Writing Challenge: Complete an Article While In-Flight from Chicago to San Francisco

"Literature Only"

I decided to give myself a challenge during my flight from Chicago to San Francisco: write an article before landing, and then publish whatever that looks like. Once the flight is over, no going back and making changes. What’s written gets published.

For this writing challenge, I decided to write about what writing means to me. It’s a bit meta, but it matters to me. And I’ll tell you why.

A Tepid Affair

I am extremely self-conscious about my writing. Sometimes to the point that writing can be an uncomfortable, and unsatisfying, endeavor. I overly fret about word choice, flow, grammar (which I continue to misspell to this day as “grammer”), spelling, theme, etc. And then there is the editing, revisions, rewrites, and often I am still not completely happy.

Writing has always been a bit of a challenge for me. When I look back on my relationship with the English language, we’ve had a tepid affair. Spelling, in particular, was always my nemesis, and I think I almost failed it in elementary school (side note, I seriously need to look up who invented spell check, and then write them a thank you card). Furthermore, I’ve always hated, and struggled with, the English sections of standardized tests (I’m looking at you, state tests, SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, etc.!).

Frustrations set aside, I can’t say I’ve ever held a grudge against English for all of its idiosyncrasies and foibles that vex me from time to time. So, do I think of myself as being bad at writing? No. But am I where I want to be? Not yet, but I’m getting there.

A Road Worth Traveling

I have a deep admiration for people that excel at writing. Whether it’s prose, poetry, rap, or haiku, I appreciate you wordsmiths. Fortunately, I am under no illusion that to be a good writer means that it must be an easy process. In fact, I am convinced that great writing is a product of years of hard work, dedication, and personal honing. And that gives me hope.

And so, despite my frustrations with writing, I write anyway. I put myself out there in the written word because I won’t continue to grow if I become a barrier to myself. Writing these articles is, for me, an exercise in self-improvement.

A Challenge in Clarity

One of my biggest challenges is in clarity – I don’t want my words to waste your time. When I write, I am taking an amorphous concept that is often tangled and mangled in my mindscape, and trying to turn it into something beautiful that others can relate to. I like to think I occasionally succeed.

Most of the time, I start with a general idea that I lay out in my first paragraph, and that first paragraph rarely survives. Frequently, it is too dense and I must unpack it into multiple paragraphs. Or I’ll realize I’ve written the end, and have to work backwards to find my start. Even in this article, bits of my first paragraph are scattered throughout. But, only by first getting the words out onto paper am I able to clarify them.

Parting Thoughts

If by some grace you don’t see (too many) imperfections and flaws, then I’ll be happy. And if you do notice them, I’ll (try to) be okay with that as well (no guarantees).

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. I wanted to end on some insightful, or witty comment. But instead, I want to wish you well in your written word journey. If you’re where you want to be, congratulations, and feel free to pass along some advice! And, if you are like me, and still trying to get there, good luck! I’m more than happy to walk the same road with you.

As I write these final words, I must admit that I’m a bit surprised – I was really worried I’d accidentally end with an incomplete sentence. So, I’m going to take a little time to review my words above, and indulge just a few of my insecurities. Then I’ll take a break, let my mind wander for a while, and hopefully take a nap.


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