Usually when I get an email that starts with the word “congratulations,” I quickly hit “delete.” I sure it’s some bogus message designed to make me think I’ve won something I haven’t so someone can try to sell me something I don’t need and never wanted.
But this time the praise came from WordPress. Though it felt like a much-needed pat on the back for me alone, it was actually addressed to “the thousands of you who are still going strong with Post a Day and Post a Week.”
It’s been 59 days since I took the 2011 Post a Day Challenge. Two months down, 10 to go.
Blogging daily isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s downright excruciating. Often I find myself wondering why I took on this challenge, especially when I spend so many other hours in my day staring at a computer screen. Or when I can’t think of anything to write about. Or when I’d rather be doing anything else — including working on taxes, doing laundry or cleaning the cat litter box — instead of sitting down to that blank screen.
I’ve learned some things along the way, though, that make it a bit easier. I’ve learned that writing a daily blog means thinking about topics 24/7. It means scribbling notes or writing myself emails when a thought surfaces, even if I’m not sure where it might go.
It means finding themes to which you can return. Sometimes I write about what’s going on at work. Sometimes I revisit my trip to Ethiopia last summer or my father’s unpublished book, or movies I’ve seen, or books on my nightstand.
It means finding a time of day for writing that works for my life. I started out thinking I needed to write in the early morning hours, when I am least fatigued and my thoughts are most clear. I’ve found, instead, that I do better at night when I don’t face the pressure of preparing for the day ahead.
I’ve learned that you have to give up something to honor a daily writing commitment. I used to spend my evenings catching up on the newspaper, working crossword puzzles or watching my favorite TV shows. I don’t spend much time doing any of that these days.
But I’ve learned that you gain something, too, by writing daily. On the days I’m least satisfied with my writing I still feel a sense of accomplishment because I didn’t give up. And on the best days, the days that I sit down with no inspiration at all but end up with words and phrases that help me understand something better, I feel a sense of internal validation that is far more satisfying than a spike in blog stats or a kind comment from a reader.
So this is how it feels about hitting the two-month mark. It feels like I’m running my first marathon and somehow, miraculously, I’m still keeping up with the elite runners at the front of the pack. I’m gasping and stumbling but every once in awhile I get a sense of what it feels like to be “in the zone.” It comes at unexpected moments and is completely beyond my control. But the knowledge that it’s out there waiting — maybe just around the next bend in the road — makes the sweat and toil of the daily workout completely worth it.