And if I wanted to become a better writer, I needed to practice writing a heck of a lot more than my sporadic, write-whenever-I-find-the-time schedule.
So in addition to feeling that my writing skills were diminishing, I had also come to realize the importance of implementing a daily routine that deliberately includes the act of writing. Hoping and wishing I had the time to write more just wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to actively carve out the time to write more frequently, whether I had something to write about or not.
Which brings me back to the challenge.
I joined this challenge because I wanted to see if I could create the time and space to write, even when I didn’t quite have a plan. The process of deliberately emptying out my brain onto a blank canvas everyday is what I knew I’d have to embrace. It’s through this practice that I’ll develop the skills I’m after, and the discipline I’m looking for.
The specific outcome doesn’t really matter, and I don’t believe it’s necessary to have a specific theme or topic in mind. It’s the work itself that serves as the focal point.
And that’s a refreshingly mindful way to think about a goal.