I’ve learned that writing is primarily a craft. Certainly, individual writers are more or less talented. There are those with a special gift for crafting words. But writing is mostly a skill that can be improved. It requires study, critique, and lots and lots of practice.
I began blogging in 2007 (my first few posts didn’t make the jump from Blogspot, but I believe I started in April of that year.) Looking at my writing over the past seven years, I know I’ve definitely improved, but I’ve seen much more improvement this past year. Not only blogging every day but also writing my (almost) weekly Communities column has helped me hone my craft. I’m not sure what the next year brings for the blog or my column, but I know that whatever it entails, I want to be a better writer next year than I am right now.
I’ve learned something about goals this past year. I thought my primary goal-keeping tool was the Seinfeld method — using a calendar and not breaking the chain to maintain momentum. It has been very useful — to a point. The chain alone isn’t always enough. A public goal is far more motivating than a secret goal.
I’ve used the Seinfeld method for four different goals this past year:
- The blog project
- The 21-day sugar detox
- Gardening (the very low goal of not killing everything in my garden.)
- Exercising every day
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The two goals that I’ve written about: the blog project and the detox, I achieved. Those other two, not so much. (Insert picture of dead garden here.)
Of course, it may have something to do with the differing nature of those goals. I could blog or not eat sugar from virtually anywhere and in almost any condition. However, I had to be home and relatively healthy for the other two. (Okay, I could exercise when away from home, although not always easily.) But there’s nothing quite like the possibility of public failure to give you that extra push to achieve your goal.
Finally, I’ve learned something about myself. I’ve always liked to write, but only over the past year have I become comfortable with calling myself a writer. I had thoroughly internalized that culture belief that you can’t be a writer (or baker, artist, carpenter, etc.) unless you receive monetary compensation for your work.
(An aside: I wonder if some of that comes from the “just a mom” mentality all stay-at-home moms are susceptible to. No matter how much we say and truly believe in the importance of motherhood and the critical work of raising and nurturing our children, most of us fall into that “just a mom” funk from time to time. We get no paycheck, we have no office, no title, no category on forms. We’re “just.” It’s an occupational hazard.)
Of course, this says nothing about whether or not I’m a good writer or whether I write about things worth reading. But I am a writer. Why was this realization so important? Well, if I’m “just a mom with a blog,” then there is no motivation to improve my craft, other than possibly to increase page views. But if I’m a writer, then it matters how I write. It matters what I write about. If I’m a writer, then I have a duty to write well or at least better than I wrote last year or last month.
This insight into my role as a writer has also led me to rethink my role as a Christian, a wife, and a mother. Just as I aim to improve my writing, I ought also to work to be a better wife and mother. And certainly, I ought to aim to be a better Christian. The fancy theological word for that is sanctification, that growth which Christ does in us with our cooperation. If I am something, I ought to be the best something I can be. Life is too short and too precious to embrace mediocrity.
So I’ve finished the year. Where do I go from here?
I don’t know. I don’t yet know if I’ll try to maintain the streak. I don’t yet know how I’ll work to improve my writing. I don’t yet know what new goals I’ll set. But I know I plan to be better at whatever that is next year than I am today.