TLDR; Didn’t write everyday because I wanted to read instead. Learned a lot. Got some plans for the summer. You should sign up for my email list if you like self-development and learning new things.
The Month of May in Review
So when I outlined the PDP for myself, I decided to focus on content creation, decision-making, critical thinking, and self-awareness. I saw these things as tools. The way I wanted to use these tools was by writing a blog post everyday for 30 days. So by writing everyday, I hoped: 1) to improve my writing skills (get better at storytelling, better at summarizing, better at synthesizing, and better at analyzing), 2) to develop a distinct and clear voice as a writer, and 3) to gain confidence and a wider base of knowledge.
Ultimately, I’m not entirely sure whether or not my May PDP can actually be categorized as a failure. My knowledge base improved a lot. I’m a lot more self-aware than I was a month ago. I’m outrageously better at making decisions and actually starting projects. But I didn’t post everyday. And I still don’t feel completely satisfied with my voice as a writer.
So because of those last two points, I’m classifying this as a failure. Anyway, failing gives you more to think about, more to learn, more to strive for next time. It’s cause for celebration! And I love parties, so I’m cool with saying I failed this time ’round.
Why didn’t you post everyday?
I didn’t forget about my promise to post something everyday. I intentionally chose to stop writing on May 10th after I had already published 11 posts on this website and 1 on Mozart For Muggles. I stopped for two main reasons: 1) I had “given” a lot of myself over those 11 or so days, but I hadn’t “taken” enough to make the giving sustainable for the rest of the month, and 2) I became way more interested in consuming new stuff everyday than I was in writing everyday.
I believe in a sort of “creative karma”. When I absorb or consume a lot of ideas, books, videos, etc, then I’m able to produce and create stuff with ease and finesse. When I don’t spend enough time reading or thinking or watching videos or talking to people, then it’s really hard to create stuff.
When I read something new or interesting, it’s like putting food on the table. When there’s food on the table, I can use it to make a meal that I give to myself or my friends. When there’s no food on the table (when I haven’t read or watched or thought about anything new or interesting lately), I can’t do anything. I can’t make dinner out of thin air. I need ingredients to work with.
So I was focused on creating so much over those 11 days that I ran out of food. I had a chunk of watermelon and a half a can of beans on that 12th day. “Well that’s easy. Just go read something! Problem solved!” you might be saying. That’s what I thought too. I gave myself permission to miss two days of writing in order to consume more thoughts and ideas and books. But two days turned into the rest of the month. I wrote a short story after my 2 day break, but after that, I was way too interested in consuming. Completely obsessed with it, actually.
I learned a while ago that passion and undying interest trump dutiful obligation every day of the week, so I ultimately decided to quit holding myself to posting (or even writing) everyday. I trusted my gut and just consumed as much as I wanted.
What did I do right?
Believe it or not, I still got a lot out of embarking on and half-completing this project. First of all, I realized how much I love synthesizing information. I love reading and reading and reading, and then combining everything I read into a single idea or theme or point. I love pulling from different fields and saying things like, “This wasn’t the point of what the author wrote, but it made me realize this other thing which relates to that other idea and and and…” It’s so invigorating!
I also learned that deadlines don’t do anything for me. I honestly, truly, sincerely don’t think that I need them because I don’t procrastinate (which shocks most people I tell, so I’ll write about that eventually). Setting goals is important and helps with my productivity, but setting a goal and saying “I will do this by the end of the week/month/year” doesn’t affect my productivity at all. I saw this when I took that “break” from writing everyday. After the two days I gave myself to just consume new ideas, I started and finished a short story. And I probably could have continued writing everyday, but I just didn’t want to. The looming, obligatory deadline didn’t affect my desire to write. So because I didn’t want to (and, in fact, actively wanted to do something else), I chose not to write anymore.
During the month of May, I wrote more than 20,000 words in the form of twelve articles and one short story. I finished reading The Communist Manifesto, Freedom Without Permission: How to Live Free in a World that Isn’t, Semiotics: The Basics, and The End of Jobs. I also started a Java project. I learned a lot and consumed a lot. So I definitely met my goal of widening my knowledge base. I’m really happy about how much I learned.
Thoughts on establishing a “voice” as a writer
The thing I was holding onto most while I was writing was the goal of “establishing my voice as a writer”. I wanted to develop confidence. I wanted to create a “style” for myself, a “way of writing” that is distinctly me. And I wanted my voice to be something set, permanent, eternal, and recognizable. I didn’t meet this goal. And I’m not sure I ever will establish a voice in the way that I previously wanted. Here’s why I think so.
I’m always learning, always growing, always changing. I want to be open in a way so that I can accept Truth no matter what form it takes or where it comes from. So I think that because of these two facts, I will never have a set way of writing. My voice is likely to change depending on what I believe and what I feel and what I’m writing about. Maybe I’ll go through phases. Or maybe my voice will change for each piece that I write. But I think that it’s okay.
Related to establishing a distinct or unique voice, I’ve been thinking a lot about imitation. Neil Gaiman said, “We only find our voice after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.” I myself already wrote about originality in an early post on this site. But I’ve started thinking about it again, and in a different way. Alluding to the ideas and works of others is really cool to me. When I’m listening to classical music, I love recognizing “quotes” and “tributes” to other composers. It’s cool to recognize allusions in literature too.
So as part of establishing a voice for myself in each individual piece that I write, I want to be more free with referencing other people’s works. I’m going to ignore any thoughts that arise saying, “You’re a copycat,” or “Why don’t you come up with your own interesting ideas or metaphors?”. Contrary to what that critical voice inside me says, I think allusions, tributes, and references to the works of others will make my writing more powerful, valuable, and also more “human”.
Plans for the summer
So that’s all I have to say in review of the month of May and this personal development project I took on. I learned a lot and will keep on learning. Here’s some of what you can expect from me in terms of content by the end of August:
- 4 new posts in Mozart For Muggles on the 4 major periods of music history
- 3 new I Slav Phonetics videos (I know. Finally.)
- Posts on Fishing For Failure about loneliness, suffering, semiotics, and “what failure actually is”
- Official monthly email updates about really cool things that I find (articles, books, music, products, etc)