Eating your own words

“It’s been 2 years since 100 Days of Writing was published. ”

This is what I saw when I logged in here. Logging in was a challenge in itself. It’s been so long since I’ve come here that I’d forgotten not just my password but username as well. After 3-4 attempts I finally managed to log in and saw this ominous message.

I’d promised myself that I’d write slow, write long and write different. I’d also thought that if I wrote 2-3 times a week, I should reach a 100 posts in a year. I thought I was quite good at planning. No, I’m pretty sure I’m good at planning. When it comes to actually making it happen that I lose all that steam and focus. I’ve been wanting, wishing to get back in shape for years now. I get into bursts of healthy eating and exercising and then poof. Work and work travel and other more important things take over. For some years now I have been bemoaning my very visible lack of social life/personal life or any sort of work-life balance. But given a choice, I always stay home and work. Hell, this Friday I was returning from Bombay and on the way I wrote a long, personal and thoughtful email to my team. I considered that as writing. It took me considerable time and energy to write, so it feels like an achievement.

I am either a person with no commitment or inexcusably lazy. Both might be true. But I know I put in a lot of effort into work. 5 years is not a long time, but for me it’s a big commitment. Doing anything for that long feels like a big deal to me. But my commitment to worse habits has been on for longer definitely.

As part of my job, I help people identify patterns of thinking, analyzing habits of actions and thoughts to derive what needs to shift. I read everything and anything on the subject, from the best-selling quickies that tell you you can build a habit in 21 days to the obscure legit ones. But clearly I haven’t applied that to myself. After crashing at work and being diagnosed with fatigue that led to hospitalization (yes, fatigue is an actual medical diagnosis apparently), I told myself that I’ll maintain some work life balance. As a part of that, I put it on my goal sheet (yes, I know what you’re thinking!) that I’ll write more often. At least 1-2 posts per month. I set that goal in July and obviously I didn’t do anything of that sort. As part of a mid-year review, I was looking at my goals and thus was reminded to visit this sad lonely place.

Conversations with friends tells me that I need to have a life. Get out a bit. Meet people and what not. But all I want to do after a long day at work is netflix and chill. By myself. How to muster energy for social talk, when I do that all day at work. How to pour out words when all of them are regurgitated over countless emails. A part of me tells me I should do less of that, and do a little bit more for myself. But that is a small, unheard part of myself.

Some years back I came across this quote by Alain de Botton : There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life. And I took that to heart. I do actually believe in that a lot and I’ve done my share of humble-brag about putting all my life into work. Sometimes, I don’t know why I do that. Sometimes, it’s because there’s no other alternative that makes me feel as important or worthy. Every effort I put into work is acknowledged, and appreciated. There’s no shout-out for making time for self. Being the person I am, I would probably judge anyone who said they are proud of maintaining work-life balance. Who’s proud of being able to make time for themselves? What does that even mean? What is the achievement in giving yourself some TLC?

There seems to be enough articles and “research” that shows it might be actually good to not be a workaholic and have some sort of balance in your life. But, there’s enough successful people out there that you see who don’t sleep and don’t have a life. Maybe that is the cost to making any real difference in the world. I seem to have talked myself into believing that there’s some sort of war I’m fighting in which I need to give my mind, body, soul, blood, sweat, tears, feelings, everything. It’s so rewarding to tell myself that I have worked 100 hours in a week. Shameful to say that I slept for 10 hours.

No, it’s not like I’m trying to prove myself as a woman. From the conversations around me, I gather that superwomen are working a 100 hours and being awesome girlfriend/wife/partner/mom/sexylady/warriorprincess for the remaining 100 hours. While I can be quite competitive in many things, I choose not be so when it comes to sports, sudoku, relationships, health and having fun. (The math shows that if you work for 100 hours, you only have 68 more hours remaining in your week!). Wow, that math does seem crazy. So superwomen and supermen sleep 3-4 hours only I assume. Shameful to say that I slept for 10 hours.

Well, I feel old and tired, so I’m no longer pulling off 4 hour sleep schedules if I can help it. But it doesn’t still leave much energy or commitment to pursue other aspects of life. I don’t think I care for it as much, but I end up whining a lot about the sad, lonely life I’m leading. Yet, I stay away from making any commitment to change this status quo. I’ll just wait for another crash, then run away to the mountains and chill.

I won’t make any grand claims to write slow, long and different. I’ll start with something smaller and achievable. Just write. Write however I wish to but spill a few words on this page. This is a rambling piece of writing that’s all over the place. (My brain immediately thought of how I’d evaluate this using a writing rubric.) But some writing, is better than no writing. For the sake of sanity if nothing else.

 

100 Days of Writing

For the past four years, I’ve had these two things on top of my New Year’s Resolutions list:

  1. Write More
  2. Weigh Less

Well, I’ve been consistent with my resolutions, not as much with my efforts.

As 2015 kicked off, I saw someone start the #100DaysofHappinessChallenge or something of that sort on Facebook. I’d seen a lot of people post photos of cake and kittens and tag it with #100daysof Happiness-Day 99. I’ve also seen many people tag photos of flowers and sunsets with #XDaysofGratitudeChallenge-DayY. Which is well and good if it makes you happy and grateful for all things sweet and nice.  Being the gifted whiner and difficult person that I am, I could not imagine putting myself up to any such challenge. But I know that setting up such challenges and sharing them on public platforms are great motivators. My friend, Aditya, set himself a similar challenge (New Stories Five Days a Week) and produced a good amount of interesting fiction in that time. I realized I need to set myself some challenge if I were to ever meet any of my goals. So this year, I’ve decided to set myself such a dare- I call it the #100DaysOfWriting Challenge.  I think I can share my happiness and gratitude, my experiences and ideas, my stories and fancies by writing.

Why, you ask? Well, for starters I think it would make me a better person. There seems to be enough research that shows how writing can make you happier, smarter, sexier (kidding about that one! That one happens when you meet goal #2). I keep starting new blogs because I do love writing, but I never make any time to sit down and write. I wanted to write this post since noon today and finally got down it. Hopefully this exercise will help me resist the temptations of distraction and make time to something that I really value and enjoy.

When you’re on Facebook, Twitter and checking email 24X7, you are consuming information non-stop. When we’re not consuming information, we take irrelevant data sharing to new heights. I recently found this 2015 Reading Challenge which seems quite interesting and is a great way to push people to read. But what about producing? Are we creating as much as we are consuming? Are we spending as much time on writing as we do on reading or watching videos or viewing images?

The other big reason is to simply get better at writing. As part of my work, I see a lot of struggle when it comes to teaching writing to children. A part of it, in my opinion, is also related to the teacher’s skill and talent as a writer. We tweet, we share posts, we text and we send emails. We also maintain journals or diaries and take notes. But how often do we compose and craft deliberately? How often do we fret over our words and fuss over our sentences? How often do we set out to create a piece of writing that we can be proud of?  As I was writing this post and reviewing it, I could see how clunky my own writing has become. I’d like to get better at writing, so that one day I can actually be a writer.

So how will this 100 posts thing work?

Any post I write on any of my blogs, I will tag them with #100DaysOfWriting. I’d also love for others to join this and use this tag. It always helps to do such things with others so that you have some bit of healthy competition as well as feedback.

If I do the math, #100DaysOfWriting means that I write anywhere between 8-9 posts a month, which comes up to a 2-3 posts per week. If I behave, I might be able to keep that pace and post regularly. This should help in forming a habit over the long run as well. I’m setting some rules guidelines for myself so that I don’t cheat do this well:

  1. Write Slow. I must write only one post a day. I can’t reach December and do 3 posts a day to meet my goal. I need to write regularly and also give myself time. I need to plan my time out and enjoy the process of writing. Let the creative juices simmer and flow, instead of rushing to meet a deadline. I have enough deadlines at work, I don’t need to make this become a chore.
  2. Write Long. Whatever it written, must be a substantive piece of writing. Tweets and Facebook posts don’t count. There has to be some real effort into it. I don’t want to put a minimum word count limit, but I’d be ashamed if I wrote less than 300-400 words per piece. (At this point, this piece itself is about 706 words long and I’d like to keep such length!) It’s not that bigger is always better, but the way I enjoy #longreads, I must also attempt #longwrites.
  3. Write Different. I must write different things in different ways. To put it simply, I can’t just ramble and rant for 100 posts. I can’t do only haikus, or only fiction, or only reviews. I can’t keep sharing what I think about someone else’s writing for 50 posts nor can I masquerade sarcasm as satire for 20 posts. I should try new forms, be original and interesting. I know I tend to be whiny and ranty, so I also need to push myself to play nice for the most part.

That’s about it. 3 simple things to keep in mind while I write and to keep me anchored. This piece took me a good hour and bit of rush, but I feel it’s a decent start to #100DaysOfWriting. I hope on 31st December 2015, I can tell myself that I met this goal and set more ambitious goals for 2016.

Goodnight and good luck!