Celebrating One Year of Blogging!

YEE-HAW! I’ve done it! I’ve gone a complete year of writing every single day!!

I’m not sure which of these cats describes me best. Probably all of them.

On June 1st, 2015, I made a committment. I said I’d publish a new blog post every single day. I said I would do it for the summer, two months. That seemed reasonable. Two months then became four. Winter came and went and still I was writing, still I was publishing. My daily streak kept growing and growing, and now, today, I’ve done something I would have thought completely impossible one year ago.

I’ve gone 365 days of writing. Everyday. Non-stop. For a year. Wow.

I have so many thoughts and feelings about this. Let me start by stating the pretext, why I did this in the first place. Then I’ll provide some stats, because stats are awesome, and I’ll finish by sharing the lessons I learned and the wisdom I’ve discovered over one year of blogging.

I originally started this blog on Jan 1st, 2015. It was part of my New Year’s Resolution: I wanted to write more. Since graduating university in 2011, I had barely written anything. Whenever I did, it felt stilted and awkward. I was out of practice. If you don’t use it you lose it, and I was definitely losing this. Writing, once my greatest ability, was rusting over. I needed to fix that, now, lest I lose it completely.

That’s where the blog comes in. I bought a website name and a hosting plan, and with that SmithyQ.com was born. I could have used a free resource like Blogger, but I thought that paying for a website would make me write more. I mean, if I didn’t, then I just wasted all that money. I considered it a down payment, an investment to my writing future.

For the first six months, it didn’t work. I wrote whenever I felt like it, so once or twice a month. True, that was two times more than I wrote most months, but not enough to make any difference. Going to the gym once or twice won’t make you fitter, and neither will writing once or twice make you better. I needed to do something more, much more.

As June of 2015 approached, I realized I was going to throw my money away if I didn’t start using this blog. Worse, I was throwing away my own potential. Screw that. I got angry with myself, and I made a promise: I would write every day of the summer. Everyday I would publish a new blog post. The quality didn’t matter; it could be Pulitzer quality or just words vomited onto the screen. Whatever, just write. Write write write.

I did it. I wrote each day, and I never stopped. Today, a year later, I look back and am in awe of what I’ve done. Just look at these stats.

From June 1st 2015 to May 31st 2016. Most should be self-explanatory. ‘Best’ indicates my highest single-day output. Yes, I somehow wrote 4,525 words one day. No, I don’t know how I did it.

That’s right, in the last year I’ve written more than half a million words. Holy crap! That’s more than I wrote in five years of university. I’m averaging more than 1,500 words each day. That’s bigger than most high school essays … every day. That’s 45,000 words a month, nearly a small novel. All those years I’ve spent not writing? Yeah, I think I made up for it.

I didn’t start off this way, though. My first month, especially my first few weeks, most of my blog posts were around 500 words. Short and sweet … and awful. My writing muscles rebelled, not used to working like this. As I gained more experience, as I began to find my voice again, momentum started to pick up. My August output more than doubled my June output. I began writing over 1,000 words a day, well more. Since October of 2015, I’ve written less than 1,000 words only three times … and one of those times was Christmas.

This has been such a wonderful experience. I have learned so much, about writing, about myself, about dedication and creativity and motivation and so much more. I’ve always considered myself a writer, but I finally proved it this last year.

Before, I would only write when inspiration struck. Usually this meant I had a cool idea for a short story. I needed to get that idea on paper, because it was too awesome to exist only in my head. Inspiration, though, is fleeting. You may have it one day and see it gone by the next. Back then, that’s when I’d stop writing. Maybe I stayed inspired for weeks or months at a time, but when that motivation left me so did my writing.

This last year I’ve had to frequently do the opposite: write when I have no motivation at all. I just want to go to bed or play a videogame, anything but write … but I would sit at my keyboard and write. No ideas came immediately to mind. I wanted to give up, but no, I made a promise. I’d write every day. So I would mine for ideas, looking deep inside my head, trying to find the barest hint of something, anything, to write about. It was painful. It was awful. I wrote some truly terrible posts.

But you know what? I got better. I got better at writing terrible posts. Now they were only mildly terrible, and then only sorta-terrible. I’ve learned how to find ideas faster. I no longer stare at my screen for 30min at a time, completely lost. I’ve developed a skill for creating something out of nothing. I’ve never had this before because I never bothered developing it.

I realized I was never a good writer before, not really. I only wrote when I wanted to, when the conditions were perfect. Anyone can appear good in favourable circumstances. It’s when adversity strikes, when everything conspires against you, when writing feels like torture but you do it anyway, that’s when you become a good writer. Good fortune conceals genius; adversity reveals it.

Of course, it wasn’t just one day: everyday I became more of a writer.

Once you’ve battled through the tough times, though, it makes the good times all the sweeter. Writing, like all creative endeavours, has cycles. It has good days and bad days, ebbing and flowing. The bad days suck, yeah, but you work through them … and then the good days come and there is nothing wrong in this world. Words and ideas and killer phrases flow from your fingertips, effortless, and you sit back and marvel at what you’ve wrought.

That’s when you remember that writing is fun. It’s maybe the hardest thing you’ll put yourself through on any given day, but it’s still fun, still exciting. I can let my wild side out, writing things I dare not say. I can make puns galore, trying wry little witticisms, or I can just go on a wild tangent, writing about one random thing after another, and then somehow connect it together and tie it all with a bow. That’s a creative rush. That’s intellectual excitement. That’s fun!

And it feels good. It feels so, so good. Because 2016 is a Leap Year, technically yesterday was the 365th day of writing in a row. When I finished my post and updated my spreadsheet, I saw that magic ‘365’ pop up, telling me how many days in a row I’ve written. And I started laughing. Full body laughing, from deep inside. I glowed from ear to ear. I then looked back at some of my old writing, and I laughed more. This was some good stuff. Even the bad writing had pockets of good, if carefully hidden. Seeing this, experiencing all this, was just amazing.

This has become more than a blogging challenge. It’s become a lifetime habit. I can’t imagine going a day without writing. I have so much momentum. I started with barely 500 words a day, and that has grown and grown. I now feel unstoppable, and I’m writing the best I’ve ever written. If you asked me last year whether I could go a full year of writing every day, I’d have doubts. Now, there’s no doubt, not even any room for doubt.

Writing for a full year is a major milestone, but milestones only tell you where you’ve come from. I’m enjoying this one, but I’m not done. No way. I have too much to accomplish. By this time next year, I’ll have crossed the one million word mark. I’ll probably laugh again, maybe cry, maybe do a cartwheel. And then I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off and start writing again.

My Most Popular Posts (in terms of views)

  1. My Chess Review of GM Smirnov, by far, have the highest number of hits.  It’s not even close.
  2. An Ode to Hot Water Bottles.  My little exhortation on the virtues of how water bottles has been strangely popular.  Seriously?  Seriously.
  3. Dota Addiction.  I recount how I spent more time playing Dota at university than, you know, actually doing classes.  I kept my 4.0 gpa, though!

My Favourite Posts

  1. Why I Don’t Kill Spiders.  Yes, spiders are the genetic spawns of satan, but they aren’t the worst.  No, that title goes to something even more demonic.
  2. Cats vs Dogs.  I wrote this on about three hours of sleep and thought it was hot garbage.  The more I reread it, though, the more charming it is.  Or maybe it’s just not as bad as I thought, which makes it stand out more.
  3. Calendar Reform.  Calendars and the way we organize time in general is weird.  Let’s make it less weird.
  4. The Life of Smithy.  Detailing the final chapter of my kitty, the namesake of this blog.

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