Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Experiments With Writing

Writing is one form of my self-expression, my creative outlet. Writing has always been one of my ways to express and self reflect. At times it has been therapeutic for me. It helped me visualize, set goals, achieve and accomplish amazing things.  "Amazing" because if you asked me before I started some of these "things" I wouldn't have had the confidence or the imagination to believe I could achieve and accomplish these things. What exactly are some of these things ? I typically talk about these "things" during my review of the year towards the end of the year 2015, 2013, 2012

These things might be irrelevant in the grand scheme of the things but they are the foundation of my confidence, my  experiences and my learning. Each day I am getting better because of these "things" the things I call goals/dreams/habits. One such thing has been writing.

Writing can mean different things to different people. It could be a way to express ourself, it could be meditative and therapeutic, it could be our love letter to our self (or hate letter to our younger self), it could be the documentation of our legacy, or it could be just random journal which we don't look at it again. For me it  has been a combination of all the above depending on the moment and time. Some people like to keep their writing or goals private and they have valid reasons to do so. For me personally I like to share and truly believe "Sharing is Caring".  There is something magical and powerful that happens when you share your dreams with people of similar interests. You never know who might help you or who you could help and  in the process learn a thing or two. After all isn't life about Learning, Experiences and Giving instead of the Money, Stuff and consumption that we are brainwashed into or conditioned to believe ? I digress.

Coming back to writing it started when I was in college, when I had lot more time to spend on Internet, which back then I thought I was wasting my time but who knew I would stumble on this article one day (October 2, 2007 to be specific I had to look it up)  "Goal Setting : How To Have Whatever You Want* plus Ways To Solve Relationship Problems" which talked about goals, relationship problems and writing. Not sure if the "Relationship Problems"  in the title got my attention or I came to this article after reading the article "How to Know Your Life Purpose", either way, the key take away(s) for me was Writing and I could say goal setting as well as I started setting goals every year since 2010 (guess it took me 3 years after I read these articles for me to actually do it. It makes sense that I could do it only after graduation and when I started trying to be an adult but never got around "being an adult" my hashtags #lol, #omg, #Yolo, #GFY on FB might tell you how adult I am.)

If it took me 3 years to get into the habit of writing down goals and actually accomplishing them, It took me around 7-9 years after I learned about the importance of writing to actually start writing and make it a priority. Don't get me wrong I have been dabbling on writing since 2010 but on and off but nothing with consistency. I did write alot during these years but without any schedule or on a whim. It was not a habit yet.

I am happy to say I got into the habit of writing, atleast I crossed off the 21 days, that should count right ? I started consistently writing since March 31, 2016 (after posting on Facebook on March 28, 2016 about want to write and looking to write with someone). One of my friends pinged me and we started writing since March 31, 2016. Also I think, it helped that I was also experimenting on getting off  of facebook for 30 days during weekdays and if I have  to check, it will be during evening on a Mac which I don't use much relative to the use of my iPhone.

Now coming to the most important part of Why I wanted to write this article in the first place. To share my experiences of what worked for me in trying to get into the habit of writing. It is easily said than done. We have to make conscious choices and have the commitment to follow through.

I guess I will come up with a list of things that worked me. Obviously people like lists and want complex issues to be simplified in bullet points and power points. Here we go...

5 Steps to making writing a habit

  1. Why do you want to write ? : This is the most important step. Getting clarity gives us the motivation and commitment to follow through. Gives us the meaning and reason to NOT give up. This is the most important one.  I am writing because I truly believe I have some good ideas and experiences to share. I believe I have an amazing story and some humble beginnings that some people might relate to and learn a thing or two from my ideas and experiences as I did by reading from people who wrote before or did things I wanted to do before me. I am just a candle passing on the light. My writing is the light atleast that's what I want it to be. As such I am planning to write a book about my journey of finishing a marathon in all the 7 continents (completed) and 50 states (and finished 45 states at the time of this writing).
  2. How badly do you want to write ?: This will come to us if we know and have decent time thinking about "Why do we want to write ?". Once that is clearly and the intensity of how bad do you want it comes from how passionate about you are with why you are writing. If you asked me this question "how badly you want it". May be 
  3. Planning and Preparation : I always believed "Plans may be void but planning is inevitable". Although I have gotten better lately with balancing with last minute and spontaneous planning and preparation to planning and preparing little in advance. I wouldn't say I have mastered it but I am getting better every day. But the key take away here is we have to plan and prepare for it. Things will workout adhocly for  things like : randomly choosing a place to eat, or a place to go or travel. things of least consequence. But for things with life dreams, goals and anything we are passionate about. We need to spend some quality time. We need to sleep on that idea. I am not asking you to go into analysis paralysis which is highly possible to get caught up in the fancy gadgets to write with, tools for productivity, get caught up in the external tools and not focusing on what actually matter. Writing. Just Writing.
    • Sleep well : This has nothing to do with writing, but in general more to do with life and health. Unless we are well rested and have the clarity and freedom of thought, our creativity might suffer or we might not be motivated to write consistently. It will be an uphill battle. I am personally still struggling with this, trying to get more sleep. I am working on it and it is work in progress. But I didn't let the lack of sleep be the excuse NOT to write, although I can tell on the days I have less sleep I write slowly and I am more in my head than in a life. Not sure if this is a correlation or causation but it doesn't matter. Sleep. Take good rest. 6-8 hours is recommended and supported by science. But you pick and choose and let your body tell. If you are not enthusiastic or energetic, you could assume you didn't have good sleep or didn't eat well. Yes eat healthy and nutritious food. 
    • Creating an Environment with less or NO distractions : Facebook, social media, phone notifications have to be avoided as much as possible. I deleted my facebook app from my phone and it helped me alot. I will elaboreate on this in another blog post as it is important and very helpful to address this. I got really good with not spending too much time on facebook and successfully did 30 days without facebook during the weekdays. I didn't go cold turkey but slowly eased into it and happy with the results
    • Creating and sticking to a schedule or routine to follow: Mornings are typically best and recommended  because there is lot of energy in us and help us plan and prepare for the day. There is lot of science and spiritual reasons that support and encourage writing first thing in the morning. You can pick and choose on the time you want to consistently write. Dabble and experiment with the times. Some people like to write the first thing in the morning and there are many successful people who highly recommend writing first thing in the morning. MorningPages is was the result of that. There are also many books written on the power of writing first thing in the morning. For me it is tough because I go for running first thing in the morning and I couldn't really choose between running and writing but for now I gave priority for running and I write every weekday at 8a.m immediately after my run and breakfast
    • Have the tools that will help you keep up the schedule : I use Focus Writer on my Mac to write, you can choose whatever tool works for you. Don't spend too much time on the tools. Focus writer is donation based which I like as I get to pay what I like. I love products that are donation based which I end up paying more than i typically pay or even avoid software because of the psychology of paying. I really liked too but the fact that I had to pay $5 a month didn't draw me much. I mean $5 is nothing, less than the cost of one burrito which I eat alot and I really liked writing on it as well but the cost and the lack of a mobile app were some of my excuses that didn't make me take the jump to spend money on paying for a writing software. Again that's just my frugal or cheap opinion, however you want to look at it.
  4.  Have an Accountability Partner : Unless you are self disciplined, I highly recommend an accountability partner. I do well when I am in groups, could be I am extroverted or I need people for my energy. It doesn't matter if you are extroverted or introverted. What matters is sticking to the schedule and writing every day. If you can write by yourself great. If not have someone who is also interested in writing or join a writing club where everyone meets and writes for certain time everyday. For me I tried writing clubs but the chore and logistics of actually getting to the writing club was distracting and daunting and coming in the way of my motivation to write. So I started writing on my own and have a friend, we both write at exactly 8a.m Pacific time. We both support each other or ping each other to keep us accountable. It has worked wonders for me so far. Even if you can't find someone to write with you, find something or someone that will keep you accountable.
  5. Measure and Track the Progress : Although I perceived writing is for the right brain and the artsy fartsy folks, it doesn't need to be that way. Especially measuring and tracking progress gives a sense of accomplishment. So everyday I use to count how many number of words I wrote. Typically I write for a minimum of 25 minutes and sometimes more. Although I sometimes force myself to start at 25 minutes as I want to have a benchmark of how much I am writing and how fast I am writing. Do these matter ? Not really and depending on who you ask. I look at writing more as a correlation to being in flow. Because when I am in flow I wrote close to 2000 words in 25-30 minutes and some times I just write 500 words. But on average I write atleast 750 words in 25-30 minutes. Sorry this article is more than 750 words :(
  6. Just Write : All of the above only matters. If you actually write. Just Write. Do It. Just write and you will be happy and create meaning in our busy day to day life. Just write. Will you ?
So all in all  being passionate about sharing my ideas and experiences through writing a book, badly wanting to consistently write because I wanted to do it since 2010 but finally made it a priority, getting off facebook, writing everyday at 8a.m, having a friend to keep me accountable, having tools like focuswriter, worcounter and others to measure and track progress helped me accomplish my 30 days of writing and gave a foundation to consistently write.   I am no expert these are all the lessons I learned from my experiences and dabbling with "things". Happy to share. Sharing is Caring. I do care about the people and the society around me. I truly believe this world is a better place because I am here. I would like to share more of my experiences and ideas on Why and How I am making this world a better place. More to follow. Sorry for such a long winded post and Thank you for spending your valuable time if you made it this far (I am sure my grandkid who I am partially writing for might not be this patient to read these long articles, he will be like "Yo GrandPa, WTF are you talking about Yo ? keep it simple and short, I got no time for your long a$$ essays :)

P.S : This is not my first experiment and won't be last. I did write consistently for 30 days in November 2015 with a group of people and I improvised based on the lessons I learnt on what I could improve to consistently write and remove an barriers for me to write consistently. I think I am there right now.

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