Well, it’s here. The last day of NaBloPoMo 2015, and I’m disappointed I didn’t quite make it. As I explained yesterday, I missed six days, mostly consecutive, during the Thanksgiving holiday. Bummer.
But I’m still glad I gave the challenge another try, and I still learned a lot from the experience. Last year at this time, I wrote a post listing the 10 lessons I learned from NaBloPoMo 2014, and I’m going to do it again (but for 2015, duh). As an experiment, I’m not going to read last year’s post until after I’ve written at least a draft of this one. Hopefully I won’t repeat any of last year’s lessons, but I might. If so, then I clearly didn’t learn them well enough last year.
The 10 Lessons I Learned From NaBloPoMo 2015:
1. It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect, Just Get It Done.
I definitely believe there’s no such thing as perfect. And yet I try to get things as close to perfect as I can. As a result, I’m sometimes too slow and I reread too much. With NaBloPoMo, it’s more important that you get something out there. Even if it’s crappy. It’s probably not as bad as you think. And even if it is, so what? What’s the worst that can happen?
2. It’s Better to Put Up Something Than Nothing At All.
Similarly, it’s more important to do the challenge than to miss it. I’m very sad I missed those 6 days, especially since I had ideas for what I wanted to write (I still hope to do those ideas later, possibly even this week). Even though some of what I’d done felt like it wasn’t that good, or was a placeholder of sorts, it still felt good to put something up and complete the challenge that day. A photo, a video, an inspirational quote. Just put something up, and you can try to do better the next day.
3. Give Yourself A Break.
(This one is easier said than done, especially so soon, but it’s important.)
Yes, it’s better to complete the whole challenge, but since I didn’t, I’m learning to give myself a break. So what if I miss a day, or even six? What’s the worst that can happen? What is really lost? Time keeps going and I can write my ideas another day. I need to be kind to myself and be content with the decision I made to give myself a break from blogging, and not beat myself up for missing it. It’s good to challenge yourself, but know when you need to take a break. Allow yourself to play.
4. I Tried To Plan Ahead.
I wasn’t able to plan ahead as much as I wanted to (if I had, I probably wouldn’t have missed those six days), but I did plan ahead a little. I created an editorial calendar (which I may share in the coming days), though I didn’t always use it, and I even posted in advance twice, using the lovely scheduling feature. It’s quite a wonderful feeling knowing my post is already done and I don’t have to worry about it (especially on the plane to DC).
5. Put Other (Paid) Work First.
What’s wonderful about NaBloPoMo (and NaNoWriMo, I’m told) is the feeling of prioritizing your writing; making time for something you don’t always have time for. But time here means less time there. This is worse when I have other (paying) assignments to do. I hate to admit this, because it won’t look good, but some of my other work was late in part because I prioritized blogging. Not so good.
6. Enjoy Your Themes, But Allow For Deviations Too.
I really enjoyed coming up with my various themes—something I’d wanted to do for a while, and will hopefully continue. More often than not I felt like I had a topic to go with the theme (especially with the TV, Movie, and Music themes) without trying to shoehorn something in there, but if not, I at least had a starting point for an idea. But it was also good to allow myself to deviate from the theme and do something different if I chose to. All of the best-laid plans must be flexible too.
7. I Have More Confidence In What I Do Well.
I’ve been doing more personal essays and writing about social justice lately, and I would like to improve my skills in those areas, but as much as I enjoy navel gazing (something they warn you about when you embark on the thrilling task of blogging), I think I’m pretty good at writing about pop culture. That’s fortunate because that’s mostly what I like to do. I also suspect readers enjoy my work on pop culture more than my navel gazing, but I don’t know that for sure. Either way, I feel a little more confident about my abilities, generally, but especially with my pop culture writing. And that’s always good.
8. I Got A Tiny Bit Faster.
I’m always wrestling with my speed, because I’m definitely not the fastest writer in the world (I’m a ridiculously slow reader too, which is part of the problem). I try to work faster, without making mistakes—which always happens when I work too fast—and I’m getting a little better. Here are a few of the ways I did that:
- I set a timer for a limited amount of time and try to finish the post within that time. True, more often than not I’ll run the timer again (and again?), but it’s still better than not keeping track at all.
- Most of the time I worked directly in WordPress, rather than in Word and then copying and pasting. That way I can do many of those little blogging tasks (ie: adding links, opening them in a new tab, adding SEO words to photos) as I go along. I always make sure to save a lot more frequently in that case (more than once I’ve lost things because Firefox crashed on me).
- I try to research photos and information faster and make decisions about what to use or include faster. I often feel like I have to look at and read everything before deciding, but that way lies madness.
- I try not to read over my work too many times. That is often my downfall. It does get to a point where you’re just finding different ways of saying the same thing, and changing it doesn’t necessarily make it better. It’s better to move on. Hit that Publish button before you make yourself crazy.
9. I Experimented, A Little.
I still haven’t done a lot with the various WordPress templates (like Quote, Status, Chat, Aside, or Audio; not even sure what a couple of those are), but I did use two new ones: Gallery and Image. I even did one post directly from my phone. Not the easiest thing to do, but I did it. I’m still learning new things every day.
10. I Got Stuff Out There, and I’m More Confident in My Own Ideas.
Sometimes during the year, I won’t post something because I debate whether a topic is broad and interesting enough to try to pitch it to a publication (ie: for pay), rather than posting it on my blog. This indecision often leads to no action at all. Very bad. With NaBloPoMo, because I have to put something up, I don’t have time for this debate. As a result, I’ve come up with a lot more ideas for things to write about—especially when I know it doesn’t have to be anything major—and I get things out into the world faster. As much as I like BlogHer’s writing prompts for the month, I’m pleased to say I used all of my own ideas this month. And I have more I want to do.
UPDATE: a few of these are similar to last year’s lessons, but I didn’t phrase or title them in the same way. I’ll buy that! 🙂
So how about you? What have you learned from your particular challenge (writing or otherwise)? Did you experience any of these lessons yourself?