What I’ve Learnt From My 30-in-30 Writing Challenge
Alfred Lua / Written on 12 April 2015
This is my 30th and last post for my 30-in-30 writing challenge!
The main aim of the challenge was to allow me to feel more confident and comfortable with writing and to become better at writing by writing every day for 30 days.
Even though I took a 3-day break in the middle of the challenge, the objective of the challenge has been met (and made some unexpected gains). Hence, I’m announcing that this challenge is a success! ☺
Since this is the last post of the challenge, I thought it would be apt that I end the challenge by sharing the lessons I’ve learnt throughout the challenge.
Here are the eight valuable lessons I took away from the challenge:
1. I can write well
I think this is the most important thing I learnt. Before I started this challenge, I was not confident with my writing skills. Also, I was not comfortable with sharing what I wrote because I felt that my posts were not good enough.
Through this challenge, I have proven to myself that I can write well. I’ve also become very comfortable with sharing my blog posts. Definitely, I have a lot more to improve in terms of my writing and I’m excited to do it!
2. Writing is hard
The truth is writing is hard. Writing a good quality post requires a lot of time and effort.
I’ve spent on average 5–6 hours each day to write the posts. The post, Happiness In Being Yourself, took me more than eight hours to write. By midday, I deleted my first draft, which I took the whole morning to write, because I was not satisfied with it. I then wrote the post from scratch.
Another important thing I learnt about writing is this: There will be bad days, but it’s better to write poorly than to not write at all. Like Alexis Landau said in her post, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers, it’s about showing up and not waiting for the writing mindset.
Think of your post as a product. You can always go back and improve on it. You do not need to publish the post until you are satisfied with it.
3. Writing is fun and rewarding
While writing is tough, it is also fun and rewarding!
A highlight of this challenge was when I wrote the post, My Sister, The Self-Taught Cake Artist, for my sister. She had her mini studio warming back in Singapore and I couldn’t attend it as I’m in the United Kingdom. So I wrote the post as my gift for her important milestone. She teared upon reading it :’)
Another highlight was when my Air Force story was picked up by one of the administrators of The Republic of Singapore Air Force Facebook page. She featured me on their Facebook page, along with my thank you message to my mom, aunt and girlfriend. It made my mom and relatives really proud and I’m really glad and grateful about it!
With Medium, readers can recommend your post if they like it. My post, 9 Things That I Do To Be More Productive, seemed to resonate well with Medium readers and it has received 19 recommendations so far (66% of all the recommendations I received for 29 posts). It is nice to know that there are people who like what I write and they have benefited from my posts.
4. Writing helps me think and remember better
I think Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, puts it really well:
There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.
During this challenge, I realised that putting down my thoughts into full sentences helps me think a lot better. I learnt that writing incomplete bullet-point type sentences does not have the same effect. Writing full sentences forces me to think through a point thoroughly, while writing bullet points allows me to be lazy about thinking.
Expressing a thought fully allows me to remember it more clearly. Furthermore, by writing my thoughts down, I can refer to them in the future.
5. Enjoy the process
I wrote a blog post about this. I used to be too focused on the end result of writing and had forgotten to enjoy the process of writing.
After writing the blog post, Enjoy The Process, I tried to be self-conscious about enjoying the process of writing. I’m surprised that just by remembering to do it, I enjoyed the writing process of several blog posts despite it being really hard on some days. I enjoyed writing about my Air Force story so much so that I almost forgot to have my dinner that night.
Like I said in the post, this attitude could be applied to other aspects of our lives too. I have not been remembering this for everything that I have been doing. However, when I do, I enjoyed the process of doing the activity and not just the end result.
When focusing on the outcome, don’t forget to enjoy the process too!
6. It’s important to understand the constraints and work with them, not against them.
The main constraint I had during this challenge was having limited time. As I wanted to publish a post every day for 30 days, I had a day to complete each post. It is alright when I stayed home for the entire day. However, when I’m travelling, I only had 2 to 3 hours to write.
I learnt that I am unable to write a long and in-depth post within 3 hours. I tried and failed terribly.
Hence, I decided to write shorter posts on days when I have little time. For example, 2 days ago when I was travelling to London and back, I decided to write a short post, titled Wise Words of Confucius on Self-Improvement.
I think that another way of working with constraints is to use it to challenge ourselves and in the process, develop and grow. For instance, for this challenge, I forced myself to write a post a day. I have never written so much within such a time frame before and I have benefited tremendously from it. Perhaps time constraint might eventually train me to write faster.
Just like the previous point, I think that this applies to other aspects of our lives too. When we faced with constraints, we should work with them and not against them.
7. Referring to research and statistics is not a must
Previously, I read that referring to research and statistics in a blog post would improve the quality of the blog post. Hence, I had been constantly trying to include them in all my blog posts.
However, I realised that while referring to research and statistics can make a post better, it is not a necessary condition for a post to be good. It is a way to make the post better but not the only way. There are many great posts without research and statistics.
I think this is because well-expressed personal experiences and thoughts can be as compelling as or even more compelling than science-backed contents.
8. Write it and they will come… NAH
This is the writer’s version of “Build it and they will come”.
Here’s the truth:
It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more.
Or, in other words, create content 20% of the time. Spend the other 80% of the time promoting what you created.
While writing good content is important, it is also crucial to promote the content too. Many people would not know about my blog posts if I do not promote them.
So far, I’ve only shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook. Hence, with the exception of a few posts, most of the posts rarely received more than 50 views.
This area is something I’m really interested in learning more about. Hope to share more on this with you in the future!
In summary, these are the eight lessons I’ve learnt from this writing challenge:
- I can write well
- Writing is hard
- Writing is fun and rewarding
- Writing helps me think and remember better
- Enjoy the process
- It’s important to understand the constraints and work with them, not against them
- Referring to research and statistics is not a must
- Write it and they will come… NAH
Should You Try This?
If you are interested in writing more, I would recommend you to try this challenge! It makes writing a lot less scary than it seems. Also, I enjoyed the challenge and learnt a lot about myself in the process.
I was quite tough on myself in terms of the type and length of posts I wrote so I took a lot of time each day to write. I am fortunate to be having my school vacation when I did this challenge so I had plenty of time every day to write.
I understand that not everyone can commit so much time every day to writing. You can change the rules of the challenge according to your preference and constraints (see point 6 above). For example, Hiten Shah, an entrepreneur and investor, did this challenge and wrote in a style that is different from mine.
Writing will be taking a backseat for a while now as I need to focus on my school assignments and exams.
I would still like to continue writing. An area I’m looking at is guest blogging. My plan is to write a post a week and submit it as a guest post. I plan to break up my writing process (research, draft outlines, write content, search for images and refine the post) and spend perhaps 1–2 hours each day to do a part.
In terms of content, I would like to write more on topics than myself. Most of my 30 posts were about myself. I would like to write about topics such as productivity (since I’m quite a productivity freak) and happiness (because it’s important and nice to be happy).
As for my writing style, I have been thinking about using memes and gifs in my posts. I think memes and gifs would add humour to my blog posts and when used effectively, would improve the quality of the posts. Furthermore, I think it would show my humorous personality too. I might try to use them in future posts, when appropriate!
I’ve graduated from the challenge!!