Breaking a Streak
Oh sadness of sadness: yesterday I broke my 115 day writing streak!! Arrrrggggggghhhhhh. Every day, early in the morning, I rise and sit at the computer until I have produced at least 750 words--and usually many more. It's a commitment I've made. It's a way of exploring what I'm feeling and what is happening to me. It's part diary, part journal, part rant, part diatribe, part gratitude list, part catalog of reading, part testing ground for ideas, part examination of a new voice, a new life, a new way of moving through the world. It's a practice. And it's become a vital part of directing my creative energy and shaping my creative projects.
I use a site called 750words.com, and every morning at 6:00 a.m. I get an email "nudge" from Buster saying, "Hi Lezlie. You should write 750 words today." That feels so good! And so I write. The words pile up and the writing streak begins to grow. You get sticker rewards for hanging in there for certain periods of time. You earn points for writing every day. And you get to see the words piling up, the numbers rising, and you feel highly motivated to keep your streak going. It's quite addictive, and I highly recommend this site to anyone wanting to begin or return to a regular writing practice.
So what happened yesterday?
It just blew by. I was truly slammed from the minute I got up and met a client for coaching at 7:00 a.m. until I returned from teaching a yoga class at 10:00 p.m. Truly not a minute to pee, much less sit down and write 750 words. And I am so disappointed. My obsessive-compulsive behavior was working at full throttle with this practice I committed to on September 24, 2012. Each day I have been driven to produce 750 words. I had a feeling about mid-day that I was in trouble, and I blame the 7:00 a.m. appointment. (Who does that anyway??) And then, when I got home last night, I thought, OK, sit down and pump something out. You have until midnight. But I was exhausted. And I saw how I was pushing--had been pushing all day--and I just didn't have it in me to push again. I wish now I had, because my name goes up on the wall of shame in front of my students.
But then, is this a shame? I mean, 115 straight days ain't bad, and I think it was about 45 straight days before the last broken streak. So I've actually only missed two days of writing since I joined this site on Sept. 24, 2012. And that includes the day of my sister's funeral! Still, when I opened Buster's email today and saw no sticker by my name and no congratulations about my 116 day streak, I have to say I felt just awful. Just AWFUL!! And I dread having to go in and tell my students that my streak is over.
But let's see what this small mis-step really means in my commitment to writing daily. Do I really need to feel "just awful"? (She's so dramatic.) Let's think about what happens when our practice is interrupted, either by circumstance or by our own internal road blocks? We make a promise when we take up an artful practice. We do our best to keep a promise to ourselves. We cultivate the three D's: diligence, dedication, and discipline. And then, life gets in the way. I often say there's no such thing as life getting in the way. But sometimes, I'm too quick to assume that failure to do something we say we want/need to do is a form of resistance we're using to unconsciously derail ourselves. (See my previous post on "passing.") Sometime, we really do cause our own problems. The ego is very cagy about keeping us from growing, especially when growth means interfering with the status quo. The ego wants you to stay satisfied with the way things are; it loves stasis. And so, when life gets hectic, we naturally surrender the part of ourselves that seems least urgent, or least necessary to survival: our creative practice.
I can give lots of examples of how I rationalize lazy or resistant behavior, but sometimes, life really does get in the way. Things beyond my control pile up and must be dealt with: meetings go longer than expected; friends need attention I hadn't anticipated; the house is burning down, and I feel compelled to call the fire department. Yes, life happens. And so what then?
Well, I let it happen. Chaos, urgency, overload happen; they are not figments of my imagination. I am, for better or worse, stuck in a reality that imposes certain demands upon my body and my attention. And so, my spiritual tradition teaches me to say, "This is the experience I'm having today. How can I best be present to this experience I'm having today?" It is what it is, my good friend Brian used to say. I must be present to the events that truly need my attention, and I must have faith that one day of interrupted practice will not set me back to Sept. 24--or to the dark ages. I may have broken my 115 day streak, but I have accomplished a lot in the last 149 days--155,155 words to be exact. Yaowza. That's a lot of words. That's something to be proud of.
The streak is broken, but the practice is not diminished. The practice resumes and the devotion is in tact. A slight detour for one day. No reason to cry. No reason to lose confidence. No reason to stop writing. There is rarely a good reason to stop writing. So good, I'm on a one day streak! Bring on the words!
"Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too." -- Isabel Allende