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Must I Write? A Reflection On Thirty Days Of Writing

Today I feel like a dented, crackling hardboiled egg. I feel a fire right behind my eyes, but a cool calm over every other inch of my body.

Photo by  Jeremy Thomas  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

I was at the yoga studio for almost four hours today—two and a half of those were actually practicing in the hot room. Sixty minutes of a breath-intensive active class, and ninety minutes of half dreaming in a toasty restorative soundbath.

If you would have told me I’d be doing this two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. Fridays were for getting toasted in a much less healthy way. So much has changed in the past couple of years—and so much has changed in the past thirty days.

As I nurse a throbbing headache alongside a single beer, I think I’ll share a few of the greatest takeaways from the past thirty days of a daily yoga and writing practice.

I have the time.

I learned this during my first thirty day challenge in April—I have more time in my day than I believed I did. My schedule opened up and welcomed a yoga routine, and I hardly noticed the “loss” of ten hours or so each week. I was shocked at how I was still able to get work done and be a productive member of my household.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was dedicating more time to my healthy self instead of staring at my phone on the toilet.

So when I wanted to add a daily writing practice in on top of the yoga, I hoped that it would abide by the same principle. It totally did. I still ran errands, bathed myself, worked, and fed myself for the thirty days I committed to writing. I had some late nights, but I got it done.

Nothing is that big of a deal.

I also started to let go of some of the little things that had previously wound me up. I’m almost always stressing about the state of my apartment, and during the past thirty days, I realized it’s not that important. I still would prefer it to be clean, but my moments of panic about the chaos of our space have subsided.

I’ve chilled out about money, too. We’re still in quite the pickle, but I’ve felt myself soften about getting out of debt right now. I’m judging myself a lot more on whether or not I achieved my personal, non-monetary objectives nowadays rather than how much money I’ve been able to bring in.

I must write.

For the past several years, I’ve reflected on Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet passage where he describes what to do if you feel compelled to write:

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose...

What most terrified me about that quote is that he went on to explain that if you don’t feel like you must write, that it’s time to wrap up those aspirations and tuck them away. It stung like a moment from my first semester in college: I told a friend in my dorm that I played the saxophone, but admittedly hadn’t played in over six months. He told me this: then you’re not a musician anymore.

I was so angry. But it was only fair: you become by doing. And I’m excited that this is the first step back into the writerly waters.

Plus, it doesn't hurt that I've expressed the sentiment "I have to write" every day for four weeks.

I need to read more.

I realized that all of my intake has been digital lately, and most of it has been social media. My “leisure” time includes heavy doses of scrolling forever through Instagram and laughing at the occasional meme. Yeesh.

I have several library books on my nightstand that have been needing love, so I’ll start there. Even when I manage to squeeze a few pages of reading in here and there I notice a difference in my vocabulary and my general curiosity about the world. I want to be intentional about whose voices I’m hearing, and make sure that it’s not just the same old white dudes all the time (although my current read is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side Of Paradise and I’m loving the arrogant characters).

I can fail, and I can love myself.

There was one evening this month where I didn’t write at all, because of a late evening, a couple glasses of wine, and a moderately devastating anxiety attack about being too far behind in life. You know, basically a typical 2015 Friday night.

But somehow, I didn’t lose it the next day. I got right back on the saddle again the next day with my writing habit. What really made the difference was that I gave myself a boatload of grace and didn’t force myself to make up the lost hour. I came at it from a place of love rather than self-punishment, and it made me wonder why I haven’t been doing that all along.

I can do more.

This goes along with me realizing that I have the time for these things, but it’s really set me up to do more ambitious things or things that scare me even more. I could give up drinking alcohol, set a morning routine, or finally create a cleaning habit that would knock your socks off, all because I’ve been able to prove to myself that these types of habits are possible.

I have an idea for what to plan for November, but so far it’s only showed up in my gel pen doodlings in my unorganized 5-subject notebook. I need to let it settle into my bones (and my notebook) for another day or two before I commit to anything.

DIY Thirty Day Challenge

If you’re hoping to create a new habit or want to try a thirty day challenge of your own, I have a few thoughts on what will help make it a success.

  1. Seek accountability or camaraderie. If you can’t find a friend who’s working on a daily habit, find someone who will be happy to hear that you completed another day.

  2. Find a tiny daily reward. For me, it was putting my sticker up on the thirty day tracker at my yoga studio. It’s such a small thing, but man I love stickers. It gives it all a very official structure in which my brain thrives like an unwelcome weed.

  3. Don’t set a goal other than completion, at least for your first one if you’re trying to do something you’ve never done. If I were to have said that by the end of my first thirty day yoga challenge I would be able to do a perfect handstand, I don’t know if I would have been as motivated. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

  4. Make your new habit a “must”. For the past thirty days, I’ve moaned and groaned about having to write. Keyword: having. All my bitching ever did was push it later into the night. Remind yourself that you’ll probably hate it some days (or many days), but that having done it will be better than not.

  5. Make physical space for it. If you want to write, create a writing desk or area. If you want to craft, be sure your craft desk is stocked with what you’ll need. I’ve been trying to light a candle next to me each time I write to remind myself that this should be an enjoyable experience.

Sending you all the love and strength you’ll need to get started!

In case you want to revisit my 30 days of writing, here are all my posts!

From Office Hours To Wild After-Hours: My Advice To College Freshmen

The Ultra-Top-Secret Affirmations I Say To Myself Every Day