My latest experiment in daily practices was to publish every day in November. Here we are. And here’s the truth about what you really get from daily publishing.
I Published Every Day in November. Here’s What I Learned.
I Write Too Much
Somewhere around mid-October, while looking through volumes of unpublished writing in my various files and repositories, I had an idea to try to write less and publish more.
I already write so much. Too much. In each of the past 3 years, I’ve written 1–2 million words a year.
That’s a lot of writing.
The volume of work in progress and mostly completed pieces that are sitting in my digital files is nauseating. It makes me sick to see all of it sitting there. And every day I write more. I can’t stop writing. It’s like a disease.
Unpublished Writing Breeds Self-Doubt
But none of it is helping anyone while it sits in my computer. And it hurts me. Because seeing the work I’ve done that I am somehow unable to publish is like fuel to the fire of my inner critic.
See, I told you this is a waste of time. You can’t help anyone. What a waste to write so much and not publish it.
Gosh, I hate her sometimes.
But she had a point.
My Initial Resolve
So I resolved to write less, publish more. I would do what I had to do to get out of my own way.
Like most of my initiatives, I didn’t start on the 1st of the month. I started on October 30. And my initial goal wasn’t to publish daily. My goal was actually to write less and invest more of my deep work time to polishing and publishing, as well as free up some of that time to focus more on other projects that have stagnated as a result of my writing compulsion.
The Big Risk
About a week into November I began to wonder if I could get myself to publish every day in November.
This was a risky endeavor, a set-up to fail. As much as I write, my previous attempts at daily publishing have fallen flat.
Welcome to November 30.
Welcome to day 32.
Welcome to the Danger Zone
Before you rush in with the high fives and congratulatory comments, let’s be clear: I’m under no illusion that this is locked in after only 32 days.
This isn’t my first trip down the road of creating a new daily practice. I’ve amassed a nice roster of long-term streaks:
- Daily workouts: Over 4 years and counting.
- Recording my daily gratitude and wins: Closing in on 4 years.
- Sitting for daily meditation practice: 702 days as of today.
- Writing at least 1,000 words/day: I don’t have a start date for this one. But it’s been a long time.
- 10,000 steps a day? 562 days today.
The Ritual Revolution, my program on creating sustainable daily practices, was born from experience and embodied knowledge. I know the obstacles well. I may have even invented some of the obstacles.
Day 32 isn’t even a quarter of the way to where a daily practice needs to be to lock in. I’ve just crossed the threshold into the precarious Danger and Doubt Zone: the point of the journey where exhaustion and fatigue creep in. In this stage, results are minimal at best and often downright depressing.
My inner mean girl is on fire, questioning what I’m getting for the effort and doubting my resolve to continue and the utility of continuing.
Still, I’m past the 2-week Drop-Off Zone. Studies show that’s when most people drop off their resolutions.
Good thing this isn’t a resolution. It’s resolve. There’s a difference.
Public Commitments are Overrated
I’ve tried this before. I even announced it publicly once.
“They” — the “experts” (I’m not sure in what) — say that public commitments hold us accountable.
Check the history of my blog and see how accountable I’ve been to my public commitments to publish daily, to peel back the curtain, to be more vulnerable, or to anything else I’ve publicly committed.
It’s hard to find an absence of evidence, so I’ll save you the trouble: not very.
This past month I publicly accepted a challenge from my friend to post 7 black and white photos in 7 days without explanation. I didn’t even post one.
No explanation allowed? I should have known better.
On the other hand, all of my long-term streaks have been born and sustained out of personal resolve, not public commitments.
No selfies in the gym, daily check-ins, or accountability buddy.
Also, yesterday I celebrated 6 months of no TV. I have mentioned it only in passing.
It’s been a big week for big milestones.
Nobody can hold you accountable unless you are resolved to do the action. The most others can do for you is support you in being accountable to yourself.
They say you get rewarded in public for what you do in private.
You might believe it if you read the tales of fitness fanatics scoring free swag from fitness companies, or writers getting exposure on the Huffington Post or getting book deals.
I’m sure you’re interested in hearing about all the rewards I have reaped from this experiment.
Here is what has happened because I write and publish every day:
[Note: insert big rewards here.]
Yeah, I’ve got nothing.
What about the big money?
I read an article on Medium a couple of weeks ago by a 24-year old kid who promises all you need is 1,000 followers on Medium to earn $500 per month. He even launched a course to share his tricks.
Well, I’ve got 1,500 followers. Thanks mostly to one article that has been viewed over 50,000 times and read over 10,000 times. That’s from before my current publishing streak. In fact, this current push to publish daily was motivated, in part, by the need to get over my fear of never again measuring up to that article’s success. More on that another time.
I joined the Medium Partners Program. And I just received my first payment:
Good thing I wasn’t expecting much, or I’d be in major suffering now.
What I did get
Here are some non-monetary rewards I have seen so far:
- Learning how to be ok with publishing unfinished or incomplete work.
- Letting go of the need to have all the answers before I share my work with the world.
- Embracing the idea of “doing it messy.”
- Finding a way to get it done daily, no matter what.
Those are big wins. Nobody can take those away from me.
(Still, I’ll happily discuss a book deal or paid writing gig.)
Embrace progress over perfection. Don’t rely on external rewards to sustain you. Motivation, like accountability, must come from within.
The Big Questions: Will I continue?
There’s only one way to find out. Stay tuned…
Thanks for being here, and thanks for reading.