The five Praxis participants who contributed to this post have all participated in our bootcamp’s 30-day writing challenge. During this challenge, they write and publish something every single day. Here are some of their stories and reflections on the practice of daily writing.
1) What’s the funniest or most creative thing you ever did to keep your daily blogging streak alive?
James Walpole, Praxis Alumnus (Longest writing streak 110 days and counting):
I’ve been going to a lot of weddings this summer, and I party pretty hard at receptions. Unfortunately for me, that meant writing my nightly blog posts at 1 or 2 in the morning after the party was over. Instead of sleeping, I would write spontaneous short posts on marriage: what marriage and entrepreneurship have in common, why you should always give wedding toasts, etc. I wrote enough of these that people began to jokingly predict what I was going to write by whether or not I was heading to see someone get hitched.
Mary Kate Lewis, Praxis Alumna (Longest writing streak 60 days and counting): One night, I believe it was day 33 or so, I was drifting off to sleep and realized I forgot to blog that day (as I normally do it in the morning but my morning had gotten away from me). Not wanting to get out of bed, I sleepily logged in to Blogger via my smart phone and typed up a short post. It’s not my best post, but it kept my streak alive for one more day.
Kelly Hackmann, Praxis Participant (Longest writing streak 148 days): Keeping the streak became a maniacal pursuit. I usually had a healthy routine that ensured regular output, but there were certainly exceptions. I can think of a few times typing out posts on my phone while up in a plane, or sometimes even writing hand written posts on hotel stationary and simply uploading a picture of my scrawled out ideas to the blog.
Emily Cozzens, Praxis Participant (Longest writing streak 30 days): I experimented with different formats. Instead of writing a long form for a blog every day, I used Instagram and a crash course to write different styles. This helped me immensely because I could look forward to writing a new style each day, instead of the same old long form blog post, which I was really struggling with.
Jackie Blum, Praxis Participant (Longest writing streak 20 days and counting): The most creative thing I did to keep my streak alive was creating infographics inspired by books I was reading. These were the most fun posts for me to make, but they were also the most time-consuming. I usually had to plan them out ahead of time while I was still writing other posts because they took me a few days to complete. Although, sometimes I did get them from idea to published in one day. The infographic posts received the most positive response of all the types of posts I did which made them even more rewarding.
2) Did you ever struggle with writer’s block?
James Walpole, Praxis Alumnus: Surprisingly, no. This was what I feared. But before doing a challenge like this, I had learned to put no constraints on what I could write. Because this challenge was about just showing up and writing *something*, I wrote mostly without the perfectionism which can cause blocks. When I would get started with a new post, I would just unleash my scattered thoughts into the word editor and then piece something together that had a clear insight.
Mary Kate Lewis, Praxis Alumna: I have written more than one post about writer’s block. To me, writer’s block is just something in your head. Writing is a discipline more than it is an activity that relies on inspiration. If I was not sure what to write about then I had not fed myself anything interesting that day. Listening to a podcast, reading, or having an interesting conversation usually brought about enough “inspiration” for a post.
Kelly Hackmann, Praxis Participant: At first I was terrified of this. In fact, this fear kept me from writing most of my life. But as soon as I dedicated myself to writing daily, writer’s block was not an excuse. As Somerset Maugham said once in an interview, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” To combat the inevitable lack of witty ideas, I had to forgive myself of standards. Standards are good until they keep you from doing anything. I gave myself permission to feel dumb and that’s when some really poignant ideas emerged. Just let the words flow and worry about the critics, well, never really.
Emily Cozzens, Praxis Participant: I did experience writer’s block. It killed my streak the first time I tried the challenge. In my experience, there’s never just one solution for writer’s block, because writer’s block is just one term for many issues. My biggest struggle was getting over ‘imposter syndrome’. I had to constantly remind myself that I’m writing from my own experience and that I don’t have to be an expert to write about cheese.
Jackie Blum, Praxis Participant: I didn’t really get writer’s block. Once I started writing, it was not too hard to say something. Some days it flowed more freely and other days it came out more slowly. Sometimes I’d be really happy with it on the first draft and other times I’d end up rewriting and reordering much of it over the course of an hour or so.
It was helpful for me to think of something Seth Godin said which is that he’d never heard of anyone getting “talker’s block.” I’m a talker so I’d just imagine I was having a conversation with a friend about my blog topic. Then I’d go over it and polish it up to make it more clearly communicated in writing form.
The biggest challenge for me were days that I just plain didn’t feel like writing. (You know, like a toddler). This happened more frequently as the novelty of the challenge wore off. Sometimes writing *seemed* to get in the way of other goals I had: working out, cleaning my house, working on a design project, reading a book I was interested in, etc. But I didn’t let that thinking stop me. I pushed through by reminding myself how disappointed I’d feel if I didn’t get a post up and continue my streak.
3) How did you choose your topics?
James Walpole, Praxis Alumnus: I wrote about things that were relevant to me. For the beginning stretch, I wrote about some important ideas and opinions that I had held inside my mind for years. When those ideas got enough breathing room, I started paying closer attention to the new things I was thinking, feeling, doing, and learning. That kind of daily watchfulness makes for interesting patterns. For a stretch I drew on an interest in comparative mythology. I wrote music if I had been to a concert and philosophy if I had an interesting conversation on logic that week.
Mary Kate Lewis, Praxis Alumna: I typically write about what I have experienced that is unique or interesting, what inspired me that day based on the content I consumed, or on topics that I have been talking about for years but have not written about. It is amazing how much has been trapped in my head that has wanted to come out once I started blogging daily.
Kelly Hackmann, Praxis Participant: This one is hard to say. Perhaps it was the barometric pressure of a certain day that inspired the creative flow. Other times, there were premeditated ideas spawned from long solitudinous walks. It was a fair mix of spontaneity and old ideas that had rumbled through my mind a thousand times, finally seeing the light of day in a concrete format.
Emily Cozzens, Praxis Participant: First, I restricted myself to writing about cheese only (a topic related to my job at the time). That helped to narrow my focus so I wouldn’t get lost and overwhelmed in the sea of possibilities. Then, I created a schedule. I literally had a list of specific topics to write about, and I applied it all to a calendar. The schedule acted as a ‘safety net’ of sorts so that I could never say “I don’t know what to write about.” I didn’t always stick to it. There were days that I decided I had something better to write, or something more interesting. I also took lots of pictures that I could then use as featured images for posts, which helped my inspiration sometimes.
Jackie Blum, Praxis Participant: Before I started my blogging streak, I brainstormed 75 blog topic ideas. About half of the days, I came up with a new topic that not on the list and didn’t even look at it. On days when I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired, I could go to the list to get an idea.
4) What was the biggest benefit of writing every day?
James Walpole, Praxis Alumnus: Writing has allowed me to build mental integrity. I’ve had to have the courage to write down and share my thoughts in public on a regular basis. That practice has allowed me to improve how I articulate and express what I value most deeply. More importantly, it’s taught me how to live with and work through fears which keep me from being bold and forthright in other areas of life.
Mary Kate Lewis, Praxis Alumna: Discipline. Proving to yourself that you can do something creative every single day. If I can blog daily, what else can I accomplish?
Kelly Hackmann, Praxis Participant: The jumpstart it gives your brain and cogency of communication in the rest of one’s life. I found that my day-to-day conversations were more lubricated and meaningful. There is nothing like accurately portraying the unique ideas in your head with rapidity and eloquence. As a result, I aced job interviews, housing interviews, and connected with strangers beyond painful small talk. Also, the ability sit down anytime and type out 1,000+ words in a somewhat orderly fashion, which used to terrify me, is fairly easy now. Some people call me a writer, which I find hilarious, but seriously, it doesn’t take much to be perceived as head-and-shoulders above the rest so long as you’re writing consistently and publicly.
Emily Cozzens, Praxis Participant: Biggest benefit? I proved to myself that I could do it. It was a struggle. On those days I doubted myself. Looking back, though, I see what I’m capable of, and there’s a certain confidence that I get out of it.
Jackie Blum, Praxis Participant: The biggest benefit for me was being able to build up my willpower muscles. Consistency is a challenge for me as I tend to be more spontaneous and creative. I work hard, but typically as inspiration comes and in intense spurts. Writing every day helped me develop more discipline that I can apply to other goals. I’m getting ready to start a 6-month fitness challenge and the skills I built on this blogging challenge will help me immensely with that.
I love how blogging has helped me to articulate my ideas more clearly rather than have half formed ones floating around in my head. Through writing every day, I’ve been able to form a clearer sense of my beliefs on a variety of topics.
It’s also been great to see the response to my posts. Sometimes posts that I think are mediocre get a great response, and sometimes the posts I am most proud of don’t seem to be the most popular. It’s just been cool to see how things shake out. I have been able to get some of my content published by other sites which is highly motivating and confidence-building.
5) What’s one tip you’d offer to someone who’s thinking about doing the daily blogging challenge?
James Walpole, Praxis Alumnus: Write or record all of your ideas as soon as you have them, and schedule out your content on your calendar so you know what you’re working on each day. Don’t trust your brain to remember every good idea. Do trust your content list and your calendar and your subconscious mind. If you do, the wheels start turning on every blog post before you sit down to write.
Mary Kate Lewis, Praxis Alumna: Keep your posts short and simple. If your goal is to write daily, most of your posts should be fairly short and only have one main point. Maybe once a week or so you can write a longer, more robust post that takes more time and research. But for the most part, if you want to write every single day, shorter posts are the key to consistency.
Kelly Hackmann, Praxis Participant: Forgive yourself in advance and give yourself permission to express your ideas. There’s a reason I named my blog ‘Innocent Ideas’ with the subtitle ‘Until proven guilty.’ Nobody can definitively prove an idea is worthless, and we all have multitudes within us. Only you have seen the world through your eyes. So anytime the fear of criticism or doubt of an idea creeps up, you must absolutely flesh it out. Pain, embarrassment, and controversy are often indicators that you are becoming the truer self inside of you. That is what captivates audiences and defines your voice. We need more individual voices in the continuing symphony of creative ideas. The ideas may be ugly at first, but so were you when you were born. And look at you now.
Emily Cozzens, Praxis Participant: Tailor it to YOUR goals. Don’t do it because somebody told you to, or because it’s the cool thing that everyone else is doing. No matter what benefits they cite, it’s up to you to come up with your own reasons, create your own drive and inspiration.
Jackie Blum, Praxis Participant:
Can I say three tips?
- Fully commit. Don’t start with a half-assed intention. If I wasn’t fully committed before I started, I would have easily found excuses to skip writing every day.
- Brainstorm a list of topics and add to it regularly as ideas come to you. Having the list helped me on the toughest days.
- Mix up your posts to keep it fresh and interesting for you. My topics included: my Praxis experience, sales skills, ideas from books I was reading, updates on a side project I was working on, music I was listening to, habits and productivity, and inspiring figures. Being able to switch gears and have varied topics helped keep me going.