In the arena

Three weeks ago, I decided to write a post every day for a whole month (see Talker’s Block). I wasn’t exactly sure at the time what I would get out of the challenge, but I felt compelled to stretch myself. (I say stretch, but this “challenge” ranks pretty low on my list of real challenges.)

While I still have a week to keep blogging, I am learning about the benefits of bad writing.

When you write every day, sometimes what you write is good and sometimes is it bad. But the magic comes in writing frequently. You start to recognize good writing. You understand what is “good” for you and you long to write the good stuff.

Trying over and over again is always a good strategy. Failing at something breeds character. Writing bad blog posts helps you to truly appreciate the good posts.

I want to be action oriented. Attempting new challenges with no guarantee of a positive outcome. I was reminded of Theodore Roosevelt quote that is perfect for this mindset:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I love this whole quote, but I am particularly fond of “because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”

The real challenge for me is not blogging daily. The real challenge is pushing myself to the point where I have errors and shortcomings. And staying committed to that ideal even when others aren’t as accepting of my shortcomings.

So join me in 1) giving up being a critic and 2) jumping into the arena. Write poorly, but write. Give a poor presentation, but give a presentation. Have a frustrating conversation with your spouse, but have a conversation. Join me in the arena.

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Talker’s block

In Seth Godin’s amazingly awesome book, The Icarus Deception, he claims that it’s not often that you hear people discuss talker’s block. We talk without thinking about it. We’re not worried about our speech being on a wordpress blog forever. And by talking often, we can improve the way we talk (if we observe what more advanced “talkers” do and put some of these practices into action).

But with writing, it’s entirely different. For me, the fear of blogging about a topic I haven’t thoroughly researched is a little scary as is the permanence of my posts – the idea of what I have typed remaining in the ether for all of time. But as with talking, you have to write frequently to get better.

A brilliant friend of mine who has written a book and contributed to several other works recounts that while he was writing his PhD, his goal was to write something everyday. He might not have finished with research necessary to finish a chapter, but he wrote anyway. He would write about anything remotely relevant to his dissertation topic. He wanted to improve and to do this he had to take a risk that what he would write would miss the mark.

Inspired by Seth Godin and my friend, I see that I need to write more. I haven’t blogged in almost two weeks. In two weeks I’ve watched a couple of TED talks, read a book, and observed all sorts of problems and otherwise interesting topics that I might blog about. But I’ve let the desire for perfection get in the way of me honing my craft.

In order to create a habit, I am challenging myself to blog something everyday for the next month. I may lose every reader I have, but I feel like I need to this to hone my craft. I hope you enjoy some of what you read.

Thanks being interested in my work and helping me become a better writer.

Lance