This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistian's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Kristen Craft is director of partnerships at Wistia. Her last Non Sequitur was about brewing kombucha.
It was my senior year in college, and I was taking a creative writing course. The professor opened up the first day of class with a bold statement:
"I'll guarantee an 'A' to any student who does this one thing: send me an email every single day—weekdays, weekends, holidays, vacations. Every day until the end of the semester."
Dumbfounded looks all around.
What? Is she insane? This is the best class ever. Couldn't have picked a better course for my senior spring. What an easy A.
Well, this is awkward
Turns out, it wasn't as easy as it seemed. I felt self conscious and unsure about what to say. CDBL, as this professor was called, didn't give any guidance about what we should write. She was happy to receive our thoughts, or a quote, or song lyrics, or anything, really.
The first couple emails were especially awkward. My first email went something like this:
Hmmm, so I'm not sure what to write. I had a good day, I guess. Didn't do much. I went to class, went to the gym, hung out with some friends. This feels pretty weird. I wonder if you're even reading this. I guess I'll write more tomorrow.
The next few were easier. I wrote about a fight with my boyfriend and why it made me upset, leading to a brief hypothesis about how people fall into certain patterns when they fight with one another—almost like an elaborate dance you do with your partner. On another day, I wrote about a visit from my parents and shared some background on what they were like. I grew more comfortable over time, in part because I sort of assumed CDBL didn't really read them but merely checked a box for the day.
Developing a habit
Most of my emails to CDBL went unanswered. I learned from classmates that most of theirs did too. But occasionally, as though from on high, a reply would come through. Something like, "This reminds me of a book by so-and-so. You might want to read it." These brief replies impacted the way that I wrote. They somehow prompted me to tackle more interesting subjects, given that someone else might be reading them.
Writing was slowly become a habit for me. Still, it took a while for the habit to become fully ingrained. A few nights would find me lying in bed, suddenly remembering I hadn't written to CDBL. No one wants to let go of an "A" that easily, so I'd get up, of course, and send something quick. It became easier to remember over time, especially because I really started looking forward to the daily task.
My final email of the semester focused on the assignment itself. I commented on how fulfilling the process was:
This was one of the best assignments I had in college. I loved the process of writing every day. I loved forming a habit of jotting down my thoughts. This pushed me to change from "someone who writes" to a "writer".
Finding your thing
Oddly, I don't recall CDBL ever coming out and telling us why she'd assigned this daily task. But I think we all understood the value of developing a habit of writing. If any of us intended to become writers someday, it was important to make this part of our routine. Not only did it make us better writers, but it helped to redefine us as "writers". There's value in having something that feels like "your thing".
It's not always easy. Whether your thing is writing, running, or speaking a new language, there's bound to be initial discomfort. It's worth pushing through the discomfort. And it can certainly be challenging to find time for the things you value. But what better way to allocate your time? There are external constructs that can help make it easier, whether it's the lure of a good grade, the satisfying flash of a FitBit, or a commitment to a friend. Take advantage of those constructs.
It feels good to commit to something regularly. And it impacts your life in a big way. I no longer write every day, but there are other things to which I'm firmly committed.
I'm a die-hard walker, often taking 2-hour walks with friends instead of catching up over coffee or a drink. Multiple times per week, I make the 3-4 mile commute to and from work by foot. Though a daily walk might not sound like much, it feels really good to have that common theme running through my days. Walking has become a central part of my life, really, and it feels like a part of who I am.
Because, as Annie Dillard aptly put it, "how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
Is there anything you do every day? Is there anything you'd like to make a bigger part of your daily life? Want to take a 2–3 hour walk around Boston with me?