30 Life Lessons from Writing (Almost) 30 Days in a Row

by Alli Polin on April 12, 2016

life lessons from writing

Last month, I dared myself to do something I thought was impossible, to write for 30 days in a row. In the past, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, so I knew that 30 days of writing wasn’t actually the challenge – it was hitting publish on my blog and other blogging platforms like Medium. Pushing my limits and putting aside my inner perfectionist, I started. After all, starting is often the hardest part.

Week One: Writing – 7 days, Publishing – 5 days
Week Two: Writing – 7 days, Publishing – 5 days
Week Three: Writing – 5 days, Publishing – 4 days
Week Four: Writing – 4 days, Publishing – 4 days
Week Five: (only two days to hit 30!) Writing – 1, Publishing – 1

If you made it through 2nd grade, it’s clear that I was successful for 24 days of my 30 day writing dare. Six days short.

I have all kinds of good excuses, like I went on vacation. However, who cares, ya know?

The great news is that I published 19 times in 30 days. Didn’t hit my writing goal but still have a lot to celebrate because I took on a dare, not a new job.

There isn’t a rulebook for the anatomy of a dare. There is no requirement that you do it one particular way. The heart of a dare is the stretch outside of your comfort zone into new, unexplored territory.

Google Dictionary tells us:


  1. a challenge, especially to prove courage.


Through my dare, I learned a number of life lessons from writing. Whether you’re a blogger or aspiring novelist, I hope that many of these will resonate with you too.

30 Life Lessons from Writing (Almost) 30 Consecutive Days – and Hitting Publish!

  1. You don’t know that you can’t do something (or can) until you try to do it.
  2. The milestones you reach along the way to your goal matter and are worthy of celebration.
  3. You learn as much about yourself from what you do accomplish as from what you choose not to do. Make the time to reflect either way.
  4. Things get easier the more you do them.
  5. Not every piece will be perfect or your favorite but if there’s a nugget in there worth sharing – share it.
  6. Goals are not something you do to prove something to other people. Do it for you.
  7. Small changes ripple to create bigger changes. (I’m going to be writing more).
  8. It’s okay to fall short and not give up. Change your timeline, don’t throw in the towel.
  9. Hold yourself accountable to your commitment but don’t beat yourself up when you mess up, get back on it tomorrow.
  10. Routines are not the enemy to trying new things. The key is to bring the newness into your routine until it becomes a habit.
  11. When you’re the most stretched by a challenge is also when you get the most creative.
  12. Without an element of playfulness, any challenge or job is just work. You (and I) deserve more.
  13. Write because you have something to say but don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Sit down and start writing.
  14. Outlines help but going off plan can be just the exciting jolt you need.
  15. People won’t notice everything you do, but that doesn’t make it matter less.
  16. Make yourself proud of your effort and output. It’s not worth putting out schlock.
  17. Once you’ve reached your goal, you can stop or keep the momentum going. Up to you.
  18. Engage, engage, engage. It’s one thing to say I write for myself and another to engage with your readers. Writing is for reading – it’s not all about you.
  19. Avoid getting caught up in your self-judgements.
  20. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
  21. Falling short of a goal is not the end of the world. When all you can see is the gap, and not how far you’ve come, that’s the problem.
  22. Let yourself shine through in all that you do. I’ve never had more people hone in on a single word in my writing than sucktastic. I say it; it’s me.
  23. Make your dare a priority. Block the time to write (or do what it is you want to do – exercise etc.). Don’t assume that the time will magically appear in your day.
  24. If you want to get unstuck, do something different – not only a small, easy tweak to your current plan. Push yourself.
  25. Share your goals! When you tell people what you’re doing, they can cheer you on, support you and be your fan as you cross your finish line.
  26. Set a goal that stretches you but will not break you. If your goal strikes too much fear in your heart, you’ll stop before you start. (I’m glad I went for 30 days and didn’t start with 365)
  27. Make a choice and stop wishing. Don’t be one of those people who says, “I always wanted to…” Do it.

When was the last time you felt the stretch? The discomfort zone is huge and new territory. Ready to explore?

I dare you.

If you’re feeling stuck and in a rut, it’s likely time for a change. Check out my five-week eCourse: Get Unstuck and Choose to Move for inspiration and hands-on activities to discover your next step.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

John Thurlbeck April 12, 2016 at 6:35 am

Hi Alli

Loved the post, especially your honesty!
I’ve just missed a goal I set myself for this year. I’d planned to launch my new website www,johnthurlbeck.com on 11 April 2016. I’m not beating myself up about it. I know why I missed the deadline and I’m going to reset my deadline. In knowing why I missed the deadline many of your 30 lessons resonated.
On an even more positive note, I spent three weeks in Bali and only missed my weekly blog posting deadlines twice – once it was a day later, no big deal, and yesterday I missed it completely. Then again I’d just returned the day before from three weeks vacation and my day was just crazy.
My takeaway from all of this is that goals are very helpful for keeping focused and ensuring you achieve stuff., However, they are not fixed in concrete. As long as you reflect on why/how you missed a goal and can identify ways to fix or improve the situation, then carry on.
Have a brilliant week!
John 🙂


Alli Polin April 12, 2016 at 7:03 am


I hope that Bali was amazing! Three weeks there sounds like a dream.

A few years ago missing a blog deadline was unheard of for me… and then we went to Thailand. It was freeing to allow myself to be present where I was and not staring at my computer screen.

Love the way you put it too – our goals keep us focused but when they’re set in concrete then we’re stuck yet again.

Look forward to the launch of JohnThurlbeck.com!




Chery Gegelman April 12, 2016 at 7:00 am

Very cool challenge Alli!

I love the variety of lessons that came from pursuing 1 goal!

And I’m with both you and John that part of pursuing the goal is pushing through the comfort zone, and being consistent. And part of it is learning when to give yourself grace to pause a bit and go at it again the next day.


Alli Polin April 12, 2016 at 7:06 am

Beautiful, Chery – give yourself grace. Without that, all’s lost. We’re humans, not robots. Messing up, falling down and getting back up are part of the territory.




Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ April 12, 2016 at 8:03 am

Hi Alli,
Your list posts, including this one, create a spirit and momentum that many other list posts do not.

This one touches so many truths. My favorite is “goals change as you change.” So many people misinterpret a change of direction as lack of direction. It isn’t!.

In fact, I feel a blog post coming. You have inspired me once again!
Thanks 🙂


Alli Polin April 13, 2016 at 6:01 am

Thanks so much, Kate! Means a lot. That’s one that stood out to me too, by the way. Look forward to your take.




Terri Klass April 12, 2016 at 9:16 am

Way to go Alli! You did great with you 30 day writing challenge!

Writing can be overwhelming especially thinking about how others will look at our words and ideas. Your point about “just start writing” really spoke to me. I do find that by taking action and getting the words down on paper helps my writing evolve. Thinking ahead about a big idea doesn’t inspire me. In fact, I often feel so good when the words just come out with no definite direction until the end. That’s my “aha” moment”.

Thanks Alli for your honesty and insights into making a leap! Will definitely share!


Alli Polin April 13, 2016 at 5:59 am

When I start writing, I usually find my flow too. When I wait for the big idea to be 100% clear before typing a word? Let’s just say not much is going to get done.

Love the insight into your writing process!



John Bennett April 12, 2016 at 11:01 am

Great post as usual. I particularly smiled when I read #15: “Write because you have something to say but don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Sit down and start writing.” When I started my blog (and it’s been pretty quite on my part – as we deal with so many decisions to be made as our new home construction gets going…), I worried about ‘having something to say’ / ‘inspiration to strike.’ To address this I started a folder in my email (have oh, so many – shows my age I guess but each folder is treasure chest of material on topics or for individuals, such as Alli Polin) for “Considerations.” Lots of possible posts that may or may not lead to publishing on the blog!!!

Now all I need to do is dare myself to work to post one a week, accept the dare and go from there.

I’ve thought about a different cataloging option – but why change something that works for me??? As long as I back up regularly and assess how it’s working regularly…


Alli Polin April 13, 2016 at 5:58 am

John! I can’t wait to read your blog! I hope that you’ll dare yourself to make the time to start it up again NOW. I’ve been designing some new sites and tweaking and messing around telling myself that they’re not ready for primetime. The great thing is once we start, we can adjust too.

PS. I have a file similar to yours!

Thanks, John, for your connection!


Cynthia Bazin April 13, 2016 at 8:47 am

LOVE this Alli!!!!!!! I am so impressed with what you did!!! Excellent!!!!


Alli Polin April 13, 2016 at 9:05 am

Thanks! Pushing limits makes ’em disappear 🙂

Appreciate your support and connection, Cindy!


Terri Deuel April 14, 2016 at 7:11 am

Hi Alli,

Thanks for sharing. Loved this blog – In fact, I have read it 3 times. You have inspired me to step outside my comfort zone with writing. I am taking a big gulp as I establish a writing goal to help me move beyond the fear.



Alli Polin April 14, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Terri –

Thanks so much for reading and your comment. It was definitely a stretch for me. Would love to hear about your writing goal. Now that this is done, I’m going to set another. I’m picking between a few but instead of thinking it over for the next month, by Monday I’ll know – and that scares the heck out of me – which is awesome.

Hope that we can inspire each other to keep going.

All the best ~



LaRae Quy April 14, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Love the way you took the bull by the horns and dared yourself to do something that would challenge you!

We all need to push ourselves a bit more…stress ourselves both physically and mentally to move to the next step! The key is knowing when the stress is beneficial and when it becomes detrimental. Congrats and I’m taking notes for myself on how to spend more time writing…which is what I truly LOVE to do!


Alli Polin April 14, 2016 at 10:48 pm

I’m with you. I love writing yet somehow my days fill and my brain is still full of ideas that never made it to the page. Making it a top priority for me was a game changer – not for my business per se but for me, now better understanding what’s possible.

Appreciate the reminder on stretching and not to the point we break. Comes up in my work (and life) over and over.

Thanks, LaRae!


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