Today marks Day 27 of the first 30 Day Writing Challenge I’ve ever issued publicly. I’ve done such Challenges before, privately, issued to and from myself, several times. I’ve had a daily writing practice for a long time, though it has ebbed and flowed in strictness over the years. After what I call the Not-So-Great Recession, I wrote my way out of debt and made about half my living blogging. At one point was under contract to write about 14 blog posts per week. So I wrote every day.
Once that season was done, I struggled to get back into writing daily. I’d kind of written myself out. I’d made it a grind; a job.
I did NaNoWriMo one year, somewhat halfheartedly. I’ve written a book or two in relatively short order, having taken on the project in a structured Challenge format.
But somewhere along the way, I learned about Morning Pages, the practice of free-writing 3 pages longhand every morning. These pages are to be a total brain dump: completely unedited, completely uncensored, completely private, so as to get rid of the need for them to be great (or even good, or even coherent, for that matter).
I started to do what I call my Pages, but I did it in Google Docs. And those Pages became the landscape on which I rebuilt my life. Post-recession, post-divorce, post-trauma, I worked all kinds of stuff out on those Pages. And I found a series of post-traumatic breakthroughs there. They’ve never stopped coming. I found a lot of new skills and elements of my grown-up operating system there, too.
In my Pages was where I learned how to practice boundaries; when I was faced with a situation in which I’d normally do some dysfunctional enabling, when I’d normally swoop in and save the day for someone who’d actually created the crisis, I’d write about it, and I’d find my own patterns and the clarity to stop them, in their tracks.
In my Pages was where I developed the capacity to be a wholehearted, conscious leader of my life and of the businesses with which I work. When I was twitterpated about something, I’d write it out on the Pages. When I needed to have a hard conversation, I wrote it all out in my Pages first. And oh, how my capacity to engage in grounded, thriving relationships grew as a result. Sometimes, I’d actually have the conversation later on, but minus a lot of my own BS, having seen it in black and white in my Pages.
Back when having hard conversations was so stressful to me, back when I didn’t have the skills to just do that off the cuff, I’d write them out first in my Pages and realize that some of those conversations didn’t need to be had at all. Sometimes, I needed to exercise way more aggressive boundaries and actions to remedy a broken dynamic than just a conversation. And other times, the issue was not the other person or the relationship at all; it was me.
And I could spot that in my Pages, before I ever acted out my own mess on anyone else. In my Pages, I developed these skills that are now encoded deeply in the way I think and breathe and interact with others. And it has leveled up the type of human I attract into my world these days. From employees to clients to friends and sweethearts, I am able to communicate at a level of wholehearted, joyful freedom and clarity with people these days that I never even saw modeled in my younger years, even though I now have many more relationships than I ever did before.
When I needed to work out a complex business problem, understanding the impacts on all stakeholders, and cultivating the clarity to make decisions based on first principles and values (vs. profit over all), I worked it out first in my Pages. In my Pages was where I’d empty my brain and my mind and my spirit of all the chatter and irritations of a normal day, and beneath that was where I’d find solutions to business and life and relationship challenges that were so elegant, so inspired, they actually surprised me.
And you know, I learned a lot about myself in my Pages. I could spot my own patterns there in a way that was hard to do elsewhere. Or my therapist or my coach and I would work on something together in our hour here and hour there, then I’d write about it over the subsequent days or weeks in my Pages. It was like increasing the return on the investment I’d made in therapy, doing my Pages, because I’d continue to connect dots, have a-ha moments and integrate lessons in my Pages for days or weeks following the therapy convo.
I also fell in love with my life, and with myself, in my Pages. In my Pages was where I learned that I love adventure. That I’m a stellar decision-maker, when I let my gut have the wheel. That there are literal, and I mean literal, miracles happening at an incredible rate, inside me and all around me, 100% of the time. If I look for them, that is.
In my Pages was where I realized that it’s 100% true that 100% of the Very Best Things in my life are things that came into my life with relative ease, because they were meant to be mine. I have worked so hard in my life. So hard, guys. And I believe in work. But if the work I’m doing doesn’t feel like play, or if the things I’m are trying to make happen are just really, really excruciating to bring together, I now have the Pages-found wisdom to release those things and thank the experience for the guidance back to the realm I call Effortful Ease.
In my Pages was where I developed an incredible clarity about what I’m here for, and what is and is not on purpose for me. In my Pages is where I cultivate and maintain that clarity everyday.
Of course, there’s still ebb and flow to my Pages. The more I have going on, the more I’m challenging myself in my work or in my life, the more interior work I’m doing, the more there is to write.
ButI no longer see my Pages as a Challenge. They’re now just a luxurious spiritual space, where I have the privilege of going (anytime I want!) to work things out and think things through and say crazy stuff and play with new visions. They’re where I go to document miracles small and large. And they’re where I prime my mental mechanism, to churn up my daily flow, so I can write formal projects everyday, from books to strategies to business plans and even emails.
So, I’ve issued this Challenge. And it’s literally the most fun I’ve ever had with a work project, probably because I issued it with no expectation. I issued it because I know how healing and joy-bringing my daily writing practice has been for me, and because I wanted my people (that’s you) to have that experience, too. I issued it because I know a lot how to build a container for having a breakthrough-finding experience of daily writing, and I was constantly fielding daily requests for wisdom I knew I could deliver via this container.
So now, I’m working to level this thing up into its next iteration. Trust and believe I’ll let you know what that looks like. But in the meantime, I wanted to take one moment to say that if you’re ever thinking about doing a writing challenge or taking up the practice of daily writing, you’re feeling that urge because it’s for you. It’s calling you.
There’s something of yourself to be found in the practice, and I hope to have given you some inklings or ideas of what they could possibly be, in sharing about my own Pages. Of course, the time you’ll need to write everyday will have to displace some other thing you’re currently doing. (I’d like to put watching TV or scrolling Facebook on the table. Just some ideas.)
I think of it like this: writing in my Pages is the equivalent of having one conversation a day. One deeply rewarding conversation, that you don’t even have to leave your home (or your bed) for. You wouldn’t say, “eh, I don’t have time for one more conversation.” So don’t say you don’t have time for writing every day.
P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 27 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.