Should I start a writing challenge and why is the answer yes?

Someone on science Twitter asked the Twitter world today whether they should be starting a writing challenge, and whether it would be a good idea with a newborn around. I guess it’s the time of the year again for New Year’s resolutions, haha. But this is a nice one. And food for a post, too. I’ll take the bait.

Being 330+ days into the daily writing challenge I took upon myself last year, and having had a second child somewhere halfway, I figured that I could answer this one pretty easily, fed by my own experiences.

I am of course biased, because I love writing, but the obvious answer should be yes! It is always a good idea to start writing. You may fall in love with it, if you haven’t already done so, but even if you don’t, there’s many benefits to writing regularly. It has helped me tremendously with getting into the flow of writing, especially at times I need to write things of higher importance. I used to take hours to get into the mood, postponing the writing sessions because of this. These days, I start up a document and just go. Don’t mistake this for high-quality writing. It’s vomiting words. The higher-quality writing needs various rounds of editing, which is a whole different subject. But it’s already a great luxury to be able to start vomiting words! It’s a magical skill, and it takes experience. Lots of it. The more, the better. Experience you only get by doing. You see where I’m going? The doing part? That’s why I write every day. And trust me, it works! I think that covers the first part of the question.

The second part, having a kid around (honestly, age doesn’t matter much in my experience) should actually be all the more reason to write every day, or at least regularly. Sure, kids chip away that valuable time. If you want to spend some quality time with your partner too, it often feels like you have no time, ever, to do anything personal. For me, writing is my me-time. Especially when you have a newborn, life is challenging. I couldn’t think of any time where prioritizing a little self time could be more important. But when to do it? This I struggled with for quite some time. It means you have to get creative. For the past year or so, I mostly took care of bringing our toddler son to bed. (Before that, we alternated, if you may wonder.) This procedure used to be long and tedious, taking anywhere between half an hour and two hours, with the latter being much more common. This was a window of time where I could not leave the room before he was firmly asleep. Leaving a minute too early meant I would wake him up and had to start all over again. Perhaps the worst part of that time was the loneliness. The waiting. Feeling absolutely tied to the room, to the bed even, because you couldn’t move. It made me feel very helpless, restless and frustrated. I think this also fed back to my boy’s sleeping behavior. At some point early last summer, I decided while being on a camper trip, that I would try writing on my phone, after he would have his eyes shut. This way, I could combine the important and necessary for my son, with some self time. It was successful on the first try, so I continued the practice. This is how I now write most of my posts. As a result, I am much calmer about spending an hour (or two) in the room when he’s in early stages of sleep. I think he also feels this. Lately, I have noticed that his sleeping behavior changed a lot. It’s no longer a fight. He’s just closing his eyes right away, and often I hear him snore within a matter of minutes. I may still spend more than an hour next to him many days, but these days it’s rather because I’m in the zone, and my post of the day takes longer to write. Easy sleeping for the boy, calm self time for the dad, a less frustrated partner for the mother, all while training the writing muscle. If that ain’t win-win-win-win situation, I don’t know what is.

I know I speak of toddlers here, and explicitly from a father perspective, but the concept generally applies to any moment where kids are napping. If you can scroll Twitter or Instagram, you can write a WordPress post. I realize this is often also a moment to recharge, especially so for mothers, but I have noticed that journaling and writing posts are excellent ways to unload and recharge. Do make sure to prioritize sleep when you need that most (there’s no shame in missing a day because of that, eh!?). Or write a two sentence shit post. Who cares!

So yes. If you are considering writing challenges, it means you are interested in writing, and that can only mean that the answer to ‘should I write?’ should be yes. No need to find excuses beforehand. Just start. It doesn’t have to be a novel a day. A Haiku would work. Find something that works for you, and do that. You can always quit, it’s your decision. (But I warn you – it is somewhat addictive :).)

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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