The chart above shows how many words I have written each of the last 15 days. My goal was 500 words per day. It was a stretch goal. I would have been happy with 300 words.
What is most amazing here is what you don’t see: any empty days. Before #AcWriMo, my average day consisted of no writing. AT ALL. It was only when my back was against the wall and a deadline was looming that I ever got to writing. And, even then, I did not write much.
My resistance to writing could be attributed to Dyslexia. And in a sense it is. But more than Dyslexia, my lack of writing stems from fear.
I was afraid of so many things:
- I was afraid that what I had to say was not good enough.
- I was afraid that if I tried I would fail.
- I was afraid that my words on paper would be insufficient – as they always seem to be.
- I was afraid that once I read my ideas, I would see how dumb they are.
- I was afraid that I would have nothing to write about.
- I was afraid that I might not be capable of writing, and therefore not capable of doing a PhD after all.
- I was afraid that I had finally met my match – and that dyslexia would derail this PhD dream.
I don’t think I am alone in experiencing these fears. I think that each one of us have a little voice that makes us unsure and afraid. Except, I was letting my fears win by not writing. Because if I did not try, I could not fail.
Then came #AcWriMo.
I had tried writing challenges before. But after one day I would decide that I really had other things to do that were far more important (lies!). I needed this time to be different. I needed to know if I actually had it in me. I needed to try. If I could not make it, I would finally know if I should let this PhD dream go and move on. These are some high stakes.
So, I enlisted a few friends to participate with me. I also enlisted my husband. And I resolved to write 500 words per day in three hours. I took a few days to get ready. I had a plan. I had a goal: I would write my entire lit review in 30 days.
I was motivated!
But I also needed to be in a setting where I could not derail myself. Because, as it turns out, I am my own worst enemy.
My brain is the villain to my plans. You see, I have a terrible habit of hating myself. And when I write, I invariably end up hating myself. Then I get frustrated. Which, naturally, becomes a self-pity session. Which is terribly unproductive. So, I have to turn the day around by taking a 5 minute dancing break which then turns into a self care session. It is a ridiculous cycle. If I was to be successful in #AcWriMo, I needed to stop it.
So, for my sake, I decided to work at a coffee shop because:
- You can’t cry in a coffee shop.
- There are no self-pity parties in a coffee shop.
Crying. I sometimes do that when I try to write. I think it is normal to let my frustrations out. Most of the time my frustrations are because of dyslexia. It is hard when I want to write some ideas but they refuse to come out as letters. It is disheartening when the letters that do come out are not at all the ones that I wanted. It is disappointing when this happens so often that I just can’t keep doing it. I can often end up in a cycle of despair.
But not this month!
November 1 came and I started writing. I just had to write. There is no time for self-pity or cycles of despair. There is no time for fear. You only have three hours each day. You can’t spend them being afraid.
The first few days, while productive, were rough. Not just in the sense of making a new habit, but also emotionally. I am not just building a writing habit, I am also destroying a bad one.
So, then, what did #AcWriMo did for me?
- It pushed me to write: to just put words on paper.
- It helped me let go of perfectionism.
- It helped me let go of fear.
- It helped me break my cycle of despair.
It did that by giving me a community – and a reason to build a community around me. I don’t know how many of us are out there. But we are all working on this together. It is awesome when strangers give me encouragement! It is awesome to send some encouragement back out into the universe.
I am very proud of the fact that I have been writing so much. I am very proud that I let go of the fear that was behind my cycles of despair.
I know that writing will ALWAYS be frustrating. And I might even cry a few more times in my PhD. But now I know I can do it.
Now to celebrate Day 15 of #AcWriMo: