Two days ago I published my 50th post here at Figuring Out Fulfillment. Fifty posts in less than nine months! I haven’t even done my laundry at that pace. I’m not boasting about my rate of output; I know there are folks out there who post more frequently, like my blogging partner Margaret, who was publishing at twice that rate before I joined her. (Tip of the hat to Margaret, and heartfelt thanks for inviting me to join her!) I am just personally pleased to have made it this far.
If, before I started, someone had asked me how I thought I would feel about reaching the 50-post milestone, I think I would have shrugged and said something like, “Sure, that’d be fine. But it won’t really be that impressive until I get to, say, a thousand.” In my head, I would have been thinking, Fifty posts? That’s like . . . drinking 50 glasses of milk, or watching 50 episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I wouldn’t want to do them all at once, but once or twice a week? Please. I’m a good writer; this will be like a pastime to me, like doing crossword puzzles.
Foolish, foolish man.
A mentor whom I have known for years displays a framed quotation by Calvin Coolidge in her office that begins, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. . . .” When I first saw that, feeling very much like an unsuccessful man with talent, I read it very naively as an exhortation to keep one’s nose to the grindstone: work the 14-hour day, take on jobs no one else wants, that’s how you get ahead. But real persistence isn’t about how much effort you put into a task; it’s about continuing to put in the effort when it feels like it’s no use.
Writing on a schedule is sort of like being an unknown auditioning for a lead Hollywood role every few days . . . and part of the audition is a surprise written exam in a subject from high school. I want to do well, I want my readers to like me, but I never know going into it whether I am even going to be able to make sense, let alone say anything worthwhile. Often, once I get started, something clicks, and I enter a state of flow; from that point on I know exactly what I am going to write and how. But it’s unpredictable, and uncontrollable! I can’t just flick an internal switch and start writing well; sometimes it happens, and sometimes it rather noticeably doesn’t.
And because this state of flow feels random, there’s no way to generate momentum. I could write an essay I really love, one that gets lots of positive feedback, and then two days later I’m sitting before the blank computer screen wishing a killer asteroid would strike the Earth just so I wouldn’t have to write anything. Every few weeks I come up with an inspired idea in advance that I know will make a good post, and that’s a great feeling, because most of the time sitting down to write is a blatant leap of faith. My gut tells me the well is dry, my brain tells me it’s not rational to think I could come up with another essay that’s worth reading, my heart tells me that I just don’t have what it takes to keep doing this . . . and yet I still tell myself, too bad, time to start writing.
So now, having reached 50 posts seems like a minor miracle – and one that, at one level, gives me almost no reassurance that I could do it again and reach 100. Now that I understand how hard it is to write 50 posts (at least 50 posts that I’m not ashamed to publish), I cannot be so flippant as to assume I’ll be able to do it again.
But. I did do it once. When there were plenty of moments that I thought I couldn’t. So, even if reaching 50 posts doesn’t assure me that I can get through another 50, it does give me enough faith to believe that I can get through the next 1.