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October Writing Wrap-up and November’s Challenge

The first every Spark Challenge is done. I spent October writing every day. Well, make that trying to write every day.Every day was a battle of time. What do I spend my time on? I could spend 2 or 3 hours of time on whatever I wanted before I left for work and after I came home. In between cooking, cleaning and hanging out with my girlfriend there was some time that I was free to do what I like. That’s when the priority battle started. What should I work on? Should I be configuring the new section for PureOutside? Should I be writing more guides to sell there? Should I be writing on rcThink trying to expand my horizons and conquer fears? Should I be reading about what other people are trying to do and chatting with them about it?Even with a full-time job, I still find the time to do the things I love to do. The only problem is that the full-time job takes so many of my waking hours that I’m left with only a few for the awesome stuff.With that said, I think I did pretty well. I wrote 22 or 23 days of October. That’s more than I’ve ever written in my life. Some of what I wrote got published. Some of it didn’t. My rules for the challenge was that it had to be at least journalling. I spent the majority of it working on articles for PureOutside, which worked out well. That site is a priority for me and I also get to work on the challenge. I’m finding more and more these days, that I need to work on things that accomplish a few goals, not just one. Something that I write that can be used for multiple things, or I’m working on a mental goal and a physical one at the same time. Adventuring is always like that for me. Exploring outside is a great workout, I get some time away from work and machinery to relax and think, and it’s great material for photography and writing guides. There are many beneficial byproducts from adventuring. That’s my case for needing to do it and I’m stickin’ with it.I’m proud of the fact that I wrote most days in October but I still think I could do better. To be honest, some of the days I forgot that I was doing a writing challenge. I was quite busy for a couple of the weeks travelling, with sports and other commitments that by the time I got home, writing wouldn’t even enter my mind. When I remembered, though, I was all over it, totally immersed in WordPress or Evernote on my laptop and typing away like mad. That leads to a couple of things I learned from the first Spark Challenge.Teh Learnings1. It gets easierThe Resistance was telling me writing every day was going to be like pulling teeth every single day. It was going to be like wringing a dry towel to get more water from it. It was going to be terrible. It wasn’t like that at all.Every day I wrote more and more and while I was focused on writing because I was doing a challenge for the first couple days, I would flow into just writing to write after doing it for a few days straight. Doing it every single day and creating a routine is a huge part of being able to do it all the time. I couldn’t get the same time every day to write but if I could wake up and remind myself I had to write at some point that day, it would usually get done. Days that I forgot to remind myself or were just to crazy to get an extra relaxed thought in edgewise were the ones where I dropped the ball and forgot about it. I can’t think of a single day where I remembered but intentionally did not write. My mind was just elsewhere sometimes.2. You have to make timeThese new challenges I’m doing are things I don’t do normally. There would be no point to making a challenge for going to work every day. I already do that (minus weekends). They are things that are tough to do every day because I already have commitments pulling me in every direction and other projects on the go that are splitting my time even thinner.I started just adding to do list items to my lists for writing but that wasn’t working. It was hard to relate a to do list to the actual amount of time I had. The to do list didn’t display things as a schedule or calendar. Oh wait, I have one of those. It’s called a calendar and I use it for other things. I ended up sitting down with my to do list and my calendar on as many days as I could, at least once a week, and scheduling out some writing time. Surprising things happen when you look at tasks scheduled on a calendar.I always thought I had tons of time during the day to do extra things. I would give myself 10 tasks to do each day but wonder why I wasn’t getting anything done. I had lots of time right? Wrong. I didn’t have a lot of time. After putting all the little random tasks around the house and my full-time job, that left me with minimal amount of time to spend writing. What did I typically do with half that precious free time? I’d lolligag around on email, Facebook and all sorts of blogs. By the time I got around to writing, my time was up and I needed to move on to other things.If I was going to write then it was going to happen first. I had to schedule time to work on things and when that time came around I would sit down and write, nothing else. I wouldn’t “warm up” by checking email or reading blogs because they just turned into time sucks. They’re required yes but they can happen in little slivers of time I have here and there. Writing deserves a  nice big uninterrupted chunk of time. Once I gave that time the respect it deserved, wonderful things happened. I got so much more done, and even though there was tons of email and Facebook messages around I felt much better about what I had accomplished.3. Nothing is perfect the first timeI get stuck in a rut sometimes with my writing. I start thinking more and more about what other people think about it and me, the writer. I worry about what other people are writing, how they’re doing it and why it sounds so much better than what I write. As it is it every creative endeavor and really anything you start doing in life, I had to get over the fact that I’m not a top-notch writer yet. I like to think it makes sense and is relatively interesting to read but it’s not quite a literary classic. I’m coming to grips with the fact that I’ll never be writing classics. I just like too many things to spend the time to learn to write that way. If I wanted, I could devote all my time to becoming an amazing writer but then I wouldn’t have as much time to adventure, take photos and experiment with new things I haven’t even tried yet. That fact still stresses me out a little but I’m getting closer to fully accepting it. A question for you: Do you specialize or go shallow into meany different endeavors? Which is better?4. One at a time is bestAt least to start. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has been pushing this idea for as long as he’s written. One thing at a time. As soon as you introduce more stuff to the mix, things get diluted, forgotten, pushed back, lost. If you want to learn something, and learn it well, you have to focus on it. I feel like having at least an hour a day to do something could get you some traction in it. More would obviously be better. You don’t want to burn yourself out right away but the more you can pick up in a short time span the more you’ll recall later on. I remember learning to snowboard and only going to the hill once or twice a year. It took forever to get to a certain level. When I finally took a family trip to another ski hill and boarded for 4 days straight, I improved much faster than I had riding so sporadically. It was exactly the same thing learning wakeboarding, skiing, ultimate frisbee and sailing. The more time you can spend in it when you’re first learning the better.There seems to be a critical point you get to along your path that you’re no longer a newbie. You’ve got things figured out, you’re no longer one of those brand new people trying to figure out what’s going on. You certainly don’t know everything there is to to know but you know enough to get you started and you know about what you don’t know. Realizing there is a lot you don’t know goes a long way to keeping you humble and hungry for more. No one wants to spend a huge amount of time learning something only to realize that’s all there is, the learning is over.5. Let the squirrel do itI read an awesome article recently about writing or really doing anything in general. I can’t for the life of me remember where it was though. They were talking about letting your squirrel brain do the writing. Often when you’ve learned what you need to know and you’ve thought about it enough, you can just let go and let your subconscious or squirrel-brain do the work. At this point it’s less about conscious thought and just about letting go and allowing your brain to do it’s work. You don’t have to force it. If you’ve done your prep, research, thinking, interviewing and checking, it’s all there there already. Just let it flow.I’m sure there were a bunch more insights that I had writing for a month but my brain’s already turned to the next Spark Challenge.A month of meditationI’ve been hearing more and more about meditation as a daily practice for creatives. Brian Johnson from Philosopher’s Notes talks about it a lot and Jonathon Fields mentioned it in Uncertainty as an anchor to clear thinking in the seas of crazy life. I made up that terrible metaphor, don’t think Jonathon would write something like that. In his book, Jonathon talked about it as a great way to relax, clear your mind, organize your thoughts, and allow your brain to do some heavy, creative thinking all at the same time.I’ve always seen meditation as some weird fluffy thing that guys on mountain tops do because they have nothing else to do with their time but the more I read, the more it sounds like something that would benefit my life in many ways.I’ve started with the free sample Blissitation from Brian Johnson. It’s 15 minutes long which I think is a perfect time to start off at. I know some start at 5 minutes but I found 15 minutes very easy to do. I’m almost falling asleep after that amount of time though, which I’m not sure is supposed to be happening. Along with the practice of meditating every day, I’ll be looking into exactly how it works and the different types. In a couple weeks I should have another post up about what I’ve learned and how I’m doing with the challenge.Post YoursI hear about challenges going on all over the place and I’d love to hear about them. What are your rules? Is it 30 days long? What have you tried and what are you going to try next?I’ll be tweeting every day about how things are going with the hash tags #sparkmonth #day1. If you’re doing any monthly challenges, I’d love to see your tweets too.