Issue #23 · March Momentum

A month-long personal writing challenge.

February 29, 2024: Happy Leap Day, friends! While the more spiritual, positive folks out there would probably argue that “every day is a gift”, today specifically feels like an extra-special freebie/bonus/giveaway. It’s only my ninth February 29th here on planet earth — a strange day that feels like a perfect opportunity to deviate from the usual routine.

Now, I’m not talking about going skydiving or impulsively getting my first tattoo — my nomadic, hippie lifestyle aside, I’m actually a pretty boring level-headed person. Today, I instead want to share a special plan that I’ve been cooking up for the month ahead.

But first, a quick backstory:

Six months ago, I wrote a piece about my attempt to embrace the blank canvas. It served as an optimistic reframe of that fact that my 2024 life plans were mostly up in the air, and more importantly, a reminder that being unsure of what’s ahead is not a problem that needs to be solved.

Since then, the picture has naturally come into focus, as I’ve decided to stay put in Puerto Escondido a bit longer than usual, and booked a return trip to Valencia for this summer. Simple and straightforward, except for the fact that due to visa restrictions in both Mexico and Spain, I had a 5 week gap to fill between plans. My best option was to sign-up for a group trip to Antigua, Guatemala with WiFi Tribe, the remote work travel community I’ve traveled with a few times before — the trip dates aligned perfectly, I had a $300 credit to use, and horror stories aside, hiking Volcán Acatenango has been on my bucket list for years. After some process of elimination (and several dozen hours of overthinking it), I decided to give it a go. Payment sent, flights booked, decision made.

Not two weeks later, I was notified that due to lack of interest, the trip was at risk of being canceled — turns out, creating a vibrant sense of community requires more than just four people. After some initial disappointment and a quick glance at Avianca Airlines’ non-existent refund policy, I started thinking about what else I could for those five weeks now that I’d suddenly be in Guatemala solo:

  • I could do a yoga retreat!

  • I could do a social media detox!

  • I could do a dry, booze-free month!

  • I could do language immersion homestay!

Disappointment quickly shifted to enthusiasm as my inner introvert began to wildly daydream. I envisioned a month of solitude in a peaceful garden hacienda overlooking Lake Atitlán, a bottomless supply of delicious local coffee, and an idealistic version of myself who lost 10 pounds, became fluent in Spanish and finished the first draft of her book.

Long story short, enough sign-ups have since trickled in and the original group trip to Antigua is officially back on — and at the same time, that fictional, unrealistic version of Emily who miraculously accomplished all of her personal goals quickly boomeranged back to reality.

It’s easy to blame my super social, start-and-stop lifestyle, but the truth is that even before I began traveling, I’d often fall into this same trap. Step 1: Craft an ambitious, lofty goal in my head while imagining scenarios of remarkable success; Step 2: At the first sign of distraction, allow entire plan to become immediately derailed.

In Kelly Wilde Miller’s recently published Creative Dysregulation: Why Your Creativity Is Chaotic & What to Do About It (a book she wrote in just 5 days!!), she mentioned something that smacked me right in the face: One marker of her coined term ‘creative dysregulation’ — something I’ve been self-diagnosed with — is “constructing elaborate fantasy worlds of creativity in the mind without taking actionable steps to realize these visions.” Ooof, just @ me directly next time, Kelly.

Do I really need to lock myself away from all social contact to follow-through on plans? Am I not disciplined enough to achieve my goals when normal, everyday distractions are present? How many more times am I going to use upcoming travel plans as an excuse for punting on my creative projects? As it turns out, I’m quite literally staring down an empty calendar as we speak. Besides a bit of freelance work and a few voluntary social obligations, there is absolutely nothing stopping me from achieving any of my personal goals right now — no month-long Guatemalan isolation required.

Upon this obvious realization, I seemingly out of habit created a list of various personal challenges that I could dive into this March instead: A month eating vegetarian, publishing something every day, restarting Spanish classes, a new daily morning meditation routine — the list of possibilities was long.

But the thing is, I’m trying to learn from my mistakes and want to avoid making any sweeping, lofty proclamations going forwards. Announcing a plan to do [X] for 31 days straight is a recipe for disaster, regardless of what [X] is. In fact, when I floated the idea of doing a booze-free month to some friends earlier this week, I received the wise feedback that “drinking less forever is way more important than drinking nothing for just one month” (thanks for that one, Christos).

Extrapolating that advice out to my other personal goals, I’ve instead decided to set one simple, clear objective for March:

Write as much as I can, as many days as I can.

I don’t plan to publish a new post every day and come month-end, I still won’t have finished the first draft of my manuscript. There will probably be days that I skip writing entirely, though hopefully not more than one in a row. I have a few loose publishing goals in mind, but nothing so concrete or quantifiable that it will derail my plan as it usually does. Simply put: By taking this less strict, more sustainable approach, my hope is to merely arrive at the finish line this time.

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PS: I’d love to hear what you thought about this post. If this landed in your inbox, just hit reply! Or if you’re reading this online, send me an email at [email protected] and I pinky promise I’ll reply back.

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Here’s a list of every issue if you want to keep reading!

  • Issue #22: Everything in Limbo [Dec 2023]

  • Issue #21: No Hay Luz [Dec 2023]

  • Issue #20: Unclogging the Pipes [Dec 2023]

  • Issue #19: A Love Letter to Charm City [Oct 2023]

  • Issue #18: Plot Twist: I’m Going to Hong Kong [Sep 2023]

  • Issue #17: To All of the Places I Will Never Visit [Sep 2023]

  • Issue #16: Embracing the Blank Canvas [Sep 2023]

  • Issue #15: In Pursuit of an Endless Summer [Aug 2023]

  • Issue #14: Follow Me to Weird Places [Jul 2023]

  • Issue #13: Self-Inflicted Social Overload [Jul 2023]

  • Issue #12: Schlepping It 🎒 [Jun 2023]

  • Issue #11: Finding My “Next Thing” [Jun 2023]

  • Issue #10: Book the Damn Flight and Just Go [May 2023]

  • Issue #9: Choosing Your Own Life Adventure [May 2023]

  • Issue #8: Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat [May 2023]

  • Issue #7: My First Month of Indie Making: An Honest Review [Feb 2023]

  • Issue #6: Ten Years of Making Money on the Internet [Jan 2023]

  • Issue #5: The Modern-Day Mission Trip [Dec 2022]

  • Issue #4: Ready, FIRE!, Aim [Nov 2022]

  • Issue #3: A New City Every Month: An Experiment in Change [Aug 2022]

  • Issue #2: Defining My North Star as a Nomad [Dec 2021]

  • Issue #1: One Year on the Road: Looking Back [Oct 2021]