I Attempted To Write A Short Story Everyday For Thirty Days—And This Is What The Experience Taught Me

Saturn Versus Jupiter

In 2020, my Saturn Return began, as did my journey cultivating discipline.

For those unfamiliar with Astrology, a Saturn Return occurs when Saturn cycles back into—or ‘returns’ to—the sign it was in on the day you were born. It takes Saturn roughly twenty-nine and a half years to transition through all twelve signs of the zodiac, so most Earthlings will experience two, maybe three, Saturn Returns in their lifetime.

Now, because Saturn rules discipline, a Saturn Return is typically a time of cultivating discipline. Specifically, a first Saturn Return is a time during which one is invited to make the journey from youth to adulthood, into true adulthood.

Speaking for myself, there are many ways in which my first Saturn Return—which only ended this past Spring—shaped me. But the one particular way Saturn influenced me that applies to this essay is how Saturn taught me to take a disciplined approach to my writing…

Before my Saturn Return, I considered myself a ‘serious artist’, which, at the time, I defined as ‘someone pursuing a career in their creative passions’. And in some ways, I did live up to this idea of who I was. But in other ways, I was still approaching my art with the mindset of a hobbyist.

When Saturn, for the first time since 1993, returned to Aquarius, Life invited me to cultivate discipline, in all ways, but perhaps most importantly, with my creativity. Finally, I was honest with myself about how I had been pursuing my writing with a hobbyist’s mindset—with an amateur’s mindset—and I began cultivating the mindset of the Master.

I began writing (almost) everyday, even if I did not feel like it. I had internalized the idea that talent is a myth, and I, finally, understood that the only real difference between George R.R. Martin and myself is the amount of time we have put into our craft. And I began taking the steps necessary to improve my writing: not just writing everyday, but researching writing craft, practising, receiving feedback on my work, and, of course, reading.

This was an interesting transition for me, and very different from when I first started writing The Sun and Moon Saga, my high-fantasy series. Back in 2015, when I began my journey into New-Camelot (the setting of TSAMS), I did not approach my work as strictly as I do now, post-Saturn-Return. I was not looking at my work through such a critical lens. In those days, I was really just exploring a make believe world of my own. I was writing solely from the heart, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. I was writing in the evening over a mug of hot cocoa, to unwind from the day. It was pure play.

These days, I write first thing in the morning, over my coffee (which, by the way, I never drank regularly until my Saturn Return. Does caffeine addiction simply come with adulthood?). Before, writing was my sanctuary, my haven, my escape; and now it is my career, my ‘domain of Mastery’, my Life Purpose. In other words, nowadays writing is ‘work’. It is work I love, and without this work my life would feel, frankly, kind of meaningless. But I treat my precious writing sessions as a job I do before I go to my day-job. Writing is still a passion. In fact, it is my deepest passion. But it is no longer a hobby. It is work.

Now, this is not a bad thing; it is merely a side effect of making progress with my creative pursuits. Honestly, I needed to cultivate some discipline, to see this progress. And to keep seeing progress, I need to continue practising said discipline. That said, there have been some cons to being so disciplined. The main one being how, as writing faded from play into work, writing for fun became a little, well, uncomfortable.

These past three years I have learned to be strategic with my writing: First, I decide what project I want to work on. Then I set a goal; in other words, I decide when I would like to be finished said project, or when I would like to be finished what part of said project. Next, I break that goal down into smaller steps, and map out in my calendar when I should be finished each step. And then, every morning when I write, I chip away at the project.

It’s all very productive, sure, but where is the room for magic? Where is the room for play? These days—while I am very disciplined, yes—I do not often take inspired action, which is essential for creativity. I spend so much time working on big projects, such as The Sun and Moon Saga, that I rarely play with new ideas, and I rarely make space for new ideas to come in.

Frequently, the ideas still, somehow, make their way into my brain. But I do not act on them the way I would have during my early twenties, a time during which I went through my Jupiter Return. Jupiter is the planet of passion, and during my early twenties, I followed whatever I felt most passionate about in any particular moment. Now, in my late twenties, I am in the habit of telling myself ‘later’. Or maybe I play around with the new idea a little bit, but then, typically, I abandon it for whatever I have planned to work on.

It is good to be disciplined, yes. As I said, this was something I needed to learn. But I think I took things a little too far. As a creative, it is so important to have play-time, time to toy and tinker. Without this, sure, you might make progress in your work, but at the cost of your passion, at the cost of your spirit.

And this is how, over the course of these last few years, all too often, I have felt: spiritually bereft. I created lots of things, yes, but I did so by suppressing many of my other creative instincts, by cutting myself off from my emotions, all in the name of ‘productivity’. This was a bit nonsensical, as the whole reason I am pursuing a creative career is so I can feel, well, creative.

Challenging Myself To Play

The anecdote? Playtime! I decided to take on a challenge: everyday for thirty days straight, instead of working on one of my big projects, I was to write a short story—or at least attempt to write a short story. The point of this exercise was not to produce thirty amazing short stories; the point of this challenge was to create new things, and to practise my craft. This was not an exercise in productivity; it was an exercise in play.

As I embarked on the challenge, I knew some of the stories would not really go anywhere, and I knew some of the stories I would adore. Essentially, I gave myself permission to write a bad short story, the way I used to, when I was new to writing.

The exercise was fun, but it was also challenging. The challenge came not in sitting down to work, but in sitting down to play. The days on which I did have a decent idea for a short story, it was easy to execute said idea—I am used to putting in the work. But the days on which I did not have a decent idea, or what I felt was a decent idea, I struggled to enjoy the exercise.

I struggled to play. Seriously, I really struggled. If my daily writing failed to appear ‘productive’, I had a hard time not interpreting that as an indication of my worth as a writer, and I had a hard time not spiralling about it.

In Truth, however, these ‘bad days’ were needed for the ‘good days’ to come my way, and this brings me to the first lesson of the challenge…

Lesson #1: Show Up, Consistently

Attempting to write a short story everyday for thirty days served as a reminder of the importance in showing up for my art, consistently showing up.

Us creatives, of all mediums, are in a never-ending battle against resistance. Resistance is our enemy. When we sit down to write, to paint, to play the guitar, to bake that vegan chocolate cake, much of the time, we will not feel like doing so.

Now, resistance can show up in a variety of ways… Sometimes it shows up as disinterest, or a lack of inspiration. Sometimes it shows up as chronic busy-ness, being ‘too busy’ to create. Sometimes it shows up as laziness. Sometimes, crippling depression. And sometimes it shows up as what it actually is: fear.

Underneath the games the ego likes to play, resistance to being creative is always fear, fear of doing good, meaningful work. When we commit to showing up for our art consistently—for some this means everyday, and for some this means once a week—we are slaying the dragon of resistance, and we are facing our fear.

The beauty of showing up for your art consistently is this: you never know what treasure you will find, what exciting idea you will stumble across. Sure, some days will be crummy, but that is just a part of the game, just a part of the creative process, the creative cycle. There will be good days. There will be great days. And some days will be brilliant!

The key to accessing those good days, and those great days, and those brilliant days, is to show up, even on a bad day. Show up at the desk, the easel, the recording studio, the kitchen—even when you do not feel like it—and see what is there. This is another reason why the cultivation of discipline is so vital, not just for the sake of finishing projects, but for the sake of coming up with new ideas too.

Speaking for myself, when I started this challenge, I think, despite how uncomfortable it felt—the idea of, not ‘working’, but simply ‘playing’—I was eager to play again. These last three years, I have either been revising and editing IV: Aurora and Luna, drafting and revising my psychological horror novel, or writing short stories and essays for my website. I have received so many ideas for short stories (among other things) that I pushed aside and said “Later!” to. I always kept myself so busy… busy finishing projects, which is good… but busy nonetheless!

Yes, when working on these shorter pieces for my website, I have had the opportunity to execute new creative ideas. But not at the rate my soul would like. And even when working on something fun like The Golden Candle, so much time is required to, not only draft such a piece, but also revise it, and edit it, and get it up on my website, that in that time, I could have a hundred more ideas for short stories and, in the name of productivity, be forced to ignore them.

Now, of course, if you want to be a creative who actually finishes things, you do have to pick and choose, you do have to prioritize what it is you want to finish… But whatever happened to scribbling stories in my journal late into the night? To jotting down the first few paragraphs to something, just to see if I liked the idea? Honestly, I felt a bit chained to my discipline, to my ‘good habits’. I was either writing, for at least an hour, probably a few hours, with no distractions, ‘working’. Or I was not writing at all. There was no room for sketching, no room for fun, no room for play.

And now I was taking my precious writing time and turning it into play-time. How exciting! But also, how daunting! As I said, I was ready for some play-time—beyond ready—and so, during the first half of the challenge, the ideas flowed rather easily.

Throughout the challenge, I drafted some pieces that really excite me: a ghost story set in the 1920s, a murder mystery set in the 1950s, a disturbingly relatable dystopian science fiction premise, tales of anthropomorphic plants and animals, some fun retellings of my favourite fairy tales, lots of folklore for my fantasy saga, and perhaps what might be the start of a new fantasy world…

These were new ideas; ideas I was conjuring on the spot, simply because I was choosing to sit down and write. Much of the time, I did not have an idea before I sat down to write. For the most part, these ideas came to me solely because I had chosen to sit down and write, solely because I made space for them. The ideas often came in the writing session, after taking that dreaded—or should I say resisted?—leap of faith. That, or they came to me in meditation—or while journaling—two practises I typically go about before I write, to prime myself for writing.

Yes, I have a daily meditation-or-journaling practice. Although, when I started these practises, they were unrelated to my writing. I actually took them up when I was in recovery for an eating disorder. Both meditation and mindfulness were a part of the favoured therapy: dialectical behavioural therapy. And then journaling I took up, because I remembered being glued to my diary as a child, and I found the benefits comparable to meditation: an increased sense of mindfulness, more self-awareness, an opportunity to introspect, a safe space to acknowledge my feelings. Plus, journaling allows me to play with my craft: writing!

Nowadays, I am in the habit of practising at least one of these two things (almost) every day: meditation or journaling. And in these last few years, I have come to the realization that, if I practise these things before I sit down to go about the day’s writing, I usually have a better writing session, one with more creativity, focus and clarity.

Because I was challenging myself to write a brand new short story every single day, I knew I needed to cater my meditation-or-journaling practice to such a pursuit. So, most days in June, I meditated to the track Dancing Pen by Jessica Snow.

Jessica Snow is my meditation teacher. Actually, when initially practising meditation with her as a guide, I found myself, for the first time, enjoying meditation. See, when I was in recovery, meditation was something I knew I ‘should’ do. I saw how practising meditation helped me fight my eating disorder; it could be the very thing to prevent a binge or purge. I recognized that meditation helped me cope with my ever-changing moods, especially ever-changing now that I was not bingeing and purging. And meditation helped me regulate my moods as well.

And yet, I did not enjoy meditation. It was something that I knew helped me and improved the quality of my life. But, much like taking a nasty medicine, I never looked forward to sitting down on the cushion.

Not until I happened across Snow’s work. Snow shows how meditation is not merely another thing on one’s to-do list, but a pleasurable activity. Her tracks are dreamy, fantastical and ethereal. As a fantasy writer, I just adore them! I do not think my words will do justice in describing how other-worldly they are. You are best to just experience her work first hand…

Anyway, I chose the track Dancing Pen as my guided meditation for this challenge of writing thirty short stories in thirty days, because this is, as the name implies, a guided meditation for journaling. Essentially, you meditate with the audio, in which Snow prompts you to write.

Before this challenge, anytime I had practised meditation with Dancing Pen as my guide, I experienced breakthroughs, not just personally and spiritually, but creatively. Actually, prior to the challenge, Dancing Pen had inspired me to write entire short stories, during meditation. The track really helps me connect with myself, and often, it blesses me with intuitive downloads. Because of these past successes, I chose Dancing Pen as my go-to guided meditation for the duration of my challenge—and it worked.

And when I wasn’t meditating with Dancing Pen, I was practising what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls ‘morning pages’. Essentially, first thing in the morning, you sit down with a notebook (Naturally, I use my journal.), and then you fill three pages with absolutely anything. You write or draw or scribble whatever comes to mind. Anything. The point of this exercise is not to write the first chapter of the next New York Time’s best seller; the point is to prime your mind for your creative practice. Even if you just write everything that’s bothering you, you are still decluttering you mind, readying it for the focus a creative act requires. And, on a good day, ideas will come.

During the challenge, I found, both Dancing Pen and my morning pages to be creative and spiritual life-lines. On my good days, they allowed me to warm up: to review my vision, and then play with the idea I was about to work with. But on my bad days, they saved me. Often times, by sitting down and scribbling in my journal, I was able to put the chatter in my head aside for a moment, and get into the receptive mode, the creative mode. Both Dancing Pen and morning pages were channels for ideas, ideas for new short stories. I suppose what it really is is this: my meditation-or-journaling practice clears my consciousness and allows me to be a channel, a channel for Divine Creativity.

Essentially, showing up, even when I did not feel like it, was immensely valuable. And having these practices—meditation and journaling—that help me put my own myopic, egoic, petty human bullshit aside is also immensely valuable. Maybe meditation and journaling is not your thing; maybe you prefer going for a brisk walk before you sit down to work. It does not matter what it is, as long as it works for you.

Just show up for your art, even if you do not feel like it—especially if you do not feel like it. You never know what you will create! And this ties in nicely with the second lesson of the challenge…

Lesson #2: Ebbs And Flows

Creative inspiration comes in ebbs and flows. As said in the paragraph prior, you never know what you will come up with. Much of your work will be good, some of it will be great, some exceptional—and plenty of it will be, well, not your best. I hesitate to say ‘bad’, because the bad days are necessary for there to be good days.

‘Bad’, ‘good’—these words are funny—for you cannot have the good without the bad—this is Divine Balance. So, really, none of it is bad, because it is all a part of the creative cycle. As artists, we have to radically accept the ‘bad’ days and honour them as an essential part of our creative process. Fundamentally, I do not believe in ‘writer’s block’, but I am mindful of how inspiration comes in ebbs and flows. This is the nature of creativity: for there to be a flow, there must first be an ebb.

This is why showing up consistently is so important: it isn’t always obvious when the flood is going to come. This is my new reason for writing (almost) everyday, rather than showing up just for the sake of finishing things, just for the sake of productivity. I do not always know when it is going to flood, but I make it a habit to venture down to the river and see if I can fill my cup with its waters. I do not always know when it is going to rain, but I have a habit of putting my bucket out, just in case there is a storm. I cannot always tell which days are going to be my good days, but I show up for my art just in case it is a good day.

And on my ‘bad’ days, I am learning how to deny the urge I have to punish myself, and instead remind myself this is just a part of the creative cycle. The challenge of writing a short story everyday for thirty days was very educational in this regard. Looking back on the month, I can see how my energy cycled: how I went from feeling extremely creative, imaginative and innovative, to feeling uninspired and exhausted. And I can also see how still showing up on these bad days actually helped me with my creative work, how this practise actually helped me move through the ebb and back into a flow state.

As someone pursuing a career in writing, as someone who takes their creative work rather seriously, allowing myself to write a ‘bad’ story was incredibly liberating. And, while these ideas seemed bad at the time, they often led me to good ideas, simply because I kept walking my path. A ‘bad’ writing session always teaches me about my craft.  Maybe it allows me to explore a new style.  Or maybe it shows me how I don’t want to execute a particular idea.  That way, when I return to the idea, I have more clarity around how I do want to execute it.

It is good for one’s creative health to play with ‘bad’ ideas. What this challenge taught me is that when I step into the unknown and discovery write, magic happens. I encourage you to do the same, whatever this means for your creative path. Pick up that sketchbook and doodle. You never know what little gem you will stumble across. And when the cave seems to be empty of all treasure, remind yourself that you are in an ebb and that the ideas will flow again.

Lesson #3: Most Days I Can Write—But Some Days I Should Not

Now, this third lesson is going to seem contradictory to the first two, and it is this: most days, I can write, but some days, I cannot. Or perhaps I ought to amend the statement to this: most days I can write—but some days I should not. Most of the time, the resistance is just bullshit excuses.  Most of the time, inspiration can be found and art can be made. 

Discipline is crucial for self-actualization, for realizing one’s full potential. However, when taken too far, like anything, discipline can become unhealthy. It’s a balance: sometimes it is good to be hard on yourself, sometimes it is good to push yourself; and sometimes it is good to be easy on yourself. Sometimes it is healthier, and ultimately more productive, to alleviate yourself of the pressure.

Now, there is a difference between not showing up at my desk because ‘I just don’t feel like it’, because I am distracted, and not showing up because I am going through a personal crisis. I can write through most things. Because writing is my ‘North Star’, often times, I find, writing through depression, through anxiety, through my episodes of borderline personality disorder, to actually be beneficial for my mental health. That said, there are times, when my mental health gets really bad. Sometimes, I can wriggle my way out of a BPD episode, and writing is a tool in doing so. But other times, my borderline gets so intense, that I essentially have to put everything on pause while I find myself again.

In these sorts of mental health crises, when not attempting a challenge such as this one, I will often cancel whatever work I had planned for the day, and then do twice the work another day, when I feel better, when I feel like myself. However, during this challenge, I was committed. I was committed to writing a short story everyday for thirty days. I did have a few of these dark borderline days during said thirty days, and generally, I forced myself to write anyway.

As mentioned in a previous point, in the beginning of the challenge, I had an abundance of energy and creativity. Therefore, pushing through and writing during my borderline episodes went relatively okay. Sure, I did not always write something I liked (although sometimes I did, because good ideas can be found in odd places). But even when I did not come up with anything I liked, still writing, solely for one’s self, can be very therapeutic.

And, as someone who, these days, is almost always writing for an audience, it was nice to reconnect with my love of writing in this way. It was nice to be reminded that, first and foremost, writing is something I do for myself. Writing stories that I know will never see the light of day really nurtured my inner artist—thus, helping me move through my borderline episodes too.

Alongside this, I do find working towards a goal does wonders for my mental health… But it’s a delicate balance, because if I am really struggling with my borderline and I push myself too hard, that is unlikely to end well.

There was one day in particular that I really just needed to take off. I was at least halfway through the challenge and had been doing great. But now my energy was dwindling, and I was starting to resent the challenge. On top of this, I was going through a bad BPD episode. My partner was going through his own difficult time too, and, as an empath, I was picking up on that, and having a hard time setting emotional and energetic boundaries.

I remember waking up and just really not wanting to write. Normally, I would have taken a day like that off, but I kept telling myself I had to write a short story, because of the challenge. I kept saying, “Later—I will write later,” and I went about some activities that might have inspired me: I stopped by a used bookstore, and then went for a hike by a castle in my city. Surely, those two things should have gotten me feeling good and wanting to write, right?

Well, no, actually they did not. Because the whole time I was shopping for used books and gazing at the castle through the trees of the forest, I was not present. I was stuck worrying about the future, when I would get home and have to write, which I really did not feel up to doing on that particular day.

In hindsight, I recognize that, as prolific as I am with my work, I still need rest. I still need a day off, or multiple days off, sometimes. This doesn’t mean I do not absolutely love my work, quite the contrary. But sometimes the well really does run dry, and you really do need to take a break from creating your art for a moment, so you can go fill the well. And everybody needs variety as much as they need consistency.

And, honestly, in hindsight, I do wonder, if I had just told myself, “Hey, it’s okay if you miss a day—you’ve already written so many stories, anyway!”, then maybe I could have actually been present at the bookstore and the woodland castle. And then, maybe, I would have actually enjoyed these experiences. And then, maybe, I would have actually felt rested. And then, maybe, I would have come home inspired and wanting to write.

I do not regret my cultivation of discipline, but recently I have realized just how disciplined I am with my work. I understand now that I take it too far sometimes. This has come up in many of my recent Tarot readings, and it was one of the lessons of this challenge. It is good to write most days, to work consistently towards my goals, but some days I need to rest.

I learned this, truly, when I found myself, towards the end of the challenge, coming down with a bad cold. There was nothing I could do: I was sick, too sick to work, and I needed rest. It was easier, for me, to accept this lesson through a physical cold than it was through a borderline episode, even though mental health issues can be, and often are, just as debilitating as physical health issues.

When I find myself ill, I interpret this as Divine ntervention, as an invitation from my higher self to introspect. It is my belief that there are often spiritual lessons that come alongside illness, if one chooses to listen. So, upon finding myself sick with said cold, I gave myself an epic Tarot card reading—this was one of the readings during which I was made aware that I am, at times, too disciplined, too strict, too hard on myself.

I reflected back on the day of the challenge I skipped because of my BPD episode and how I had beaten myself up over that. And I resolved to, keep writing consistently, yes, but to also allow myself rest whenever needed. Then I took several days off and played Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon. It had been a long time since I had allowed myself to play a video game.

Lesson #4: Rest Is Necessary

Rest is a crucial stage in the creative cycle. This I already knew, and yet, much of the time, I have avoided resting. I have a bad habit of ignoring my need for rest, suppressing it.

But rest is essential, not just for my happiness, health and wellness, but also because this ‘resting stage’ is often the stage during which I receive some of my best ideas. For example, I came up with the idea for—or, really, I should say, I was given the idea for—The Sun and Moon Saga when I had the Summer away from college and was not doing much of anything, when I was resting.

Now, as mentioned earlier, I did employ both Jessica Snow’s guided meditation Dancing Pen and Julia Cameron’s ‘morning pages’—and both of these forms of meditation did expedite the creative process. That is to say: they allowed me to, sort of, skip over the ‘resting’ phase of the creative cycle and receive more ideas for short stories. As mentioned in previous points, sometimes, even when you do not feel creative, you can come up with some great work.

However, trying to rush the process, trying to rush the cycle, trying to skip over the
‘resting’ phase, trying to write every single day no questions asked, it did eventually catch up with me. I burnt out. I went from feeling excited about the project, to feeling resentful towards it. Simply put, I was putting too much pressure on myself.

Now, in August, I am attempting a similar challenge, but this time I will be writing essays. However, I will be taking a new approach to the challenge, a softer approach. I will invite myself to draft a new essay everyday, and I will push through my petty resistance—but, if I am experiencing a mental health crisis, or something equally debilitating, I hereby give myself permission to rest as needed.

Honestly, when it comes to my writing, I do have some workaholic tendencies. This is not the first time I have declared something like this, to myself, to friends, to past partners. But this really does feel like one of my major life lessons, like a big piece of karma I need to work through.

And, honestly, while I originally challenged myself to write thirty short stories in thirty days because I wanted to be creative and improve my writing, what I actually learned was even more valuable:

I learned that it is good to rest.

Despite the struggles I had, I am happy to have taken on the challenge. Playing with my craft, encouraging myself to imagine something new everyday, was rewarding. It reconnected me with my love of writing fiction. Reading through the stories at the end was like opening presents on Christmas! And I am enjoying revising my favourites.


MD Luna

Author’s note: If you are curious about what I wrote during this challenge, I have posted almost all of the drafts on my Patreon, at the Sorcerer/Sorceress level.