I’ve never had much interest in National Novel Writing Month. Since my attempt to pen my own Tolkienesque fantasy saga as a twelve-year-old, I haven’t been tempted to try my hand at fiction.
But today, Shawn Blanc made me rethink my NaNoWriMo disinterest:
Starting today — Friday, November 1 — I’ll be writing and publishing something every day for the whole month of November. Though, instead of writing a novel in a month, I will be simply be focused on publishing something — anything — every single day. From photos, links to interesting things, articles, reviews, etc.
I love this, and I’ve been looking for a reentry to creative work on the web. So, on a whim, I’m planning to follow Shaun’s example—posting something each day throughout November.
Last night, the temperature here dipped below freezing for the first time since the spring. Our furnace fired up repeatedly throughout the night, helping us keep the autumn chill at bay. I know that because it’s easy to tell when the heat kicks on; the roar can be heard from every corner of our small cabin.
Apparently, our daughter had forgotten just how loud (and scary) that noise can be. When the heater first started, her frightened cries crackled through the baby monitor. We tried to settle her down, but eventually I set up camp in her bedroom and comforted her until she fell asleep.
All that to say, I didn’t get much rest, and (as I type this in the predawn darkness), my body is protesting. It would rather be asleep, recovering from late-night dada duty.
And if it weren’t for Jerry Seinfeld, that might have happened today. Fortunately, I’ve found inspiration in the comedian’s productivity mantra: “Don’t break the chain”.
The basic idea is that momentum becomes its own motivation. Daily habits, once established, are a sort of perpetual motion machine; you string together a “chain” of days, and you don’t want to stop. There’s magic in the streak.
What’s my good habit of choice? As of today, I’ve blogged and podcasted for eighteen straight weekdays. That chain is long and strong enough to drag me out of bed after a sleepless night. My head may be pulsing, my eyelids may be heavy, but I’m here. I’m typing. The streak summoned me to the keyboard.
And I’m scared to loosen the chain, let alone break it. One slip-up might derail me for good. “Just one day off” becomes “two days off.” Two days off becomes a week-long lull. Before I know it, my blog sits stagnant for months. That may seem overly dramatic, but it’s happened so many times before.
Happily, it didn’t happen today—thanks to the chain. I like to think that Jerry would be proud. ■
Just before Thanksgiving, I made several “creative resolutions”: I would blog every day, no matter what, and I would avoid checking my blog analytics until Christmas. I was determined just to write—without getting sidetracked by page views, followers, or blog traffic.
I’m happy to report that I accomplished the writing goal. I’ve posted something to this blog for 38 consecutive days—easily my longest streak ever. Every morning, I wake at 4:30, plop myself down on the couch, and hammer the keys until I finish a post (or until I run out of time and publish anyways). I’m more proud of some posts than others, but I’ve at least established some consistency.
I nearly kept my second resolution. I had originally planned to wait until Christmas Day to check my blog analytics. But some creative reflection yesterday made me curious enough to peek at the numbers. I expected a marked increase in readership, after a month’s worth of content. The reality wasn’t quite so rosy:
This pageview data seems so inconsistent that I hesitate to draw any conclusions. (The session and user counts show similar contours.)
Looking at the acquisition numbers, most of my traffic comes from Facebook. Yet there’s little sign of progress on that front; I’ve earned just three Facebook page likes since my blogging stint started on November 16:
There’s a clearer spike in my Twitter follower count:
But twenty followers hardly constitutes a major shift. Plus, the uptick has stalled—my follower count has flatlined since the start of December.
I find these graphs discouraging. I didn’t expect a “hockey-stick” trend, but I hoped for modest, measurable progress. I wanted some reward for my diligence—some motivation to write in the upcoming year. Instead, these middling numbers tempt to me to abandon my blog (again). Confession: I nearly skipped writing this morning for the first time in a month.
Understand; I’m still determined to continue making something on the Internet. But between family commitments and my full-time job, I have very limited spare time. I’d rather not spend those precious hours writing posts that no one will read—especially since I’ve sacrificed other hobbies to maintain my writing momentum. For example, I’ve exercised far less often this past month than I’d like.
Maybe I need to make a course correction here. Should I narrow my blogging niche? Rededicate myself to self-promotion? Break out my blog into its own brand? Or should I stop blogging for a while and adopt a different medium? Is 2016 the year that I finally try my hand at podcasting?
One thing’s clear: my consecutive-day streak will likely fall victim to a TV-and-Christmas-cookie bender this week. And that’s okay; vacations should be spent relaxing and recharging. The holiday break provides a good opportunity to reflect and retool for the new year.
Besides, after a month of waking before 5 AM to write, I’m exhausted.