500-Word Challenge: The Final Day–A ‘Conversation’ with Jon Acuff

finish lance-grandahl-435209

A Conversation with Jon Acuff

Today’s Challenge Prompt from Jeff Goins is about finishing this 15,500 word adventure. More than likely more than that.

And so I chose to bring in a guy who is currently on the forefront of finishing, Jon Acuff, who published Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.

I bought the book and it is the most recent one I’ve, uh, finished.

A worthwhile investment, I have to say.

Moving on…I selected some quotes—in italics—from the book [thank you, Goodreads] and will apply them to my 500-Word Challenge experience.

Here goes…

[By the way, I’m not counting the quotes as words toward my total. That would be flat-out cheating, right?]

“The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you’ll accomplish your goals.”

Jon, you did a nice job picking apart perfection and it helped me rip through my challenges without listening too intently for ‘the voices’. One hundred word bursts were often the norm and that felt good. What else felt good? Clicking ‘post’, even though I knew the writing wasn’t a third draft product. I will admit there were times when I spent a little too much time editing, and even adding an image to spice things up, but all in all, it was nice to have that feeling of ‘my work here is done’.

“But more than just analysis, perfectionism offers us two distinct distractions: Hiding places and Noble obstacles A hiding place is an activity you focus on instead of your goal. A noble obstacle is a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward a finish. Both are toxic to your ability to finish.”

These two concepts tagged along throughout the month. Much of the writing certainly didn’t address many of my main goals, such as developing an online course as well as completing stories in a series I’m working on. And while I benefited considerably from the month, I wondered if I leaped into this as yet another side trip, yet another ‘hiding place’. I think those terms are essentially other words for ‘rationalizations’ and I could easily rationalize my participation—building consistency, rising above perfection, exploring new directions and voices, even. But at the end of this month, what will I have to show for it? A corollary to your chapter on hiding places and noble objectives—the more we delve into those side trips, the more of a burden we face…not only in playing catch-up with the projects we really want to finish, but in somehow justifying our decisions to veer off-course. And we not only at times have to justify it to ourselves, but we might also have some stakeholders we might have to convince. No easy feat.

The bigger rule was “For something to count, it has to be difficult.” A lot of high performers carry that sort of secret rule along with them. If an exercise is enjoyable and you have fun doing it, it must not count.

Bravo to me for not falling prey to this secret rule. The 500-Word Challenge was rarely a grind. And when it felt that way, it was more a product of stupid annoying technology. It was fun to come up with new directions and new formats for the daily challenges. I enjoyed the Q and A from imaginary readers and will continue to play with that. For the last year, I’ve for the most part played it straight in my blog and this challenge often enabled me to cut loose a bit. Uh-oh, confession time. I strayed from this challenge to ensure I quoted you correctly: Make It Fun If You Want It Done. And in the process, I ran across your Finish workbook. That baby is printing out as I’m completing this sentence.

All you have to do is win more today than you did yesterday and repeat the whole thing tomorrow.”

Okay, I’ve passed my 500-word goal already, but I’ll close by addressing this quote. Love it. And the challenge absolutely cemented this philosophy. So what’s next? Staying the course set by this final quote and building a focus on fun, halving my daily goals, keeping an eye on data [even if it’s words per day…or productive habits practiced], and dodging the ever-present hiding places and noble objectives.

Image courtesy of Lance Grandahl/Unsplash

500-Word Challenge: Six mini-lessons

never a failure always a lesson
a. When I finished the longer piece, I gave myself five minutes to do a light edit. Yes! Finished with 30 seconds to spare! 
b. During my 30-minute exerbike sessions, inspiration generally kicks in after ten minutes of pedaling and reading. At that point, I’m generally reaching for a pen and notebook and the ideas really do flow.
c. I spend too much time looking for/inserting an image to accompany my writing.
d. In spite of ‘c’, I do appreciate Pixabay and Unsplash.
e. YouTube has lots of good 90-120 minute videos of instrumental music.
f. My eclectic’s journal has consistently launched me into rapid word surges.

500-Word Challenge: Day 29–Letter to Ideal ‘Make Side Hustling Stick’ Customer

Readers: I just wanted to document my 29th of 31 days of the 500 Word Challenge. [685 words]


Greetings ideal customer

Welcome to:

Make Side Hustling Stick

Strategies to Learn–Really Learn!–the Best of ‘Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days’

We will explore the book Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days,  written by Chris Guillebeau.

Here are a checklist of what will best serve you during this course.

A willingness to revisit what fuels your enthusiasm to take this course. Maybe it’s as simple as your desire to create a side hustle, an extra income source that can be both fun and profitable. You’ll no doubt be learning from the master, who has also written The $100 Startup and Born For This and The Happiness of Pursuit and The Art of Non-Conformity.

Maybe you want to rise above the negative experiences from your previous years in school. You might want to convince yourself that you’re learning a lifelong learner and you want to put it to use for good.

And then there’s the desire to reinvent yourself–perhaps that has emerged lately.

You might want to be doing something for yourself–take on a project that challenges you and you alone.

You might also be thinking that the side hustle component of the course will help others. Bravo.

How about good ol’ self-improvement?

Or the need to address the question, ‘If not now, when?’. You know, that voice that whispers that your time on this earth is finite.

[By the way, just listing these possible reasons is a helpful reassessment exercise for me.]

Believe me, these are all valid reasons. Just latch on to the ones the keep you moving forward in this course.

Okay, more on your supply list.

— Imagination. The ability to visualize. No, not necessarily the ‘woo-woo’ level of visualization, but at least enough to see yourself taking forward steps, no matter how large or small. The key is forward.

— Still on the imagination thread, be open to talking to yourself on paper. after all, if you want to learn you need to talk it through.

— A pioneering spirit, a readiness to try out new ideas, new strategies.

— Enough of a trust in me and this course that you will benefit not just from covering the content of the book, but from the ‘make it stick’ strategies that you can rely on for later non-fiction and how-to books.

— A smartphone would be really helpful for its camera and its connectivity. Trust me on this.

— An ability to reframe the act of reading as you know it now. There will be times you will be writing [don’t worry, the only real audience during this course is you. I’ll put my red pens away, honest!]. Other times, I’ll invite/encourage you to sketch and make diagrams to help you flesh out your learning.

— A sketching tablet or digital version of a tablet.

— A decision to see yourself as ‘the boss’ of your book. That means, if you run into chapters that are not serving you, skip them. Give them enough of a glance to remember their basic message. Beyond that, move on. Not every chapter keeps every reader riveted and on-target. Realize that you are actually ‘hiring’ this book [and this course] to provide you with lasting benefits.

— The same goes for this course: If you encounter a module that doesn’t serve you, skip it, but even better, drop me a quick note telling me why that is the case. Let’s just assume that if you’re not being served, then that’s probably true of others.

— A readiness to thrash the book with dog ears and sticky notes and bright yellow highlights–whatever you think will be most valuable for you.

— An openness to sharing at least one success or suggestion during the course, though I’m hoping you’ll be more involved than that.

— So, I hope this list hasn’t scared you away. Of course, it might feel like a heavy investment, but it’s an investment in yourself, and I’m willing to bet that if you can even muster half of these list items, you will be making marked progress in both side hustling and in developing your own personalized learning strategies.

Let’s get going. I’m looking forward to the adventure.


Today’s theme: Disappointment


thumbs down disappointment

I’m disappointed that I haven’t yet finished the 500-Word Challenge because I promised myself a nice little reward once I post on January 31. Previous tolerant [Sympathetic? Long-suffering? Now homicidal?] readers of some of my –happy place alert!–Pulitzer-winning posts will probably guess what the reward is–something techy.

Looking through the newspaper, I am disappointed that no one has offered me a gold toilet. Then again I’d probably use it as a planter box–planter bowl, actually.

I’m disappointed that I was not invited to play in the NBA All-Star Game.

Then again I would probably stop play and start haranguing about too many fouls allowed, too many timeouts, too much showboating, too much ‘look at me’, too many mad-dog staredowns, too much chest-pounding… well there you go, you get the picture. In front of all those adoring fans occasionally looking up from their phones, it would not be pretty.

I’m disappointed that Canada has not let me into its psychic airspace. Let me explain: Sometimes, things here in the US get a little hinky. I’m thinking those same annoying items will at least be relegated to page 2 in Canada. [A Canadian friend has shot down that scenario, but I’m keeping the dream alive.]

I picture myself camped out in any one of the many Victoria, B.C. shops where they take their coffee and baked goods seriously and those nice, nice people are too polite to suggest that my sleeping bag and tent are infringing on the comfort of other patrons.

See? That psychic teleportation thing is working already…

Anyway, I applied at the psychic border crossing and was refused. They said something about their being overrun with similar requests. I even asked if someone could psychically sponsor me and, with downcast eyes, a shake of the head, and an index finger on speed-dial, they apologized that they can’t even issue day-passes.

I’m disappointed that I don’t have a DVR that permanently vaporizes mention of murderous heads of state,  as well as listings of specific TV shows, celebrities, non-celebrities, and media hacks.

I’m disappointed that there isn’t a truly ‘smart’ TV that rubs out all bottom-of-screen crawls spewing repeatedly ‘breaking news’ and spring training baseball scores [all preseason game results, actually]. Yes, yes, I know, most TVs allow you to zoom and thus block out the crawls, but that ain’t the same. I want a TV that essentially gives me control of the networks. [Yep, drifting into Dr. Evil territory. My apologies to non-viewers of Austin Powers–Not a fanboy, but the character seemed to fit.]

While we’re on the topic of Austins…

I’m disappointed that I’m not as productive as Austin Kleon, though every time I open one of his books [My favorite is Show Your Work], I’m hit with a surge of inspiration.

I’m disappointed there isn’t more January sun where I live–to the point that I actually watch golf on TV just so I can see non-gray skies and that big bright thing that helps make the skies non-gray.

I’m disappointed that I cheated a bit on this post–I used Google Docs voice typing for the first 100 words.

Plea for understanding: My hands were full [i.e. balancing coffee and raisin toast from The Bread Board in Falls City, OR–yes, yes, shameless promotion. Only benefit? A few extra words toward challenge-completion…talk about shameless.

On the upside, I’ve reacged 500 words and have risen above my  disappointment to keep the auto-keyboarded words anyway.

Such courage and fortitude in the face of potential virulent backlash.

Keep livin’ the dream…

Posting without serious editing…

Not a pretty thing.

editing mistakes

Throughout this January 500-Word Challengee’re we’ve been encouraged to publish without minndful editing, which I think is just fine because, in my eyes, the goals are to rise above fear and resistance and, in the process, build our ‘blogging muscles’.

However, at 1:00 on Thursday morning, I knew when I scheduled the post, it would be a regrettable result.

So, thank you to the folks who did dare to read my first draft intro pages for my Eclectic’s Journal. [Here’s a sanity tip: Along the lines of ‘don’t look directly at the sun’, ditto with an unedited post from me.]

For those more attentive to their posts than I’ve been, Sue Anne Dunlevie offers these five steps to take before you publish.

Update on my 31-day, 500-Word Challenge.


Taking stock…


frantic reflection

So today is a good day to revisit some lessons about the writing life that I have learned recently.

You might be asking, ‘What makes today a good day for this?”

Answer: I can’t come up with any other topic.

And so…the lessons.

  1. I prefer short pieces. Why? Because it forces me to make every word count? To challenge myself to condense profound thoughts into neat little packages of insight? Uhhh, no. That would require sweat and heavy investment of ego and time away from watching Hallmark movies. The real reasons? One, the less I write, the less I have to edit. Two, I often get distracted during–you know, the NFL just isn’t the same since Joe Montana and Steve Young left the 49ers–the writing process.
  2. I prefer cooking to writing. Cases in point: Quick Bread. Coffee Cake. Stovetop Chocolate Cake. Chile Verde. Apple Cake. Blueberry Muffins.  Biscuits.  Well, those and a host of other reasons. When I’m done cooking, I have something concrete [please reserve comments on the appearance of my baking ventures.]. When I express myself with text, I run the risk of folks thinking I’m a whack job. But when I express myself in the kitchen, I connect with most folks through a shared experiences–whether with the preparation or with the consumption. When I cook, I have a genuine audience–family members, neighbors, even myself. And then there is the comfort elicited by the aromas that greet you at the front door, the warmth of the cake straight from the oven. I’m still waiting for my words to envelop me in the same way. It doesn’t mean I’ll be putting down my pen, of course. But I’m realistic about what I like.
  3. I prefer finding images for my posts to writing them. Yeah, that sounds pretty weak, but it’s just more fun. And scanning those images has often generated plenty of material for my ‘stories I’d love to write but will never get around to’ file. I mean, how can you not have stories swirling in your head after a quick cruise through gratisography.com? I also advocate image searches as a strategy in my free prewriting course.
  4. The people whose blogs I read are better writers than I am. They explore topics more deeply. They weave words together seamlessly. They’re informative. They have a clear point of view.
  5. I dislike those people intensely. *
  6. I am a small, small person.
  7. There are so many resources available to make me a better writer and content creator.
  8. People don’t appreciate how much energy and concentration it takes to avoid, ignore, or downplay/disregard said resources. I mean, really, all these people with so much to share. There has to be some kind of angle, don’t you think? **
  9. When I spend an hour whether I should use ‘in anger’ vs. ‘angrily’, I’m pretty certain I need to walk away from the computer, writing room, house, city, state, and probably country.  [Reason one for always carrying my passport with me.]
  10. I’m still convinced a new MacBook will vault me into literary stardom.
    10a. My wife disagrees and thinks I should get back to work.

* Of course, I don’t. In fact, because of the warmth and sincerity of their work, they are quite likable.

** Nope, neither do I.

Procrastination takes over…

dog as life coach mailing label

dog lives for the day mailing labels

Seems I’m getting a little text-fatigued lately.

At least that’s my piddly excuse for engaging in a short detour into the world of semi-useful graphics.

I figured creating these mailing labels for a colleague’s upcoming birthday was just the ticket. Jon Acuff, in his book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, which, no, I still haven’t finished, would label this little departure from more important projects, a ‘noble objective’.

[It just hit me…this post isn’t exactly a solid endorsement for his book, is it?]

Then again, it may just be a plaintive cry for help from someone who just can’t [or doesn’t want to] stay focused, because this book really is the real deal. It’s like he knows me. [I take that back. If he really knew me, he’d probably shake his head and see me as a lost cause.] Whatever the case, I like the book and I am learning, if not immediately applying, a lot.