Not long ago, I took a break from social media for 30 days.
A detox, if you will.
The goal, to sum it up in four words, was: create more, consume less.
I didn’t detox to give my brain a break. Quite to the contrary. I did it to get my creative juices flowing in ways they can’t when I’m distracted by social media. I did it to get my brain working in ways that mattered more to me.
That’s why it was important for me to make sure that these 30 days of freedom didn’t go to waste. I would be a fool to detox from social media and spend that time sleeping or watching TV or browsing the web.
Developing a Daily Writing Habit
So, I gave myself a 30-day challenge. I would complete a daily writing challenge for all 30 days. Journaling, blogging, creative writing, writing a short story…nothing was off the table. I had no minimum word count, no set writing process. I would sit down, start writing, and see what came out.
I needed results. I needed to create things that matter. I needed to leave an imprint on my world that didn’t fade into irrelevance after 24 hours. Writing gives you something Snapchat stories don’t: permanence. With permanence comes a special kind of fulfillment. After all, it’s the things you create that stay on this Earth a lot longer than you do.
If you follow me, it’s no secret that I write. I write a lot. That being said, I think I reached a sort of creative peak during these 30 days, writing for nobody but myself, with no social media to suck my time away. You don’t have to pursue nanowrimo (national novel writing month) to partake in this challenge, either. It wasn’t all gold, but I wanted to share a few highlights that epitomize, to me, what you can create without the constraints of social media distraction.
Three Entires From My 30-Day Writing Challenge:
Take from these what you will. Use them as writing prompts, if necessary. I think they speak for themselves.
Entry 1: Of Entrepreneurs and Rhinos
The rhino is a dangerous creature.
It’s easy to look at a rhino and think about the things they can do. They have thick, protective skin. They can grow to weigh over 1000 lbs. They can run upwards of 30 miles per hour.
But they can’t see very far ahead of themselves.
I remember the first time I felt like a rhino. I was six years old, staying at my grandparents’ house in upstate New York, riding my bike down a hill at a speed I like to call “scary fast.” Nope, not normal fast, scary fast; the speed where you realize your safety is no longer in your hands, where everything gets–you guessed it—scary.
It might have been 30 miles per hour.
It was also the first time I saw stars. I remember the moment I lost control; the bike, no longer supporting my weight, slid from under me. I had no choice but to release myself, to fling myself on the ground with no idea where I would end up. Before I knew it, I was dazed, wallowing in the pain from my skinned knee, but thanking God that my grandma made me wear a helmet.
Since becoming an entrepreneur, there were times I almost felt like a rhino. When everything is moving “scary fast”, when I feel like the skies the limit, the last thing I want to do is look ahead.
Then I remind myself, just because rhinos get to live in blissful ignorance, doesn’t mean I do.
Just because you work your face off, doesn’t mean you can’t fall flat on it if you’re too shortsighted. Don’t just look a few feet in front of you. Look at where everything is going. Start moving intentionally.
If you find yourself among a pack of rhinos–hustling to no end, reveling in the danger, living in the moment to the point where you lose control of your future—abandon them. After all, there’s a reason why a group of rhinos are called a “crash.”
Entry 5: Work Harder, Not Smarter
Thought leaders have a penchant for telling people that it’s not about how hard you work, it’s about how smart you work.
It’s not a bad message if you interpret it right. But people rarely do.
Just because you “work smart” for a bit doesn’t give you an excuse to spend the rest of your time bouncing around useless crevices of the Internet, consuming content that has nothing to do with your current goals.
Working smart only applies to those who know what they’re doing. If you haven’t achieved your goals and you think you can afford the luxury of wasting time…sorry, you’re just not working hard enough.
The reason I hate when people say “work smarter” is that nobody knows what smart work is until they watch it take them to where they need to go. There is no rulebook on how to “work smarter”.
Working hard is different. The results you get are directly correlated with the hours you put in. Sure, if you’re working hard and not smart, you might be wasting your time. But every hour you spend chasing your goals will get you closer to them, whether it has a direct impact, or it teaches you what not to do.
Give yourself the time to be better. If you interpret “smart” as “lazy”, you’re only hurting yourself.
Take a look at where you are now and weigh that against where you want to be. The only thing you can change is the effort you put in. Nobody is coming to teach you how to do it right, to whisper the secret to success in your ear. You need to outwork everyone around you. Then, and only then, will you get where you want to be.
Once you get there, don’t you dare coast. As soon as you coast because you think you have the lead, someone will come and snatch it from you. Good luck.
Entry 30: Don’t Break the Chain
It’s been a month since I set out to publish an article every day for 30 days. And boy, have I come a long way.
I’ve watched the discipline I’ve cultivated in this practice bleed over onto the rest of my life. Not only have my writing skills improved. I’m eating smarter. I’m sleeping better. I’m exercising regularly.
It’s confirmed what I’ve thought for some time: life is momentum based.
Now I understand what people mean when they tell you to start the day with a cold shower. Even though it is hard to sacrifice comfort, if you train yourself to make one sacrifice as soon as you wake up, everything else becomes easier. On the other hand, if you spend your life doing what makes you comfortable, it will take a mountain of effort to break out of that comfort zone.
This is what I call “the chain”. The chain is why, when I force myself to sit down and write out of habit, everything else in my life that requires discipline becomes easier to do. It’s because I’m not reveling in hedonism. My happiness does not need to correlate with pleasure. Instead, it must correlate with fulfillment, specifically the fulfillment I get from making the sacrifices that make me a better version of myself.
It’s why I don’t believe in cheat days. Once you take a day to rest, you break the chain. Once the chain is broken, all the work you’ve put in to stretch it out for as long as you did is undermined. You have to start from scratch. Fuck that.
Writing is great in that it forces me to flesh out my thoughts, to expand them beyond the constraints of a Tweet or a Facebook post, to get to the bottom of why I feel the way I do. It also keeps me working hard, cultivating the habit of being better to feel better. In that sense, it keeps the chain going.