Tuesday, July 28, 2009

30 Day Writers Challenge

During a presentation I gave last week, someone asked about my writing style and how to develop a good one. I answered with a statement about being yourself and using writing as a way to reflect your personality.

As I thought more about that question, I realized that there is much more to it than that. I know that much of being a good writer has to do with practice and persistence. I learned that first hand when I began my writing career.

When I started my site, I was writing constantly for it while writing roughly 20 pages a week for my courses in college. The amount of writing was insane but the results were spectacular. My papers earned high marks and the articles I wrote for the site during that time are still amongst the most viewed.

So, in order to improve myself as a writer I am setting a challenge to write at least 250 words a day for the next 30 days without losing quality. How do I plan on doing this?

1. Time

Most writers and bloggers will talk about the large amount of time it takes to produce good content. There is truth to the idea that good content takes time. But not having enough time is not just a writing problem, but an overall time problem. In "How to Create More Time" I talked about knowing how your time is spent and eliminating the unimportant in order to create time for the important things.

I will use the same method in my 30 day writing challenge. Some of my post require research and verification of ideas. I will have to limit the amount of time spent researching possible ideas and spend most of the time researching facts and ideas that are the most relevant for the post.

In order for this challenge to be successful, I need to be mindful of how I use my time.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Most people who take part in any creative work are very particular about what they create. Artist, musicians and writers are they're own worst critics. I have at times spent hours on an article just to click "delete" on the file after reviewing it. Saying to myself,

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

I have come to realize that trashing every work that doesn't seem worthy is a bad idea. I read some years back about how Sammy Davis Jr hated the song "The Candyman" when he was recording it. But the song won him his only Grammy. Similar events have happened to me on my site. At times the post that I think is going to generate the best response gets ignored while the one that I write and am not completely sold on get an overwhelming amount of pageviews. It is true that everything that we produce will not be golden, but sometimes it is not up to us to decide.

During this challenge, it is also important that I grow my ability to write my thoughts in a clear, concise, and effective manner. Although my actually writing takes between 3-4 hours per week, I often spend a lot of time thinking about what to write and how to write it.

No matter what, it is important to write and publish. This will help me understand my your better and help understand yourself and what makes you effective.

Blackberry, iPhone and Napkins

30 days can be a long time and there are going to be several times when I can say to myself,

"Forget writing today, The Office is on."

That's why I have decided to write as soon as the inspiration or idea hits me. Sometimes when writing, we tend to wait until the idea is crystal clear and defined before we dive in. I have learned that this approach sometimes prevents any ideas from being produced because of the Law of Demonising intent. It is important to produce whenever and wherever you are.

The fist 166 words of this post were written on the Notepad function on my Blackberry during a 15 minute break. Attacking inspiration at its peak will be one of the major actions that will make this challenge a success. Whether its on phone, napkin, or your hand, try not to let any thought or inspiration go to waste.

It is going to take discipline and focus to complete this challenge. There will be many days when I will not feel like writing but by applying these few techniques and a few more, I know that I will come out with great content.
By the way, this is 784 words if you are counting
Visit my personal development site Potential2Success.com

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lessons Learned During My Self-Discipline Fast

"I don't remember being this hungry the last time." I thought to myself.

I looked at the clock on my computer screen and did the math in my head. "Another hour and a half and its over.". Its a strange feeling to long for a salad, but after not eating for three days, any food is good food.

After I wrote Building Self-Discipline, I thought a lot about my own self-discipline. Being busy had caused me to comprise on my good eating habit. Enjoying pizza, wings, and rich dark chocolate mousse, had taken its toll on my energy level.

I decided it was time for a fast. My last fast was in July of 2008. While I was fasting, I decided to write "Eat This Now..". A post about some the healthiest foods in the world. I though it was a good test of mind control to write an article about food while not being able to eat food.Even though this time I was on the exact same type of fast, during the last day, I couldn't stop thinking about food.

Fasting is a good way of detoxing your body of impurities. Since your body does not have to work hard digesting food, it starts to get rid of all of the unwanted junk that it had to put in the "to do" box of your digestive system. My fast officially started on Tuesday at 8pm and ended on Friday at 8pm. When I fast, I do a juice fast. That means that I replace food with fresh vegetable and fruit juice.

I don't like to advertise my fasting to everyone around me (yet somehow I'm able to broadcast it to the world on my blog). I guess one of the reasons I usually only let the people closest to me know about my fast is because of all of the questions and reactions I get. I usually do a juice fast about 2 times a year. This is the first time that I have taken note of the effects and results of my juice fast. This is what I learned.

Temptation Follows You
One of the first things I learned on my fast is that temptation follows you. If you ever want a free meal, go on a fast. During my fast I had so many people offering to take me out to lunch or dinner. It seems that whenever you abstain from something in your life-good or bad-it seems to appear everywhere.

The company I work for was bidding for an important account. We were trying to retain a very important customer whose account we're managed for years. The loss of this customer to the competition would mean a loss of jobs. The last day of my fast, the staff was pulled into a meeting where they announced that we've won the bid for the account. That was fantastic news for everyone who valued their job.

So, does this Fortune 500 company send an email thanking everyone for their hard work? Nope, instead they throw an ice cream party. It was a great gesture I'll admit, but here I am and I haven't eaten for 3 days and ice cream is flowing like water. Not to mention I'm getting strange looks from co-workers because I'm refusing to partake in the festivities. Now the people I work with probably think that don't care about my job or that I'm lactose intolerant.

You Don't Know What You've Got Until Its Gone
We don't realize how much influence some thing have in our lives until it is removed. We need food to fuel our bodies but food has become more than just a way to stay alive. It has become a way of life. Food is associated with work, home, and social activities of all kinds. If you go to any event there is food available. When you go see a movie, you may think that you the theater is making money from the $9 ticket. But actually the movie is there just so they can cash in on the 300% profit margin on popcorn and soda.

When we are eating we are usually doing something else. Whether you are with friends, watching tv, or reading a book. During my fast I found that I was hungry during a certain time of the day but during certain activities. The way I combated this was by applying my focus more to the activity. For example, if I was with a friend and they were eating, I would be much more involved in the conversation.

Also, I seemed to have more brain space to apply to anything I wanted. Without thinking about what I'd like to eat for lunch or dinner, I thought about other more important things. Since the decision not to eat had already been made my days flowed very well.

Fasting Gives You a Burst of Energy

I've read about the effects that fasting may have on your energy level. During a fast your body is not working as hard to digest food. Like I mentioned before, I was on a juice fast so I was still consuming vitamins but those nutrients could be absorbed and then used to fuel my body.

This is really the way the body is supposed to work but with all of the processed foods we take in, our bodies work extra hard to break down these foreign substances. For three days before the fast, I ate nothing but fruits and vegetable. The burst of energy may have been a residual result of the overall diet change. Either way it felt great! I literally hopped out of bed on the second day.

Learned How to Tell My Body 'No'
This was learned during the third day. I was finishing up some online work when I started to feel hungry. I scheduled my fast to end a 8pm and around 6:30 I thought to myself, "Go ahead and have an apple. An hour and a half is no big deal."

But it was a big deal. I was very close to giving in and eating before 8 but I had to tell my body 'no' because one of the reasons why I took on this fast in the first place was to build discipline. If I gave in then the purpose of the fast would've been lost.

But I made it. I plan on doing another discipline challenge in the near future. I've learned a lot about myself in those three days and I'm curious to see how much more I can learn and grow.

Visit my personal development website Potential2Success.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Keeping Promises to Yourself

I stepped out of my car today into the 50 degree weather where I parked across the street from the city lake where I often run. It's February and unusually cold for Florida, especially in the late afternoon. In addition to the unseasonably cold weather, it had been raining the entire day but now the pouring rain has now settled into a windy drizzle. Images of myself walking into the living room where I would settle on my couch and cover myself with a blanket while watching Wheel of Fortune and waiting for the tea kettle to whistle, kept running through my head. "Proof" back to reality. There is no hot tea waiting for me. All I have now is the rain, wind, and a promise.

Like most people, one of the things that I have decided to improve this year was my physical fitness. For most of last year I was in great shape. Year 28 of my life was filled with a comment to participate in races, maintain leafy green diet, and hours in the gym lifting weights. But so far this year I have relaxed my promises to myself. "I've been so busy lately, I better just grab some drive thru." and "It's January, the gym is going to be too packed." have been the excuses that I've sold myself.

But yesterday as I was finishing off the last of the Tiajuana Flats chicken Quesidia, I made a promise. "No more excuses." Tomorrow I start my previous health routine. If I would have looked at the weather forecast for today I probably would've delayed my promise until more favorable circumstances permit. But there I was, at the lake, in the windy rain scrolling through my iPod looking for some inspirational music wishing I had downloaded the theme to Rocky like I had intended to last year. I kept scrolling until I realized I was just stalling so I clicked on a playlist that I conveniently called "running music".

As I began my run, the idea of hot tea became more and more appealing. As I looked out over the lake I noticed something very strange. There was nobody else at the lake, anywhere. Usually this time of day would cause me to swerve around elderly power walkers, slow joggers, and baby strollers. But today I was in solitude. Sure it was cold but it wasn't freezing. Yeah it was wet but the rain had become a light drizzle.

It dawned on me that there must have been someone else, somewhere, today that told themselves that the were going to walk or run around this very lake that I was currently making my way around. But here I was, all alone.

We make promises to ourselves all of the time that we never keep. New Year's resolutions are a prime example of that. I realized at that moment how important it is not to break promises to yourself. The moment we tell ourselves we are going to do something (like start exercising, getting a better job, or anything else we want to do that will improve our lives) and we back out of our promises to ourselves due to obstacles, we make it easier to give up when thing get tough.

The key to achieving any goal that you set forth is to commit to doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. Once you allow yourself to back out of a commitment that you make to yourself, you will be more likely to do repeat that habit of retracting. No matter how tough the task or the amount of obstacles that you may encounter, you must do everything possible to keep any commitment you make to yourself.