November is a month for writing, at least judging by the virtual pledge campaigns. There’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo), and Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo).
Writing has long been one of my outlets. I hadn’t been writing for myself lately, and I missed it.
Writing is also part of my job, but it’s different. There’s this pressure of writing for an official thing. It adds gravitas, in my mind. It also adds overly complex structure and stilted language to my work. That’s not how my writing (even my work writing) is supposed to be.
What did I need to change?
Recently, I attended a training about storytelling and plain language. One of the speakers, Kathryn Sosbe, has been working in newsrooms and government agencies for decades. Within a minutes, she came around to the list of what it takes to become a better writer.
The first thing: Read. Widely. (I can hear my PhD advisor saying this, as he sat across the conference table from his new crop of students.)
The second thing: Write. Everyday.
That struck a chord.
I checked in with Digi the Duck. Sure enough, DigiWriMo was set to start in a couple of days.
Maybe this confluence of events was a sign – a nudge to get my ass in gear just as a community was taking up the banner.
The DigiWriMo Launch Party was the next night. I committed, if only to myself, to participate in some way. It came time to fill in the “roster”, a Google doc where people posted the media they worked with and their goals for DigiWriMo.
What should my goal be?
I’m a glutton for unrealistic expectations of myself. I create endpoints and timelines that are often ludicrous. I plan with this impossible ideal of what I can accomplish if the rest of the world – and my own brain and body – just behave. Perfectly.
Lately I’m trying to be more aware of where I am. I’m trying to be more grounded in reality. That’s not to say that I don’t want to stretch beyond that, that I should or will never try to reach further. It’s just that, at this moment, what I need in some parts of my life is to set my mind to something and actually get it done.
It had been a while since I’d written, consistently, for myself. Sometimes writing is slow. If it’s about science, even more so. Sometimes I end up down rabbit hole. Sometimes the things I write are just too personal for public consumption.
Going in to DigiWriMo, I had no particular direction in mind. My ideas were scattered.
I came back to Sosbe’s comments about how to make writing seem easier.
She talked about getting up at 4:30 every morning, preparing her coffee, and sitting down to write. Anything.
Something sounded strangely decadent about that (the “just writing” part, not the 4:30 am part).
Maybe it was time I finally took the advice I’ve heard again and again. Write everyday, and see where it takes me.
So here I am. A week later. I get up a half hour earlier, fix my coffee, and write for at least half an hour. (Weekends are more flexible.)
I have now written every day in November.
I’m finding that it’s a good way to start my day. It wakes up my brain. I get to kick off my day with some time for me, rather than stumbling groggily into whatever the day may bring.
Even after this short time, the roadblocks to writing feel less substantial. I have more momentum, including for my writing at work.
For my personal writing, this will be my third blog post during DigiWriMo. The posts aren’t well-crafted, carefully polished pieces. But that’s not really the point.
The point is that I’m reclaiming another space for myself. And I’m sharing part of the process with a community that has supported and encouraged me for the past five years. Maybe I’ll discover a grander scheme along the way. But for now, just exploring this space again is enough for me.