100 Days of Writing

  • Nibras Ib

A minimum of 100 words a day, every day for 100 days. This was the challenge I set myself. Below you'll find the first article I shared and the last article I wrote as part of the project. Notice the change in writing quality and style. It's amazing what a difference writing every day, and sharing, for 100 days can make to your relationship to your work, your thoughts and others.

Emei Shan, China. Photo by Nibras

100 Words for 100 Days | Day #1

All I have to do is write a minimum of 100 words a day, every day.
Then hit the publish button.
The answer? A project that will act as a double edged sword. It’ll be a sword I wield rather than attempt to dodge.
Through this project I hope to apply a few important ideas I’ve picked up from people much smarter than me. Ideas that keep echoing in my head, asking to be put into practice:
  • Simplicity: to re-frame as much as possible through the lens of simplicity by regularly asking, to quote Tim Ferriss, “what would this look like if it were easy?”
  • Projects (doing and finishing): the process of working on a project is satisfying. It feels good. It feels healthy. And you are left with a record of your effort, a thing that exists and marks your improvement. I’d like to make projects a regular feature in my life.
  • Starting small: starting small in both quantity and expectations. By this I mean lowering expectations until there’s no fear holding me back from starting a project or a piece. It’s also about letting the work be flawed and real rather than perfect and imaginary.
Secondly, and more importantly, I want to address my fears by publicly sharing words every day. The main fear is of being judged; a worry that others will think my work is bad or my thoughts and ideas are weird or somehow lacking.
It’s this concern of others, you, thinking badly of me that makes me agonise over each word I write. Editing and changing so as to not accidentally offend. Always reflecting on how another might perceive what I am writing.
“Too self indulgent, that’s what they’ll think” A thought which nearly made me not hit the publish button. I’ve had a medium account for a long time but this will be the first post that I publish. These thoughts are the reason why I’ve haven’t posted before.
I am too old for that now.
This project is an antidote. A healing balm applied directly to my weaknesses:
/- perfectionism
/- a tendency to over complicate
/- an acute fear of being negatively perceived
/- vulnerability
During his incredible 2012 commencement speech Neil Gaiman said:
“ The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
I really hope he’s not wrong.
Image by Joanna Kosinska

100 Days of Writing - Done! | Day #100

What happens when you write every day for 100 days?

I spent 100 days writing every day. It was transformative.
In 100 days I went from being a person who’d never been able to commit to a project to the exact opposite - disciplined and committed. It's hard to communicate the subtle power in a change in identity. It spilled into all parts of my life.
Writing for 100 days didn’t change my life, fix my problems, cook my meals and buy me a house. It did, however, change the way I thought and felt about myself. Very little truly changes your sense of felt self. So, to think sitting down in front of a laptop and typing words could change how I felt, on a permanent basis, is amazing.
The message of this post is encapsulated in the above sentences. You could stop reading here and you won’t miss anything.

The Details

'Has anybody seen my fear?'
At the end of 2017, I sat in front of my laptop with my stomach squeezing and my hands shaking. I felt sick. My mind was in full panic-mode, its thoughts various expressions of a single fear:
What will people think of me when they see my writing?
I pushed through the fear and hit publish on the introduction to the 100 day challenge.
It was an honest, vulnerable piece of writing. The first time I’d ever truthfully written down my thoughts and published them on the internet. It was terrifying.
Contrast the above with today:
As I write type this post now, I may experience the occasional self-conscious thought but like the noise of the cars outside my window, I feel no particular way about it. There’s no fear, shaking or overwhelm. I type, edit for clarity then hit publish.
My moment to moment experience, what it feels like to write as I sit here, is entirely different. This alone is worth 100 days of writing.

More Finishing, Less Perfectionism

I used to agonise over ideas. If I wanted to write, I’d spend days, weeks even, researching before repeating the lengthy process for planning. I’d write, delete and rewrite for hours on end. The tendency was so bad, it caused me to have a breakdown while writing my university dissertation.
Perfectionism is a perception fear. It stems from the thought I mentioned earlier: “what will people think of me?” To be perfect is to be safe from judgement. Unfortunately, the only way to guarantee perfection is to do nothing — what doesn’t exist can’t be imperfect.
The 100 day project forced me to share every day. Some days, I only had 15 minutes to write. Day after day, I hit publish on writing which was far from my best. Some days, I shared piece which were incomplete by my standards. With every hit of the publish button, perfectionism’s grip on me began to loosen. You can only share so many imperfect pieces before you realise — it’s okay. It doesn’t matter.
"Write, share. Good or bad. The thoughts of others won’t harm you." became my new approach. You may read the last sentence and nod your head. I know I did. It was only when I continuously published what I considered to be imperfect work that I felt it as truth. The freedom to experiment, play and share, regardless of quality, is more valuable than a perfectly curated portfolio of writing. It’s also more fun.

The Antidote

In my challenge introduction post I wrote the following:
“This project is an antidote. A healing balm applied directly to my weaknesses:
/- perfectionism
/- a tendency to over complicate
/- an acute fear of being negatively perceived
/- vulnerability”
I can safely say each of the ‘weaknesses’ listed above has improved as a direct result of daily writing. I produce more. Simplify before I begin. Move through the world with a greater comfort in being myself, whether that’s dancing while I make tea in the office kitchen or talking to myself while I brainstorm. I speak with more honesty and have many more difficult, emotional conversations which I would've previously avoided.

Tools for the Journey

If I could meet myself when she was starting the project, I'd tell her the following:
1) 100 day projects are great. Discipline is wonderful. So is being nice to yourself and looking after your health. We’re busy people with families to love, work to do and clothes to clean. The danger of a project like this is the tendency to push too hard. You turn yourself into both the labourer and the whip wielding master.
2) Set a goal to write every day but make sure you practice the art of forgiving yourself when you miss a day. If you start the project and have to stop at any point, it’s alright (I recently started a 100 day design project and stopped when I started experiencing wrist pain). It’s all feedback. The skills and experience you gained from writing for 78 days won’t disappear because you didn’t make it to 100.
3) Posting new content every day can be exhausting. It’s alright to revisit and edit an article over 2 days. It’s okay to not post every day. Don’t forget, the aim is just to write daily.
Finally, this daily challenge can either be a productive, growth-inducing experience or a psychological hell. The difference is the mental state you approach it with and your relationship to yourself. I hope you can take it easy on yourself and enjoy the experience.
To everyone else:
If you’re considering an 100 day project and have any questions, want support or an accountability buddy, drop me a message. Good luck!