I knew that accomplishing the goal of writing a brief lesson learned blog post for all 366 days of 2012 would be a challenge. I had never attempted anything remotely close to that before, so the process itself was as much a learning experience as the subjects of individual daily lessons posted. Having had a week to reflect on the completion of that 130,000+ word venture, here are seven lessons I take away from the experience:
1. It is more difficult to write few words than to write many words. Each of my daily lessons was to be no more than 366 words, and for most of those I admit to having to rid them of too much written on my first draft. Deciding what entire lines of thought had to be sacrificed and how to better phrase something in fewer words is difficult, but a very valuable lesson. A well-known quote comes to mind: “I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.” – Blaise Pascal, Lettres Provinciales (1656-1657), no. 16. (also attributed to Mark Twain and others – take your pick). It also helped as I wrote to remember the words of Elmore Leonard: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
2. Reflecting on each day’s events is a constant source of learning. No day comes and goes without the opportunity to learn something from what transpires. Intentionally taking time near the end of the day to reflect on events, conversations, feelings, successes, failures, etc. makes that learning far more likely.
3. If you write it, they won’t necessarily come. My writing was primarily for me and not for others. Still, I am grateful for the more than 10,000 views the blog received during 2012. That’s actually a very small number given the quantity of posts, so one of the lessons is that if a blogger really wants readers, he has to do more than just write. I knew that, of course, before writing last year, but the experience confirmed that there is other promotional work to be done (one of my goals for 2013).
4. Writing is addictive. Gloria Steinam (probably the only time you will ever see me quote her) said, “I do not like to write – I like to have written.” While I understand her point, I confess that I really do like to write as well – to sit at the keyboard, think things through, write, revise, repeat. If I could fill my days (and pay my bills) doing nothing but this, I would gladly do so. After just one week of changing my pattern to blogging every other day instead of every day, I feel like I’ve slacked off tremendously. The current pattern, though, allows me more time to write and reflect on particular posts than last year’s daily process, so this year’s emphasis is more on quality than quantity. While I don’t expect to ever be a “professional” writer, I understand the sentiment of Leo Rosten: “The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.”
5. Ambitious goals can be met one day at a time. Setting out to write 366 posts is daunting to say the least, but I didn’t have to write all 366 at once. I needed to write one at a time. That, I could do. The same is true for any ambitious goal – break it down into bite-sized pieces and then take one bite.
6. If you get behind, don’t panic or quit. There were a number of times throughout the year when I was one or more days behind in posting. That’s OK. I just needed to post two per day now and then (usually weekends) to eventually get caught up.
7. Engagement with readers is encouraging. The periodic affirmation that comes from the occasional “like” of a post or reader comment is wonderfully encouraging. It would be nice to help or touch many thousands with what I write, but connecting positively with one other person rejuvenates me and keeps me going. So my thanks go to everyone who ever engages with me here or elsewhere in response to what I write. You are a hefty part of my inspiration to continue.
Of course, the 366 daily lessons learned from last year were additional lessons already shared here about a host of subjects. I wanted to reflect on the overall experience, though, and see what blogging itself every day for a year yielded. The above seven lessons are that result for me.