I have to admit, I am proud of myself. Once again, I set a goal of daily posts for the 30 Days of Thanks challenge. Aside from this one day of technical glitches (thank goodness people like pictures of baby wombats) I successfully posted each day in November.
I used the 30 Days of Thanks challenge to publicly acknowledge some of the people and organizations who made it possible for me to return to Australia earlier this year. When I was raising the funds for the trip, one of the thank you gifts I offered was a piece of memoir unique to the sponsor. Most of my friends and relatives told me this was not necessary, as they were not supporting me to receive a gift. But I wanted to make good on my offer.
I learned some valuable lessons throughout the month. I share them with you here because they are universal and could be applied to other aspects of creative life besides writing.
1. Writing a thank you note is as much a gift for the writer as the recipient.
When I set out to write thank you notes, I did not consider the gifts I would receive in the process. My intention was to acknowledge those who had assisted me in achieving a goal. I hoped my words of appreciation would let my friends and family members know how they influenced and impacted my year. I wanted to make them feel valued.
Many told me the posts made them feel grateful. Some told me the posts made them cry. Most thanked me in return, for providing a boost to their spirits during their own time of crisis or emotional need. I did not know about their needs in advance, but learning I was bringing light to their days was a gift to me. Their positive reactions, and the responses from other readers who shared posts, provided encouragement to me and helped me remain focused on the task. I imagine stand-up comedians have similar feelings when the audience laughs at a joke.
2. It is difficult to maintain a daily posting schedule without creating content in advance.
In September I decided what I would do with 30 Days of Thanks. That was two months prior to writing a single post. I should have started writing then, but I was not disciplined.
In October, I plotted out a post schedule. I planned to start writing, but never did. I was working extra hours on the weekend for my paid employment, traveling for my birthday, and was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. And my wheelchair broke down, requiring me to depend on others each time I got in and out of my vehicle. It wasn’t like I was being a lazy slacker. I just didn’t have as much time as I had anticipated. November was fast approaching, and I still had no posts written.
Because I did not have content created in advance of November, I did not enjoy the month as much as usual. I write each day on my lunch break at work. However, work commitments and meetings in November meant I lost my mid-day writing time at least three days each week. I was writing at night, while trying to supervise and manage my Personal Assistants, or writing on my cell phone while drinking coffee in the morning. I completed the challenge, but I did not enjoy the process as much as I would have if I had stuck to my initial attempts to plan and create content in advance. If I do this again next year, I must do better. Would someone please remind me of this?
3. Unintended outcomes can be wonderful surprises.
This may seem silly, but when I decided to write about people I never considered the audience of their friends, family and social connections. I did not write about people as a way to grow my blogging audience. Yet, that is what happened.
I shared my daily posts on Facebook and Twitter, as I do with all my posts. When I could, I tagged the subjects or shared the posts directly on their pages or feeds. My intention was to make sure the post was visible to the recipient. I soon discovered new blog readers – my friends’ followers and connections. I have no way to tell if any of these new readers will stick around now that I am back to my regular posting schedule, but a quick look at blog stats tells me they have been reading older posts.
It was never my intention to complete this challenge as a way to grow my audience, but I am grateful to those new readers for taking the time to read other posts. Knowing I had new readers was a boost to my energy when I was feeling too emotionally drained to write. This leads me to lesson number four.
4. Creating is emotional, and requires energy and self-care.
Sustaining a daily creative habit, be it writing, sculpting, singing, or any other venture, is emotionally intense and requires stamina. There were many days in November when I would be typing a post and realize I was once again crying at my keyboard. These were tears of joy and gratitude, sorrow and pain.
Many events in November stirred emotional responses from me. A good friend had a debilitating stroke at the young age of forty-three (he’s recovering and making progress every day). I answered the phone at work one day to hear a friend telling me of another friend’s unexpected death. A former colleague received a cancer diagnosis. My brother-in-law’s 100 year old uncle passed away. These events tapped my emotional reserves, making it more difficult to draw on the emotions required to produce content I felt worthy of sharing. Some days I shared a post which wasn’t my best, knowing it was the best I could do under the circumstances.
I learned to stop criticizing myself for falling short of the imaginary bar I had set for myself. All that did was make me feel less inspired to write, and resentful of a task which was meant to be an expression of gratitude. You can’t feel gratitude if your heart is full of resentment.
Now that we are in December, I will resume my regular posting schedule. Redefining Disability Challenge posts will return on Wednesdays. Last year’s post featuring my favorite holiday music was popular and I am considering a repeat later this month.
I will still be grateful, and I hope you will continue to find time for gratitude as well. This month, a season of hopeful anticipation for many, can be stressful. All of us can benefit by taking a moment each day to say thank you to those we care about for the gifts they bring to our lives.
Thank you for reading and following my journey this past November and throughout the year. I am grateful to all of you.