If you’ve been following Turf to Surf’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter over the last few months, I’m guessing you’ve been a tad confused as to where I’ve been (St. Martin – UK – NY – Greece – France), where Ryan has been (St. Martin – NY – Tanzania – Zanzibar – Greece – France), where our boat has been (Virgin Islands – St. Martin – St. Barths) and where we’re headed next. Which is perfectly understandable considering I’ve been struggling to wrap my mind around what the hell is happening…and this is my own life we’re talking about here.
Let’s just say the last year has felt a bit like I’ve been wildly adrift in a busy New York harbor; like everyone around me is in full control while all I can do is make decisions in reaction to near disasters. But now, after several months of feeling completely out of control, I’m finally grabbing the helm and steering this blog straight towards my intended destination. No more veering off course. [That’s about as many sailing metaphors as one paragraph can handle, don’t you think?]
What I’m declaring is a drastic change to Turf to Surf right here and now, and on this very public forum. Because nothing gives you a kick in the ass like a little bit of accountability. That’s right, I am holding myself accountable for a self-imposed creative challenge. I am challenging myself to write and publish a post on Turf to Surf every day for 30 days. Starting TODAY. August 1st. I’ve said it out loud now, so there’s no going back.
The question is, “Who’s with me?!”
And by asking that question, I don’t mean, “Hey guys, will you please read my blog, pretty please?” though by all means, feel free to read along. What I mean is, I am whole-heartedly encouraging YOU to join me in this 30-day challenge. And by that, I mean I encourage you to do something for 30 days straight that inspires you.
So what is the thing that inspires you?
My thing is writing. I want to write more and, at the moment, I’m not writing at all. So, what I want out of this challenge is to build a foundation of routine and discipline with writing so that I don’t neglect the very thing I need more of in my life. Also I know, deep down in my procrastinating soul, building good habits is half the battle in achieving your goals (as boring and predictable as that may sound). Even Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I’ve realized if I want to be good at something, I need to do it habitually. And the truth is, without a goal, you can’t score. And, also (just to keep building on the sports metaphor), it’s hard to score alone. You need teammates and supporters to get to where you want to go in life. So how about taking on this challenge with me? I know I could use all the teammates and supporters I can get. Why not tell me about your goals in the comments below and let’s make this a collective effort!
So, here it is. I challenge YOU to name the very thing in your gut that you know you should be doing more of; the thing in your life you have been sorely neglecting because, well, let’s be honest, life gets in the way. Whatever that thing is, make it your 30-day challenge. It could be reading every day, writing poetry, playing guitar, learning a language, painting, training for a marathon — anything! It just needs to be something you know you aren’t doing enough of; something you have been bugging yourself to pursue but haven’t set aside the time for.
Now is the time to set yourself this challenge.
Repeat after me: “I will do [insert thing you have been neglecting] every day for 30 days straight. No excuses. No denial. Just because. Because it’s only 30 days. Because it will be good for my soul. Because I need the support. Because I need the motivation. Because I need a challenge. And because August is as good a month as any to DO THIS.”
And then, together, we can see what comes of that challenge. Hell, write to me every day in the comments, if it helps. Because why not? 30 days is not a long a time in the grand scheme of life. You, like me, have probably spent far longer than 30 days not doing the very thing you want to be doing, so why not give yourself this gift?
But, you might ask, why be so strict?
Why every day? Why put that kind of pressure on myself when I’ve got so much on my plate already?
Well, I don’t know about your situation (though feel free to tell me — I’m all ears), but I can tell you about my situation.
For me, the 30 day challenge is because I need a serious kick in the ass. And because I will always find an excuse; an excuse for why I can’t work harder, why I can’t do more, why I can’t take a leap of faith and try something scary and new. Because there is never enough time in the day, the week, the month, the year. And also because I know how I work: if I commit to something and tell people I’m going to do it, I WILL DO IT.
But, man, the excuses tug at me like lead weights. Just when I think I’ve gained the strength to swim to the surface, something heavier grabs hold and pulls me under.
Yes, Ryan and I sold our companies five months ago after 8 years of building them, which sounds uplifting, but in reality has left me feeling like I’m recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Yes, my father died three and a half months ago, which made me feel like the ground cracked open under my feet and swallowed me whole. Yes, a week before my dad died, we put down a $100,000.00 deposit on a brand new Fountaine-Pajot Helia, not knowing our world was about to be turned upside down. Yes, I committed to rowing around the Isle of Wight with a team of 8 girls long before my dad died. Yes, I still did it a few weeks after my dad died. Yes, we packed up our beloved boat and home, Hideaway, and put her up for sale in Sint Maarten.
Yes, I have a plate that is piled high and overflowing with excuses as to why I don’t have time to write.
Over the last year I have come up with every possible excuse not to write regularly or seriously. I’m so stressed, I told myself. I’m swamped with work, I’m going through so much emotional shit, I’m so tired. All of my excuses seemed like good enough reasons not to write. And yet all of my excuses were bullshit. Because the truth is, I love to write; writing brings me great happiness and a deep sense of peace. It allows me to grapple with things I am struggling with in my mind and it allows me to make sense of my life through stories. And yet writing is a joy that I have denied myself far too often this past year. Why? Because, deep down, I am afraid if I pursue it as a full-time endeavor and not just something I brush off as a frivolous hobby, I might discover that I’m actually a failure.
After all, I have no job to hold me back from pursuing a career as a writer now. And, damn it, that was such a good excuse for such a long time. Essentially, I have no excuses left. Which is terrifying. It leaves me with no choice but to either take a step towards my fears and face them, or back down and be defeated by them.
So, enough of the excuses.
They end here, today, with this public announcement: no matter what I have going on, no matter how little free time I have, I will write and publish on Turf to Surf every day this month in August 2015.
And, okay, this is the internet, where essentially anyone can publish anything they like. I get how that’s not impressive. So, this may not sound like much of a challenge to you. But, for me, this is just the start. It is the much-needed crank delivered to an engine that has grown rusty with neglect.
And after that? We’ll see. Hopefully, by the end of this month, I’ll have a clearer idea of what is achievable in the happy medium that lies between writing nothing for months and feeling guilty about it and writing every day for a month and feeling exhausted by the self-imposed obligation.
As I scrawl these frightening words across the blank space that has been my mind for the last few months, I am well aware that I did not arrive at this decision on my own.
I was inspired, nudged and encouraged by an incredible group of writers, thinkers and creative minds who all convened on the island of Patmos in Greece last month for two weeks to take part in the Good World Journeys Storytelling Workshop led by the amazing filmmaker, poet, author and playwright Brian Lindstrom, Rachel DeWoskin, Cheryl Strayed, and Zayd Dohrn.
If you do nothing more than Google the Wikipedia pages of these artists, you’ll still be fascinated by their stories.
I signed up for this workshop some time last year, when Ryan and I were in the miserable throes of selling our companies and having our corporate decisions for the last 8 years sniffed and scrutinized by lawyers and accountants, and I just needed something on the far horizon to look forward to. And in that moment, after I’d read and re-read Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, I saw Cheryl’s brief mention on her Facebook page that there were a few spots left in a summer storytelling workshop she was leading in Greece. Her books had already moved me to tears and inspired me to start writing again and then all of a sudden there she was, talking about storytelling, herself, Greece and other writers on a little island? If there was ever a competition for who could fill out an online application form the quickest, I think I won that race hands-down.
But a few months down the road, after I’d forgotten what I’d signed up for, it felt like the universe knew what I was looking for. I had signed up for this workshop during a time when I had no idea what my life would look like by the time I had to pack a bag to go to Greece. We’d sold our companies, my dad had died, I’d rowed for 12 hours around an island in the UK, I’d done a triathlon and Ryan had taken off for Tanzania to race across an ocean in wildly unreliable wooden fishing boats. And before I knew it, I was boarding a ferry in Athens to be dropped off on a tiny, idyllic island in Greece for a workshop that I was excited for, though I had no idea what I was actually in for.
And in an instant, I made friends who I would spend every waking moment with, I would read and write by the pool every day, and it soon became clear that this workshop was everything I needed in that point in time.
So I’m just going to trust the universe on this one and go with it. She obviously knows my shit better than I do.
The 30-day challenge is on.
It’s just 30 days, but it could change everything. If this idea speaks to you like it does to me, then please join me and tell me what your personal challenge is for the next 30 days in the comments below.
Because friends don’t let friends be mediocre. Together we can aspire to do great things, things we might not be brave enough to strive for alone.
On my first day of Cheryl Strayed’s workshop on Patmos, as the turquoise sea winked at all of us anxious new acquaintances out of the corners of our eyes, our gazes were focused away from the sea and directly on Cheryl Strayed, who was reading a letter out loud written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1938. It was a harsh and honest letter of writing feedback addressed to Francis Turnbull, a then-sophomore in college and aspiring novelist. Fitzgerald, in his letter, was explaining why Turnbull’s story wasn’t “saleable” in words he hoped would explain to Francis that to be a writer, “You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner.” To which he added, “You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.”
That line has stuck with me for weeks now, long after the taste of tzaziki and red wine has left my mouth, the smell of fresh basil has faded from my clothes and the sounds of plates smashing in exuberant celebration on the floor of a Greek restaurant has faded in volume. That line about a “soldier who was only a little brave” has everything to do with writing to a place where you have the courage to explore the darkest corners of your being. But it also speaks to living. As in, it speaks to not living in the comfortable middle ground, where you are allowed to be “just a little brave”; but to shoving yourself out of your comfort zone and out into the open space where you have no choice but to ask yourself the kinds of questions that can transform your understanding of the world.
That’s what the 30-day challenge is about. It’s about not being “just a little brave”. It’s about asking more of yourself. So, having said that, who’s with me?
Nothing like Wonder Woman showing up on Paradise Island to show you your fear is not worth cowering to.
Stuff you might’ve missed
Just in case you missed it, Ryan and I did an interview recently, which was published in 2 parts as a podcast for Keep Your Daydream.
You can subscribe for free and download both episodes on the Keep Your Daydream iTunes Podcast
Or you can listen to both episodes here on the Keep Your Daydream website: