Reading Challenge 2018!

Reading Challenge 2018

I’ve always wanted to do a reading challenge (like I don’t read enough already). I see so many challenges floating around, and I’ve saved them to look at later, but I’ve never actually gone back and tried to do one. A lot of them had too many items on the checklist; how can I finish 52 books in 52 weeks in addition to my reading list? Some of the items I knew I wouldn’t be interested in and wouldn’t be able to complete.  So, I decided to create my own reading challenge – one I know I can finish! (Yes, that’s probably considered cheating, but let me get back to you with all my excuses.)

There are twelve items in the challenge, which would’ve been ideal to start at the beginning of the year, but since I only launched my blog at the beginning of the year, I’ll keep that in mind for next year! I wasn’t aiming for a specific number of items; I only knew I wanted it to be short enough to be doable, while still going out of my comfort zone. Let me know what you think about the items I chose. What did I omit that you would like to see? Which items are too easy or too difficult?

I’ll be providing updates and documenting my progress with this challenge. Please share your progress as well! I’d love to know what books you are reading for each item. Feel free to copy the image above, save it to Pinterest for later, or subscribe to get the reading challenge in PDF format! Share it with your friends and knock out #2 and 3!

What are you waiting for?  Are you up to the reading challenge?

(I hope we can be friends one day, but if we’re not there yet, please check out these books recommended by this stranger here, here, and here 😄. Also, I’ll be back with my writing challenge tomorrow; in the meantime, catch up on Days 1, 2, 3, and 4!)

Day 3 – Early

early morning breakfast in Paris

I love getting up early.

The quiet calm of dawn, before the rest of the world awakens. The soft glow of the morning sun peeking up from the horizon. I feel so refreshed and productive when I get up early and start my day alone, without the noise and distractions from the rest of the world.

I never get up early.

Day 2 – Motivate

What is my motivation for the next 30 days? What goals do I have for this writing challenge?

Honestly, I didn’t come in with a goal beyond getting through it. Beyond wanting to build a habit of writing directed, focused content every day. I have no problem writing 500 words; I’ve been journalling almost all my life. The struggle lies with following a consistent theme or train of thought. My mind is usually scattered all over the place.

What should I work on? I think the obvious answer, and the priority, should be my blog. In the beginning I was trying to publish twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, but that quickly proved to be a problem. I simply wasn’t able to keep up – I was publishing every other week for my first month. Obviously, that’s not something I wanted for myself, and I am now currently able to publish weekly. But I would like to get to my original plan of twice weekly. So first goal: consistently produce quality content for my blog.

My second goal is to be more vulnerable in my writing. I don’t like being vulnerable period, but it goes double for my writing. Mainly because I value words and language so much. I need to work on being more open and authentic. Not that I’m being fake in anyway, but I tend to hold back a lot. This stems from not being comfortable and confident, which is a whole other problem that writing 500 words a day for 31 days is not going to solve. But I think this is a first step in that direction.

Let’s have one more goal, because why not? I want to communicate better. I stumble over my words a lot. Maybe because my mind thinks faster than my mouth can keep up. Maybe because my working vocabulary is limited. Or maybe because I’m just not as good with words as I think I am. (No to the third one – we are not having those self-limiting beliefs anymore.)

I want to be able to write simply and succinctly, to get my thoughts across without the flowery language I’ve come to depend upon. The first time someone brought that to my attention was my senior year in high school. The English Literature teacher asked me to write my own letter of recommendation for my college applications; she will edit it and sign off if she agreed with the content. When I gave her the letter, she said to me, “There is no content. You write amazingly well, but you’re not saying anything.”

Part of my problem is, I love convoluted sentences. I love sentences that take you on the same journey as a paragraph, or even an entire page. I was making an art form of twisting and turning a sentence, taking it through a seemingly endless labyrinth of adjectives and adverbs, phrases and punctuation. Each sentence was a figure skater going through a spiraling step sequence. The ending effect was the same – dizzying. But I was focused so much on the style that I neglected the substance.

So to recap (for myself more than anything else), my motivation and goals for this challenge are:

  • consistency and quality
  • vulnerability and authenticity
  • simplicity and substance

To paraphrase a very inspiring person, that’s 500 (552, actually) words, see you tomorrow!

Day 1 – Commit

I joined a 31-day writing challenge. Why did I do this?! I already have 50 million other things to do, plus I have this huge problem with commitment. As well as major confidence issues. The first thought I had upon signing up was, I can’t do this.

But 2018 is my year of adventure. Of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Of saying yes to things that sound like a whole lot of awesome but I know will give me massive anxiety. I’ve already committed to a few things; I started this blog, and joined a softball team! So far, my life hasn’t ended yet. Sure, every game day I spend all morning wallowing in my anxiety, complaining to everyone who would listen that I don’t want to go anymore, why did I sign up for a softball team, it’s too cold outside and the park is too far away. But I made the commitment to the team, so I drag myself over there. And I end up having an amazing time. Turns out, I’m not half-bad at this sports thing.

And my blog. Look at me! Look at my blog! I didn’t even know what domain names and hosting were when I decided to do this! I set everything up myself, with a few pointers from a friend and hours upon hours of research online. It was so much fun I set up a website for my sister as well, and I’ve been offering my services to all my friends! (Well, I don’t have that many friends – I define “friend” as: you show up at my door with a body in the trunk, I grab a shovel, no questions asked.)

The truth is, I’m scared. I am so scared. I’ve loved books and reading and words and languages my whole life; being a writer is a secret dream I’ve kept in the deep recesses of my soul that I would’ve taken to the grave. I’m scared to death that I won’t cut it, that I won’t succeed at my greatest wish. If I were to fail at this, life will lose all meaning. All my confidence issues come crashing down on me, suffocating me under a giant, paralyzing heap of insecurity. I can’t do this. I’m not good enough.

Wait, what the hell, Lily?! NO! No more of this nonsense! I’ve been living with this and other insecurities for decades. This year, everything is gonna stop. I’m going to actively force these insecurities out. A while back, I read somewhere that if you are worried about failure, you’re already considering it an option. I cannot fail this year. I am not going to fail this year.

Originally, I was going to put this writing challenge off until March, because I’m particular about starting things at the beginning. But no, I’m not going to wait until March. (Plus it’s Lunar New Year! How about that for a fresh start?) I’m not going to give myself two weeks to talk myself out of it, to decide I can’t do this after all. I am making the commitment right now to write 500 words a day for the next 31 days.

I still have planned content that I’m excited to write about and share, so I might not post daily. I’ll still be writing every day, but I don’t know what the daily prompts are yet, and I want this to complement my planned content rather than usurp it. Currently, I plan to post regularly scheduled content on Mondays (keeping to the schedule), and post my writing challenge entries on Wednesdays and Fridays. If for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, I can change that later. Because life doesn’t always go to plan, as so clearly evidenced by my impulsive joining of a 31-day writing challenge. I don’t do spontaneous well, if you can’t already tell from this post.

That said, I am crazy excited about this challenge! I’ve never tried to write before, not officially (most of my writing has been journalling – did I just make up a word?). Yes, I’m still scared to death that my writing won’t be up to par, but I want to see what I’m made of.

If you’d like to join as well, please check out the original post here. Let’s do this together!