Unlocking From the Inside: A 30 Day Writing Challenge

I’m in the tail end of another 30 day writing challenge with this group I now refer to as my infrastructure. I’ve participated in these challenges in the past and enjoyed the camaraderie, focus and once had publishing success as a result. I don’t always hit my word count and sometimes miss a day, but I think about the writing in a more obsessive way, which I embrace.

It’s clear that I’ve been struggling for about a year now (or a Presidency you could say) with feeling down and frustrated. During the group’s discussion about what projects each of us hoped to complete someone suggested I begin some intensive journaling. I’ve never journaled openly with full intention of leaving it all on the page. When I was a pre-teen I assumed my words would be found and read. That sense of potentially being betrayed has followed me from adolescence to adulthood.

I decided to use the 30 days to try the journaling in a way I never have. Truthfully I felt guilty for giving up an opportunity to use the time to produce an essay, a memoir, or some other more worthy project. But I pursued this raw and open journaling process with a first time recklessness that rocked me.

And damn, it’s been everything.

I turn 50 at the end of April. And while the number doesn’t bother me, it can’t be denied that it’s a time of forced reflection. Throw in the fact that I’m in the midst of a future career change and that life didn’t get easier as my 17 year old self predicted it would, and I was left with a composed 30 day shit show I now like to call: My Birthday Present.

For the first 2 weeks I wrote about everything that uncomfortably scratched my surface, which was now regularly boiling. I had so much that needed emptying. A putrid mix of anger and tears all over my paper in a way I’ve never done before.

and another thing…

and another thing…

and another thing it seemed to say.

I was shouting onto the pages until eventually it was no longer surface scraping. I peeled back anger, fear, and betrayal that had been lying dormant (or so I thought) in the gut of me. My intestines that are today fighting celiac became a space to senselessly hold on to old history, bad history. I began to see how I operate from a place so constricted it’s hard to digest.

About half way through the month I read from the start to see if there’s an essay idea in there; still harboring the guilt that I wasn’t using this 30 days for something more worthy. To my surprise I saw the smear campaign I sheltered in those visceral layers. I wasn’t aware of how hard I am on myself. Consciously, I make time to feel worthy. I think I’m cool. But fifteen days of words showed me otherwise. Words that read: “failure” and “loser.” I saw that I “was letting down my entire family.” On day five I offered to give myself “my own little personal ass kicking.” What a pleasant concept.

I’m in the final week of writing but now carefully listening, and I seem to have found a space of compromise. The awareness of those sneaky, subtle thoughts that live in my crevices helped me to make a kind shift. The over thinking on paper showed me not much changes as a result of that habit. I decided this year for my birthday to give myself the gift of a break. Sometimes that toxic friend I keep with me—is me.

If you’re a writer or have been wanting to start, I highly recommend a 30 Day writing challenge. Our group has done it in the past using 15 minutes, (or a time limit that works for you). You can also choose a word count. This time I used 350 words per day. If I missed a day or fell short of the count I made it up on another day. I think the outcome is more valuable if you sink into this writing exercise with some loving fury (loving fury, what is that???) You can use the 30 days for a project you’ve been wanting to try, one you’re hoping to complete, or let the words spread to the page and see what comes out of it. I posted my word count for every day in my group but I also kept it in my phone, so if you’re not currently in a group there’s a way to help keep yourself accountable. The accountability helped me.

I don’t recommend the personal ass kicking, but if you find you’re suggesting that to yourself then I would increase your awareness of those emotions and let that shit go. Most of all it brought value into my writing life and for that I’m grateful for the month of March and the Renegade sisterhood I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of.

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