Writing is hard. But sometimes, everything flows.
I was in the middle of writing, and the words were flowing. It was the nirvana I aim for each time: to write as I talk, with the filter removed.
It was good. It was useful. I had written over 700 words, and was just about to wrap it up, when suddenly the screen went blank.
I don’t know if I hit something weird on my keyboard, or what happened.
I do all of my writing in the Drafts app, which auto-saves to the cloud. It also creates versions.
First I tried hitting “undo.” Nothing happened.
Then I checked to see if maybe I somehow archived it. Nope.
I checked the draft’s versions: there were none.
It showed me the time I started creating the Draft, but there was nothing on the screen.
Just like that, everything was gone.
I’m tempted to say that 45 minutes of my time was wasted.
But that’s not the lesson here.
How I Sustain My Daily Practice
Ironically, I was writing a piece to address a question I get asked often about my daily practices.
I have not missed a daily workout in over 9 years.
My daily meditation practice is closing in on 7 years.
I have published a daily blog for over 5 years.
One of the most common questions people ask me is how I sustain these practices.
In response, I often pose my own question:
Why do you quit?
Most people quit a practice because they don’t see results.
More accurately, they don’t see the results they desire in the time frame they expected.
They are focused on the metrics of outcome over a fixed time.
In the vanished essay I was writing, I broke down where these expectations originate and how they set you up for resistance, which makes quitting inevitable.
The First Result of a Practice
When we speak about results, we are often focused on what we get from the practice:
In the gym, it might be seeing your PRs increase. With a blog it might be the number of readers or comments. In a business it might be your revenue.
But those results are secondary, at best.
The first result of sitting down to write for 45 minutes —before page views and likes — is that I have something to show for my efforts. I have an essay. Words on the page (or screen).
What happens if I don’t have that? Does that mean I wasted my time?
No. Not at all.
Sustaining a practice requires a commitment to show up and do the work, even if you don’t walk away with something to show for your efforts.
The truth is that we don’t control the outcome — even an outcome that might seem to be in our control, like having words on the screen after 45 minutes of typing.
Focus on What You Can Control
The act of showing up — the process — is the only result I can control.
Yes, I want to have a great essay to show for my efforts. But if I’m attached to that result, to any result, eventually the practice becomes unsustainable.
The way I have sustained my practices for years is that I’m 100% committed to the process over the outcome.
I’ll eventually rewrite the essay that got lost because I’m committed to the process. So I know there will be a tomorrow and a next day, and eventually I’ll find that nirvana flow.
Until then, I remain committed to the process of the practice. That’s the only thing I can control.