Lessons Learned from 31 days

So… last year I joined hundreds of other bloggers in the Nester’s 31 days challenge.  It ran the entire month of October, and for 31 days straight I wrote about Finding Joy in Motherhood.

I loved it.

I hated it.

I almost quit partway through.

I didn’t really do much preparation last year.  It made a list of ideas (31 of them to be exact) and then picked my favorite.  I jotted down about 30 ideas for blog posts on the back of an electric bill and that’s what I blogged from all month long.

I wrote for 31 days straight on a single topic.  I loved it.  I hated it.  I almost quit.  I'm doing it again.

Y’all, I put more time into designing the graphic for that first post than I did in planning the series.

By the end of October I was sick of the word Joy and everything to do with it.  I wanted to dress in black studded leather and run away from home.  I wanted to be BAD.

Now that I’ve been through the wringer, I’ve learned a thing or two.

Lessons Learned from 31 Days

Lesson one was that murphy attacks.  If I had written about staying on budget, I’m certain we would have had an unexpected repair.  If I’d written about vegetarianism, I would have ended up at the all-bacon-buffet with no options.  But I wrote about Joy.  I battled depression.

Lesson two was that life happens.  It wouldn’t have mattered WHAT I was writing about, I would have struggled last October.  I spent part of almost every weekend at a deer lease that had no cell signal.  The rest of my weekends were spent shuttling kids to soccer games, birthday parties, and church while my husband was hunting.  The rhythm of hunting (pack up, head out, come home, dump stuff all over the floor, clean up, repeat) is disruptive to the rhythm of writing (sit down, drink coffee, crush candy, write, drink coffee, write, drink wine, repeat).

Lesson three was about the importance of simple.  Since I was, at the time, committed to posting about Thankfulness every Sunday, I did that in ADDITION to the post for the 31 Days series.  Repeat that double post for Tuesdays and Fridays.  Ten posts a week PLUS a newsletter is enough to wear anyone out.

Lesson four was that burnout comes at a cost.  For most of November and December I was so burned out it was hard to write.  I managed to write and post, but I didn’t check Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest.   I had pushed too hard in October, and I paid dearly for it.  You can literally see the burnout in my blog stats.

Lesson five was about ebooks.  I had every intent to turn my 31 day series into an ebook.  I still do.  But the honest truth is that every time I start working on the content it drags me down and makes me feel icky.  I go back through the whole crazy burnout thing.  I just… can’t face it.

What am I doing differently?

For starters, I’m putting in a bit more planning on the front end.  That includes having some posts actually written before the whole thing starts and having some graphics designed and ready to go.

Secondly, I’m writing the book first.  My best, most coherent writing happens AWAY from the default editor for WordPress.  I have enough experience to know that the moving from blog post to book requires more editing that moving from book format to blog post.

Next, I’m going to pick a better set of graphics to work with. Last year’s were OK, but… I wasn’t in love with them ever.

Lastly, I’m giving myself grace and simplicity.  I’m not doing more than one post in a day.  If I miss a day then I miss a day.  It seriously won’t be the end of the world.

So how does that look on my to-do list?

Today:  Write down as many ideas for series as I possibly can.  This is just brainstorming, so it’s the day for crazy ideas.   The good news is that any ideas can be used as inspiration for future blog posts or entire blog series, even if they don’t work out for this October challenge.

brainstorming a blog topic

Tomorrow:  Pick my top five ideas.  This is where the real fun begins.  I may combine ideas from my big brainstorm list.  I may come up with something totally different.  I just want the ones that make my heart sing.  The ones that make me want to stop everything and start writing.

Friday thru next Monday:  Research and planning.  I’ll take my top five ideas and take them for a test drive.  I have a tried and tested planning tool that makes it easy to generate ideas, create content, and identify cool content for Facebook and Twitter at the same time.  When I use it, it works.  When I don’t, I struggle.  The cool thing is that all the planning and work will usable.  Even if I don’t use it in October, I’ve got a good start on OTHER blog posts and series.

Next Tuesday:  Decision Day.  That’s a full THREE WEEKS in advance.  That gives me three weeks to work on stuff in advance.

For the rest of September, I’ll be working hard.  Not only will I have my regular blog posts, but I’ll be creating additional content as well. I’ll be adding an extra hour each weekday to work on content for October.  Even if that’s distracted TV viewing time, I can still work on graphics.  If I get four days into writing and realize I picked the wrong topic then I have time to change topics.

Who is joining me? 


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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Wow, this is very tempting! I am doing an even day blog challenge now and am already behind because I didn’t plan ahead. I’m not sure what topic I would choose… Thanks for the info and inspiration. I’m going to do some serious thinking about this!
    Love the redesign!
    Mo recently posted..How It All StartedMy Profile

    • Mo, last year there were blogs that modified the challenge to be the 28 day challenge, the 25 day challenge, or whatever. There are people who know that they just can’t manage to post every day, or ones who believe they shouldn’t work 7 days a week. It’s allowed.

      Writing 15 quality posts is always better than writing 31 mediocre (or worse) posts.

      Even though I was already writing/posting on a daily basis last year, the challenge tore me up. It’s called a challenge for a reason. The discipline of writing on a single subject for 31 days straight does not come easy for me. By about day 4 of writing about joy, I was ready to move on to other topics… I have writing ADHD… squirrel… oh what a great idea for a blog post…oh yeah.. this… 🙂

      Realistically, I’m a stronger writer because of the challenge last year. I’m doing it again for the same reason. Besides, the worst thing that could happen is that I fail. Last time I checked they didn’t kick people off the internet for failure.

  2. I know I couldn’t handle writing on one topic for 31 days EVER. Of course, that’s why my blog covers so many wide ranges of topics. 😉 I am impressed that you did it.

    I like your plans and goals. I look forward to reading what you do.

    By the way, does your theme give you the option to give us a link for your most current blog posts?
    Crystal Green recently posted..Relaxing Sunday Blog HopMy Profile

  3. Last year’s 31 Days challenge is how I discovered your blog. I’m horrible with blogging, even sporadically, but I love reading what other people write!

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