This Isn’t Real

This is art.

The thing about creative pursuits is, if you never tell anyone about them, you can never be judged and found wanting. The flip side is, you can never be appreciated, validated, or otherwise judged and found exceptional. As someone fueled almost exclusively by external approval, the choice to share myself is more of a compulsion, so I just have to figure out how to deal with my fear of failure. My issue now is that I’ve told people about this project, and given them this domain name, and Guy has read my posts, and that all makes this whole thing real, which I’ve been trying to avoid. But here we are.

You can read more in depth about my reasoning behind 21 x 31, but in brief, my goal is to tackle 21 challenges in 31 days, with a final challenge of completing 50,000+ words for NaNoWriMo. The number of challenges was arbitrary (riffing off the 21-day challenge idea) but I have clear underlying intentions, if not specific goals. Mainly, I want to disrupt my current life patterns and find new ones that contribute to my overall health and happiness. There are a lot of things I say I want to do, but I don’t take many steps toward any of them, and that is what this project will change, if only by sheer force.

When I don’t know where to start, I make a list.

Lists are great. I make them for everything: grocery shopping, household chores, packing, reminders and to-dos. When I go through stacks of old papers, lists make up an entire category unto themselves. Pinterest, in one way, is a big visual list. I can be casual about it, pin a few things up without careful consideration, or I can be strategic and selective, thoroughly review links for quality before pinning. This seemed the natural place to begin my brainstorming about 21 x 31.

The first things that came up when I search for “challenges” were primarily food and fitness challenges. I added a few of these, and then started searching for specific things—writing, photography, meditation—around which to focus. What I’ve got going right now is a pretty good jumping off point:

Such color! Very wow. See the whole thing here.

My preliminary challenge is to decide what challenges I actually want to take on, because while a full splits might be a nice idea, it’s not exactly at the very top of my list. Also, while I like the idea of having a specific thing to accomplish each day (take a photo of a piece of fruit, write about a character who unexpectedly comes into money, do 30 crunches and 15 pushups), this doesn’t directly support my goal of establishing new patterns, because I am not going to do those specific things going forward. Instead, I need to challenge myself to create spacetime for the things I wish to prioritize.

After extracting some initial inspiration from Pinterest, I started a spreadsheet to add some detail and organization to my brainstorming process. As they stand today, the challenges I’m devising for myself fall into six categories:

  • Writing (these are the bulk of the challenges so far, and mostly focus on getting me to write as a routine)
  • Music (playing the electric bass, writing a song, recording something with Guy, or otherwise making music)
  • Creativity (dance, photography, sewing, any other artistic expression that isn’t music or writing)
  • Reading (not that I don’t read now, but I have a big stack of things I want to get through, and I need to be more habitual about it)
  • Lifestyle (I initially thought of this as “Wellness” but then I decided all of the above contribute to my overall wellness, so this category includes healthy cooking, regular physical movement, and general organization strategies)
  • Acts of Service (in addition to serving myself, I want to find ways to support my greater community, because it’s too easy to remain disconnected)

Just glancing over those bullet points makes me feel happier inside, knowing that, at least for a short time, my days will be organized around the things that bring me deep satisfaction. If I can turn this into a permanent habit, maybe I can revitalize my whole life!

I’ll be using the next few weeks to fine-tune my list, and to develop a plan of attack. If you’re reading this, is there any challenge you’ve done that made an impact on your life? Any tips or recommendations for me?


  1. Ladafi says:

    In 2018 I challenged myself to “read” more, i.e., listen to more audiobooks. I had been reading about 10-15 books a year, but I used to read WAY more until high school, when I read less and less as my workload grew. So in 2018 I said “I’m going to use Goodreads to track what I read, and ask for suggestions, and listen to more books!” And I also had already partnered exercising with listening to books, but I pushed myself to do it more. I’d want to read more, so I’d go out on an hour long walk. I often like long walks that aren’t necessarily about how far I can go or how fast I can do something, but just how long I’m out there. How much book I can finish. I’d find myself lost in 3 hours of book (and walking) and realize my partner had texted me three times to make sure I hadn’t been abducted… whoops.

    Anyway, I’m interested to see what challenges you pick, and hope that maybe in there getting lost in a walk or listening to an audiobook can find its way in. Or maybe an attempt at Goodreads. Or reaching out to ask for recommendations. If you need any, I have a lot. 🙂

    1. Keep Right says:

      I started a Goodreads account (I think we are friends there?) but I always forget about it. I probably should add that to my fiction reading challenge (I’ll add Maid to my list now, since I am starting it today!) I like audiobooks but I need to get my library account up and going so I can get them for free instead of paying a bazillion dollars! (That’s on my list for today, as soon as our car windshield replacement happens.) My goal right now is to get through the mountain of physical books that have accumulated over time, so I can either give them away or find them a permanent home (our bookshelves are a little ridiculous!)

      You may have already gotten there, but I wrote about my challenges in another post. It’s quite a long post, so buckle up!

  2. Ladafi says:

    I’ve been slowly reading them in order that you wrote them throughout my workday when I need a break! So I’ll get there soon. If you need any assistance with the library or setting up Libby or anything else, I’m happy to help.

    Also, your blog creepily pulled up my photo from the dredges of who knows where (maybe Google+??). How do I change it?

    1. Keep Right says:

      Great question. I think it’s your….Gravatar?

Comments are closed.