Writing Alone, Writing Together

Say it out loud. To people. Live humans, not just digital ones, who will help keep you accountable (but not in a judgy way).

This was my Michael Pollan-ish advice to a group of colleagues for maintaining a steady writing schedule during the semester. As a group, we all face similar challenges when it comes to writing. While summer and Christmas break might give us blocks of time, it's far more difficult to keep the scholarly fires burning during the term with classes, committees, and everything else.

My particular advice stemmed from my own experience of committing to write 30 minutes a day for 30 days. When I announced it to friends, family, and Twitter, my internal commitment went "out there." Suddenly, I had that necessary nudge on days when finding those 30 minutes was the last thing I wanted to do.

Because writing is hard. But writing can be rewarding.

Never once did I finished my 30 minutes and regret it. In this way, it's quite like running. There are mornings when it's snowing, icy, and blowing sub-zero winds. It takes a supreme act of will to prod myself out the door, or to step on to the treadmill. But I never finish a run and think, "well that wasn't worth it."

Any run, even a bad one, is always worth it. Same with writing sessions.

I have continued my 30 minute habit with greater and lesser degrees of regularity. Some days and weeks are productive. Some are not. A little while ago, I spent a week on a paragraph that will probably never see the light of day. Even here, though, the mere act of writing becomes cathartic.

This has been a new thing for me, experiencing writing as being inherently life-affirming. At different times in my life, writing has been a burden, especially when I find myself doing it in order to impress Very Important People. Grasping for status and recognition does very little for me. Instead, I'm learning to find a sense of wholeness just from immersing myself in a topic that is deeply meaningful to me.

Even with this, though, I must repeat that writing is hard. And lonely.

But when I have announced in public my goals, commitments, and ambitions, I have found strength in the power of my community.

I recently listened to a student presentation where, in her conclusion, she said that humans aren't meant to be perfect. But we are meant to get better.

Indeed, let's get better. Together. Thirty minutes at a time.


  1. I was thinking the same thing (about the similarity of running and writing) at our writing circle yesterday - the cliche that you'll never regret a run (or workout) is so true! And I love the ending - let's be better!

  2. After the student finished, I stopped her to write it down. Really sharp and spot on!


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