What happens when you write every day for 100 days?
I spent 100 days writing every day.
It was transformative.
In 100 days I went from being a person who was unable to complete a project to the opposite – disciplined and committed. It’s hard to communicate the subtle, cascading power of a change in identity. It spilled into all parts of my life.
Writing for 100 days didn’t fix my problems, cook my meals, buy me a house and change my life. It did, however, change the way I thought and felt about myself. Very little truly changes the felt sense of self. To think sitting down in front of a laptop and typing words could change how I felt, on a permanent basis, is amazing.
The message of this post is encapsulated in the above sentences. You could stop reading here and you won’t miss anything.
‘Has anybody seen my fear?’
At the end of 2017, I sat in front of my laptop with my stomach upset and my hands shaking. I felt sick. My mind was in panic-mode, its thoughts various expressions of a single fear:
What will people think of me when they see my writing?
Pushing the fear aside, I hit publish on the introduction to the 100 day challenge.
It was an honest, vulnerable piece of writing. The first time I’d truthfully written down my thoughts and published them on the internet. It was terrifying.
Contrast the above with today:
As I write type this post now, I may experience the occasional self-conscious thought but like the noise of the cars outside my window, I feel no particular way about it. There’s no fear, shaking or overwhelm. I type, edit for clarity then hit publish.
My moment to moment experience, what it feels like to write as I sit here, is entirely different. This alone is worth 100 days of writing.
More Finishing, Less Perfectionism
I used to agonise over ideas. If I wanted to write, I’d spend days, weeks even, researching. I’d repeat the same lengthy process for planning. I’d write, delete and rewrite for hours on end. The tendency was so bad, it caused me to have a breakdown while writing my university dissertation.
Perfectionism is a perception fear. It stems from the thought I mentioned earlier: “what will people think of me?” To be perfect is to be safe from judgement. Unfortunately, the only way to guarantee perfection is to do nothing — what doesn’t exist can’t be imperfect.
The 100 day project forced me to share every day. Some days, I only had 15 minutes to write. Day after day, I hit publish on writing which was far from my best. Some days, I shared incomplete pieces, a sin I never imagined myself committing. With every click of the publish button, perfectionism’s grip on me began to loosen. You can only share so many imperfect pieces before you realise — it doesn’t matter.
‘Write then share. Good or bad. The thoughts of others won’t harm you.’ became my new approach. It’s an approach we’re all aware of. An idea which makes perfect theoretical sense. Yet, it was only when I continuously published what I considered to be imperfect work that I felt it as truth. The freedom to experiment, to play and share, regardless of quality, is more useful than a perfectly curated portfolio of writing. It’s also more fun.
In my challenge introduction post I wrote the following:
“This project is an antidote. A healing balm applied directly to my weaknesses:
- a tendency to over complicate
- an acute fear of being negatively perceived
I’m happy to say each of the areas listed above has improved as a direct result of daily writing. I produce more; simplify before I begin; move through the world with a greater comfort in myself, whether that’s dancing while I make tea in the office kitchen or talking to myself while I brainstorm. I speak with more honesty and have more difficult but important conversations which I would’ve previously avoided.
Tools for the Journey
If I could meet myself when she was starting the project, I’d tell her the following:
- 100 day projects are great. Discipline is wonderful. And so is being nice to yourself and looking after your health. We’re busy people with families to love, work to do and clothes to clean. The danger of a project like this is the tendency to push too hard. You turn yourself into both the labourer and the whip-wielding master.
- Set a goal to write every day but make sure you practice the art of forgiving yourself when you miss a day. If you start the project and have to stop at any point, it’s alright (I recently started a 100 day design project and stopped when my wrist started to hurt regularly). It’s all feedback. The skills and experience you gained from writing for 78 days won’t disappear because you didn’t make it to 100.
- Posting new content every day can be exhausting. It’s alright to revisit and edit an article over 2 days. It’s okay to not post every day. Don’t forget, the aim is just to write daily.
I learnt that a daily challenge can either be a productive, growth-inducing experience or a psychological hell. The difference is the mental state you approach it with and your relationship to yourself. Take it easy on yourself and enjoy the experience.
To everyone else:
If you’re considering an 100 day project and have any questions, want support or an accountability buddy, drop me a message. Good luck!