June 27, 2011

challenging yourself

This weekend, I broke out the plastic drop cloths, paint trays, and über-wide scotch tape, and I tackled the daunting task of painting the two unpainted bedrooms in our house. I went in knowing what color I wanted, and I went at it.

After painting the rest of the house over the course of the past year, I’ve gotten rather good at it. I have a good system. Tape. Lay plastic. Pour paint. Face wall. Paint edges. Paint wall, from left to right. Repeat. I can knock out a coat of paint in about an hour, and that’s in a 12x14 bedroom.


The guest bedroom, that will soon be my sister’s for the next two years, is now a desaturated purple (Grape Crème, Behr), and it looks lovely. My husband even likes it. Our bedroom is now a neutral gray (Cathedral Gray, Behr), so that I can swap out decorations as I see fit. The rooms look totally new, a thousand times better than the stark white that they’ve been since we’ve moved in.

When I decided to paint both bedrooms this past weekend, my husband was skeptical. He didn’t think I could do it. In my mind, it was do-or-die time. This was the first free weekend we have had in months, and it’s likely to be the last free weekend for another long while. I knew that if I didn’t get the rooms painted now, I wouldn’t have them painted until this fall, at the very earliest. I set out to do one bedroom Saturday, and the other on Sunday.

And you know what? I did. I painted those rooms like the world depended on it. I accomplished my goal. Yes, my fingers and toes feel broken. I’m bruised, paint-spattered, and exhausted. But, I finished.

There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a project. Whether it’s painting a bedroom, crafting an art piece for the living room, vacuuming, organizing the office, or writing a thousand words a day on your manuscript, accomplishment feels good. The more challenging, the better.

When I make goals, real goals, I meet them. I work hard to challenge myself, to be better than I was before. I’ve never painted two rooms in a weekend. I have planned to, but by the time I finished taping, I was too tired. Or by the time I finished the first coat, I was too tired, or too lazy, or too hungry, or whatever excuse I could come up with.

I think I’ve become a bit lazy, or tired, or whatever when it comes to my writing. Yes, a thousand words a day is a respectable goal, just as painting a bedroom in a weekend is a respectable goal. But I know I can do better. Just last week, I wrote three-thousand words in one day. I know that I can do it again. So why don’t I?

The biggest reason: I don’t like failing. If I had only finished the first bedroom this weekend, I would have felt like a failure. If I made my daily write goal two-thousand words and only wrote one-thousand, I would feel like a failure. But, you can’t win the race if you don’t run (or whatever that saying is).

So from here on, I’m going to challenge myself to write more. I’ll start small. I’ll increase my daily goal by five-hundred words. I can do that. And then when I’m comfortable doing fifteen-hundred words a day, I can bump up to two-thousand. And so on so forth.

Just like I’ve learned to streamline my painting process from room to room, I can learn to streamline my writing process. I can learn to be more productive. I can learn to be more efficient. It’s all about challenging the status quo.

How do you challenge yourself day to day? If you don’t have any challenges in your life or your work, how do you think you could implement them?


  1. I love a good challenge, but I also have given myself a low daily writing expectation. I think it's because I know there will be some days when I'll be lucky to make time to write out an email, with no hope of actually opening my WIP. If I can have a lower, but regular challenge, then, the impossible days don't hit me so hard because it will be fairly simple to double up. Thanks for the post. Your rooms sound lovely!

  2. Congrats on the painting...and the writing! One thing I've always used to challenge myself is external deadlines, even if self-imposed, like contests, submissions, etc. They keep me energized and going.

  3. The new colors sound gorgeous! I wanna paint now...I love to-do lists. I make one every day at work. It's so satisfying to cross things off the list. I should make more at home--because focus is half the difficulty in challenging myself!