So I started this 40 day writing challenge for myself after listening to an interview with Seth Godin on Marie TV. I have a list of books I want to write, at least 3 that I’ve started, so when Marie asked Seth how he maintains writing a blog post every day, plus all the books he’s written, my ears perked up.
I loved his answer.
“I write like I talk. Everyone has writers block, but no one has talkers block.”, or something like that. Don’t quote me on it.
But it got me thinking; oh yeah, I can talk and talk and talk, but when it comes to writing I’m always afraid I’m going to run out of things to say. My worst fear is that I won’t have enough pages to count as a proper book, and so I convince myself there is no point in doing any writing, because anything I do write will all be wasted; forlorn pages that nobody ever reads because my mind went blank.
So I thought, right, I’m going to try this. See if I can maintain writing daily, just 400 words, for 40 days.
Why 40 days?
Well, last winter, I was planning a trip to the US that turned into a 40 day road trip where I visited some old friends, taught Embody in a few new places, and caught up with family I hadn’t seen in a while. The trip started off because I wanted to go to Richard Rohr’s Universal Christ conference in Albuquerque. His book is a mind-bender if not a heart-opener, and I’ve always wanted to go to Albuquerque (I Love Lucy…), but by the time I went to get a ticket, they had sold out.
By then I had reconnected with a college friend I hadn’t seen in about 20 years and we had tentative plans for me to visit her in Boulder as a stop over on my way. I didn’t want to miss out on that, so I kept those plans, and then figured, hey, while I’m there, want to see what Embody is all about?
And so the road trip was born.
By the time I went to book my flights, the trip was shaping up to be about 5 weeks long. I didn’t mind, and neither did my husband who wasn’t joining me, but I still had this scarcity thing of, ‘I should hurry up and get back to the UK. I can’t stay away too long.’ So when I was looking at flight options, I was trying to spend the least amount of days away.
Mind you, after 3-4 weeks, it really doesn’t matter anymore. Saving a day here or there is irrelevant. It’s not like if I came back a day earlier he’d be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t notice you were gone!’.
But I was so used to trying to avoid the pain of longing for my beloved. I’ve done long distance relationships in the past, and they wreaked havoc on me. And when I was in a same-city relationship, anytime I was away from my partner for even short periods of time, I’d be pining and longing, even if only on the inside. It’s a feeling that sucks and I always tried to avoid. Thankfully I’ve grown out of the pining, but the scarcity imprint is still there.
So last winter, as I was booking the flights, the airline’s website did a tally of how many days the trip was. Mine was shaping up to be 38 days.
At first I felt a tinge of guilt, but then something inside of me sat up straight.
38? That’s almost 40. 40 days and 40 nights. How cool would that be to take a 40 day trip? Just because.
Not that I wanted to be wandering in the desert, or floating on a boat in the rain, but I liked the symbolism; the gesture that this trip was going to be some sort of spiritual pilgrimage.
So instead of my default attempt to make my trip shorter, I breathed into the spaciousness of an extra two days away.
A few days before the 40 days were up, I was doing yoga, or maybe trying to meditate, or more likely journaling, and I had the sense to try out another 40 day cycle when I got back; this time a hiatus from social media.
After the initial 24 hours anxiety that my world would fall apart, it was the easiest thing I ever committed to.
It was then that I decided, I’m going to live in 40 day cycles.
Which I discovered, very closely mirrors the spacing of the equinoxes and solstices, and the midpoints between them, which are commonly known as Groundhog Day, May Day (and sometimes Pentecost depending on when Easter is), and Halloween/Samhain/All Saints Day.
Hmmmm….. my witchy priestess wheels started turning.
Could it be that the 40 day stories of the Bible, that also line up with sacred days in pagan calendars and other non Judeo-Christian cultures, that also line up with the position of the earth relative to the sun, could all be pointing to the same thing?
I’m not even sure what that thing is other than a way of living life that allows for a process to complete, a habit to be formed, and other transformations to take place, that is natural, not forced, and aligned with a universal rhythm we lost touch with as soon as we could count past 10.
All I can say is that I have felt the power of aligning with 40 day cycles over the past 8-9 months. And I am very happy to rely on that power greater than me to help sustain my commitment to writing, because personal willpower alone hasn’t been cutting it thus far.