Creating Distance (Reflections From My 4-Month Experiment)

Up until last February, I posted here every single week. No questions. No excuses.

Blizzard? Write anyway.

Challenging circumstance with work? Write anyway.

Not sure what to write about? Write anyway.

And for a long time, that schedule worked for me. There were times where the tight deadline forced me to come up with an idea – and many of those ideas turned out great. The schedule gave me a rhythm to my writing.

Except, at the beginning of this year I found myself with a problem.

My schedule had become a burden. I found myself dreading Mondays and even Sundays simply because that’s when I had to come up with something to write about. Each post became a labor and an obligation.

So I had to change something. I had to try something new.

I gave up my schedule altogether. For a four month experiment, I was free to write however and whenever I wanted.

My logic was that freeing myself from a rigid structure would free me to write more often. Or maybe I’d write slightly less frequently, but post longer and more in-depth stories.

What happened is that I didn’t write anything.

At first, that was fine. In fact, the first couple Tuesdays, I found myself fighting the urge to put a post up. But I knew for the experiment to work, I had to truly give myself permission to write nothing. So I let the weeks go by.

A few weeks turned into a month. Still nothing.

A month turned into two months. Still nothing.

My experiment began to appear more and more of a failure.

Then around the two and a half month mark, something interesting happened. I started thinking about writing again. Just a thought here or there. Just a post idea that I’d jot down on an index card for later. Just a memory every now and then about why I created the site in the first place.

And in that space, in the distance from my work, I rediscovered WHY it mattered to me.

For example, I noticed writing here every week forced me to look at life differently. I had to pay attention to my experience so I could write about it. And that forced me to be more present in life.

I noticed writing helped me solidify lessons I was learning in my own life. Teaching is often the best way to learn.

I noticed writing here gave me a place to test ideas.

Most of all, I found the writing was a small way to give to others. Maybe I could help someone avoid the pitfalls I’d fallen into. Maybe I could bring someone a little more joy, a little more love, and a little more humanity in their life. And I found satisfaction in that.

Sure, I didn’t start posting again right away. I still waited until the end of the four months.

But I have been reflecting. I’ve been consolidating my ideas. I’ve been jotting down notes of things I want to share. And I’ve refocused my overall vision for the site – a vision that I’d forgotten amid the weekly rush of posting.

And now, I’m ready to return with new energy.

But that’s not all…

I learned the power of distance.

Maybe there’s a decision you’re wrestling with, a relationship you can’t seem to improve, or maybe a goal you’re not making progress on. Perhaps there’s something you’re stuck with, and you find yourself running into the same old barriers over and over again.

When you’re in the midst of something, it’s hard to see clearly. It’s hard to see the wider picture. You’re too close. There’s too much emotion.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to create distance – even if it’s just a little bit. Give yourself space to see the situation from another view.

When you do, there are three simple guidelines that I found helpful.

One, set a time limit. This ensures you’re not just running from the problem and putting it off indefinitely. And it also reduces the pressure by not making it a permanent change. It’s only for a little while. You can always go back to how things were.

Two, give yourself permission to truly step away. Otherwise, you’re only pretending.

Three, accept whatever outcome happens. You can never be sure of what you’ll see. It’s possible the distance won’t give you anything.

Though maybe, the space you create will be exactly what you need to move forward.

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PS: I’m returning to a more regular schedule here again: about 2-3 posts a month. We’ll see how that works.

6 thoughts on “Creating Distance (Reflections From My 4-Month Experiment)”

  1. As always Josh , there is always insight in your words. And another solid message-distance. I like it a lot. Taking a break, stepping back, letting it all go, to see what , if anything , reassembles from what was , and comes back. This is a helpful message to sit in the back of my mind as I go about my day. Thanks my friend. Tom

    1. Tom, I find the space and perspective that distance creates to be quite valuable – both in big moments like this experiement, but also in small everyday ones. Often that space opens up a whole new possibility.

  2. Beautiful. This is exactly what I did, Josh.

    Ok, not exactly. I didn’t actually plan a specific 4 month hiatus, I just kind of faded out. Which is way weaker than your perfect 4 month experiment.

    But I experienced some of your similar emotions, and this post really made me think deeply about my path forward.
    I’m now gearing up to writing again. I know it’s a weak substitute to actual writing, but several forces are coming together (this post one of them) to put me back on the writing path. I need to let it ruminate in my mind for a while until I finally get pushed into action.

    Thanks for your example, transparency, and inspiration.

    It’s working.

    1. Rex, related to writing, distance is a great editor. If I’m struggling with a post or piece of copy, I’ll set it aside for a day or two if I can (provided I’m not rushing last minute against a deadline). When I return, I see lots of things I wasn’t able to see before, and the writing is stronger for it.

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