Find Your Catalyst
Back when I started my 500 Words blog – thanks to the worldwide pandemic of 2020 – it was a very passionate thing for me to write and post 500 words (or more) about something, anything on a daily basis. I was disciplined and intentional about doing so, and for months, rarely if at all did I allow myself to skip a day. Of course, daily writing and posting was fairly easy to accomplish when the option to go ANYWHERE was null. No driving an hour twice daily to Iowa City to finish my last semester at the University of Iowa. No celebrating family functions in public spaces, and rarely did anyone visit the homes of family and friends - at least not without wearing a facemask.
I need not elaborate further as I’m sure the effects of the pandemic are still fresh in everyone’s mind. But, just because I dropped out of the blogosphere, only to resurface on very random occasions, did not mean that I no longer care about or want to continue the pursuit of writing. It simply means that as life gradually became less restricted, attentiveness to my passion for writing subtly became less focused. Thanks to a book excerpt by Carl Phillips printed in the Nov/Dec 2022 issue of Poets & Writers magazine, I feel a renewed sense of urgency to reclaim intentional living and not allow my writing to fall victim to a too-busy life.
Poet Carl Phillips is the author of the aforementioned excerpted nonfiction book, My Trade is Mystery: Seven Meditations from a Life in Writing, published October 2022 by Yale University Press. His excerpt in the magazine was from a chapter suitably entitled “Practice” in which he reminded me how important it is to develop and maintain a daily habit of both reading and writing in order to grow as a writer. He stated, “A writing practice includes not only writing and reading, but the discipline as well, to maintain a commitment to writing and reading, for which there is no magic recipe.”
Discipline. (ugh) But I want a magic recipe! Fairie Dust! A twitch of Samanth's nose! Jeannie's bob-and-blink! (Sigh) Shows from my childhood made life look so easy.
It’s like Carl Phillips anticipated my thoughts when I read that line because the very next sentence made me feel not-so-alone in my thoughts. “The only real catalyst for discipline is a desire for what discipline can lead to.” Hmm... Catalyst – something that leads to change. What was it that inspired me to start the blog in the first place? It was listening to a talk in fall 2019 by Carl Klaus, professor emeritus of The University of Iowa, where he explained how his successful career in nonfiction began with a self-disciplined habit of writing a 500-word essay every day.
After starting my blog in 2020, I managed to successfully write and post 500-words every day for months, and perhaps that was my downfall. My daily practice of writing became a chore – a performance almost. When I read the excerpt by Carl Phillips, it occurred to me that just because I write 500 words every day doesn’t mean I have to share a blog post EVERY day. A lightbulb flashed in my head. YES!!! My new catalyst! Writing everyday doesn’t mean posting every day. Carl Klaus developed his habit long before internet blogging was a thing. He didn’t share everything he wrote. He just wrote because he wanted to develop the habit and grow as a writer.
That desire – to grow as a writer – is worth the discipline!