The Year of Glorious Mistakes: Looking Back on 2013

ReflectionsofColourfulBldgs_BeverleyLR_sxcAs a long distance runner, I plan my races a year in advance, and I can never be too careful about it.

Take 2013 for example.  By February I had all my races figured out.  My partner and I had registered for the Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon and the Cascade Lakes Relay held in August.  I also knew that I wanted to run a big race around my 30th birthday in November, and ended up running my first marathon.

I started training for the half marathon and the relay race as early as February.  And if I wanted to finish the marathon without turning to a puddle of sweat and tears, then I had to start training as early as June.

Planning  prevented me from making stupid choices.  I couldn’t run the Fourth of July race and maintain endurance for the relay race.  And I certainly couldn’t run a 10K on my favorite trail that was held weeks before the marathon.

I had to know what I was doing ahead of time.

I go through this planning every year.  I think about the distances I want to run, when the races fall on the calendar, and how much time I have in between each race.

And in order for this planning to be effective, I have to know ahead of time what I want and how to set my priorities.  In 2014 I’m improving my speed, so I can run a faster marathon in 2015.

As I looked back on 2013, I realized I can apply this foresight to my writing.  This year I had just a rough idea of what I wanted to do: finish my book and write this blog.  Had my intentions been more concrete, I could have accomplished a lot more.

When I started this blog a year ago, it was like signing up for a bunch of races without a training plan.  (Tip: unless you like pain, do not run a race without a training plan).  Writing this blog has come with its share of pain and not the kind that has the crowd cheering for the hero as he walks off into the sunset.

But I believe in learning from our mistakes, so here is what I took away from this past year.

When I started this blog, it didn’t occur to me how much work it would be to come up with fresh ideas and write timely blog posts.  What I – and many other people who start blogs – didn’t understand is that you have to think ahead.

Lesson #1: Have a freaking plan.

But blog writing has taught me a much more beautiful lesson, which is that blogging is so much different than other types of writing.  I’m used to projects with a broad timeline that require a lot of focus and concentration.  Blogging is a different beast.  It teaches me to be less cautious and take risks.

Lesson #2: Sometimes you have to write hard and fast and make mistakes.

This is the first time I’ve had to share my experience with others.  Knowing what works and doesn’t work in writing can be rather intuitive.  My gut tells me something is wrong, but I have to figure out how to express it.  But once I find a way to express it, I become more confident in my beliefs.

Lesson #3: Write about writing, and you’ll find your platform.

And in doing that I have a much better understanding of my hang-ups.  Whenever I reflect on distractions and my own resistance, I think, “Oh so that’s why I do it.”  Getting started is always hard, and the inner critic is quite familiar to me.  But blogging has shown me how much space they do take up and how to be more mindful of it.

Lesson #4: The craft is ripe with fears.

There is A TON of advice out there about writing, blogging, using social media, getting people to read your stuff, and using key words and all kinds of crap.

It’s all good advice, but at some point you have to find your own path.  This goes for writing of all kinds.  This sphere is saturated with fantastic, terrible, dynamic, ho-hum, and god-awful writing of all kinds.

Writers stand out by having a unique voice.  If you only ever follow the how-to’s you’ll always be doing what everyone else is doing, and you’ll never learn to do it differently.  People might tell you, “This is what readers want.”  If your instinct points you in another direction, follow it.

Lesson #5: Be Authentic.

I tried (and failed) to finish a writing challenge of my own design.  Had I finished it, my book would be complete by the end of January.  While the book is nowhere close to being finished, I still plan on publishing it in 2014.  Don’t ask me how I’ll manage it, but I trust that by setting the intention, I’ll get it done.

We live in a culture where a lot of emphasis is put on outcomes and not on processes, and I believe it causes people to become short-sighted.  They want good writing to happen, but they don’t realize the number of steps in between the first word and the final edit.  They don’t want to make room for mistakes along the way.  Running a race is 98% training and only 2% race day.

Which brings me to 2013’s best lesson.

Lesson #6: Trust the process.  It will get you there.

Starting January 1, 2014, I’m starting a year-long writing streak, and I’d love it if you joined me.  I’ll be posting guidelines on December 31st.  If you have worries about breaking your streak, don’t let that stop you from joining.  If you break you’re streak, you’re allowed to start over.  New participants will be able to jump in at any point during the year.  The intention is to write for as many days as you can.

Just follow or tag results to #writingstreak.

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