Back on May 1st I started an experiment, called Finishing Blitz.
Buoyed by the phenomenal success of the Great ClutterBust, in which a whole gang of creatives banded together to tackle our individual clutter problems, I decided to apply the same structure to accomplishing another herculean task: writing my book.
Like the Great ClutterBust, Finishing Blitz, would leverage the accountability of a supportive community.
Like the Great ClutterBust, I would host work sessions where anyone could join me for a pre-determined block of time.
This time, though, instead of rallying together specifically to bust our clutter, we would rally together to work on any goal we wanted. And instead of two or three work sessions a week, I would host daily work sessions. And I would finish a “lousy first draft” of my book!
We ran for six weeks, from May 1 through June 11.
So how did it go? Let’s do a post-mortem!
Here are a few of the things I accomplished, thanks to Finishing Blitz:
- I made great progress on Project Studio Makeover (though did not finish).
- MM and I held a yard sale and got rid of most of Outbound Mountain — the massive pile of stuff which had taken over our living room. (Outbound Mountain [hat tip to fellow Finishing Blitzer, Denice, for this fun name] is not gone, but it’s a much smaller mountain now.)
- I did finish writing all the thank you notes in the queue from our wedding back in December (but then my parents threw a reception for us in the middle of the month, so I’ve got a whole new queue of thank you notes to write….)
- I published an article over at The Huffington Post.
- I published an article over at Lifehack.
- I made over a dozen new paintings, and brought my ArtSpark Newsletter back from hiatus.
- I designed new business cards and had them printed (with a different artwork on the back of each one!)
- I finished drafts of the Intro, the Quick Start Guide, and Chapter 7 of my book.
You’ll notice (ahem) that I did not finish the book.
I did not even come close to finishing.
In fact, if I were to judge myself on the basis of how much of my original goal I accomplished, I’m afraid I wouldn’t get higher than a D-….
However, if I were to judge on the basis of how Finishing Blitz improved my life, I’d give it an A++++++!
As I wrote here and here, committing myself to a daily creative work session was the real gift of this past six weeks. Instead of making me feel chained and constrained, it made me feel free!
Those three hours in the morning became my Date with My Art, something I found myself looking forward to with giddy anticipation.
This was absolutely the biggest gift of Finishing Blitz for me: baking in a daily creative practice.
For the first few days I spent the bulk of each three-hour work session working on my book. It wasn’t always easy — I hit up against all manner of blocks — but I kept reminding myself that a block is not a block to creativity; pushing through the block is the creativity! (Click to tweet this!)
Here’s a secret that only initiates know: putting effort into something is really satisfying! Way more than avoidance, or eating bon bons on the couch in front of the TV. Even on days when I wasn’t super pleased with my writing, the fact that I was making the effort felt so great.
I was on a roll!
And then I changed course.
Yes, about two weeks in, I made the tough decision to change tack.
One of the biggest questions we creators face is where to focus our energies. So often (especially for passion pluralites!!!) we want to do everything, and we want to do it all now. It’s easy to spread ourselves too thin.
Or we find ourselves spending energy on one thing, when we’d be better off in the long run spending that energy on something else entirely.
Oh, it’s hard! Especially when you’ve made a commitment — a public commitment, no less — to work on one thing to completion!
This is where my Golden Formula comes in so handy:
Self-awareness + self-compassion = the key to everything good.
See, for a long time I’ve agonized over where to focus my writing energies: writing more guest blog posts, or writing the book, or…? With some self-awareness, I realized that, while it felt great to focus so much daily attention on my book, in the larger scheme of growing my business, my audience, and my reach, it probably didn’t make sense. A book is probably not going to grow my audience; in fact, given the current state of the publishing industry, an author needs to have an audience before launching a book!
It crystallized for me in a session with my business coach that if I’m going to dive heavily into writing, there is other writing that would get me more “return on investment” right now than my book — guest posting on blogs with larger platforms than my own, for example, which has proven to be the most reliable source of new subscribers to my insiders’ newsletter and other mailing lists.
Still, I had made a public commitment!
So I asked myself, am I considering shifting energy away from my book out of fear or self-doubt? Or is this a truly sensible decision born of my deepest wisdom?
With deep self-compassion, and a somewhat heavy heart, I made the tough decision to shift the bulk of my work session time to other writing, while still “touching the [book] project,” as Jen Louden would say, a little bit every day.
Rather than beating myself up for “failing” at my commitment, I self-compassionately acknowledged that my initial goal was there to assist me, and if another goal would assist me better, then I got to change the goal.
Meanwhile, in the middle of Finishing Blitz I went off to my Create & Incubate Retreat, and reconnected with the joy of painting. I’d fallen out of my daily painting practice, and although I was now writing every day, I was reminded (yay self-awareness!) of how much happier I am when I’m also painting regularly, even just a little bit.
So I adjusted my three-hour work session once again.
Initially I had spent close to three hours working on my book; then I switched to spending maybe fifteen to thirty minutes on the book and the rest of the time working on blog posts. Now I was putting some of that morning work session time toward painting. Sometimes I’d paint first thing; sometimes I’d write first thing.
And painting more felt great!
But writing less felt not-so great…
What I noticed was that whichever choice I made, there were costs and payoffs.
Whatever I started with, it was hard to pull myself away part-way through. And when I did successfully switch focus to something else, along with the satisfaction of touching three different goals (the book, blog posts, painting) came the frustration of not giving any one of these goals as much attention as I really wanted.
Sigh… It’s simply an existential problem. I have no answer, except for the lifelong answer of using my Golden Formula to continually tweak and adjust as I go. Which I will continue to do.
And then Finishing Blitz ended and I fell off the wagon.
Whether because I needed a break, or out of sheer rebelliousness, once I was no longer accountable to anyone to show up at 9:00am, guess what: I didn’t.
I confess I allowed circumstance (“I have so much to do!” “I’m so tired..” “I’m so busy!”) to get in the way, and allowed my beautiful, new, “fully baked-in” creative practice to slide.
But remember, the most important practice is just getting back on the wagon! And doing so with self-compassion. (Click to tweet!)
My Golden Formula came to the rescue again. Everyone stumbles. Beating yourself up doesn’t ever help, but self-awareness and self-compassion do!
Self-awareness tells me that I feel happier and my life goes better when I’m consistent about dedicating my morning hours to creating. And self-awareness also tells me that I am about 5,000 times more likely to stick with my commitment when I am accountable to someone outside of myself.
With those two information points, and the self-compassion to lovingly give myself what I need, I decided to start a pilot program — a secret society and laboratory where grads of Living A Creative Life programs rally together to support each other in achieving our goals. In addition to a private Facebook group, accountability boards, regular rally calls, and optional one-on-ones with me, members get access to my daily morning work sessions.
We use the Golden Formula to tweak and adjust our goals and the tactics we use to make them happen. And we’ll continually tweak and adjust the program to suit the needs of the members!
(Want in on something like this? Hang tight — a few months from now, after the pilot program is over, you may get your chance…)
Guess what? Today I was at my computer at 9:00am sharp!
And guess what? I’m about to fall off the wagon again in a big way, but this time intentionally: tomorrow I leave for Jazz Camp West for nine days! The only writing I’ll be doing is my daily 3×5 (though no posting and no 3x5x365 newsletter until I get home), and I won’t be painting at all — instead I’ll be making music all day long. I can’t wait!
After all, a balanced life includes periods of extreme imbalance. (Click to tweet!)
Starting July 1st, though, it’s back on the wagon.
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
Christina Bourgeois says
Melissa, I just want you to know I’m overcome with gratitude everytime I read anything you or Cory write or record. I’m not exaggerating or being dramatic when I say that. You inspire me, excite me and always leave me in a better place than I started in. I’ve said this before but it warrants repeating…Thank you so much for what you do. I don’t know you personally but as an Internet personality and resource I feel gratitude and love (in a non stalkerish way -I promise!) whenever I read, hear or see your work. I hope you (and Cory) never stop!
Ps. Please pass the sentiment along to Cory too!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Oh, wow, Christina, thank you! That means so much to me. Thank you. 🙂
I forwarded your comment to Cory, too. 🙂
Pfatt fingers? Not sure…Tried to send a reply…let me try again…Thank you for your story Melissa. I to need to juggle many plates at once. I have learned over the years to “put my foot down”…when necessary…and “acquiesce”…when necessary…my purpose every day is to move forward…let go of the things that hold you back/down…after you accept them as “lessons you need to learn)
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks for persisting, Marianne! And kudos for learning to put your foot down when necessary, and acquiesce when necessary. I applaud your purpose! 🙂