10 life lessons learned through making my journal public for 30 days

Taryn Arnold

I get a lot of weird ideas. Most live and die in my many notebooks, but every once in a while, one begs it’s way off of the pages and into the real world.

Hence, The Daily Taryn was born.

Hi. My name is Taryn Arnold. I’m 28, live in San Francisco, and by the wave of my own wand, I ran a wildly-popular* daily newsletter December of last year.

I called this 30-day project The Daily Taryn. I invited anyone (literally anyone — I just put out a call out on all of my social media) to join a daily newsletter about my life, essentially making an email-version of my journal, except public.

I wrote about finding out I liked girls, getting slapped by my neighbor, finding magic in the mundane, things I don’t love about myself, buying coffee for long-distance friends, things my therapist told me, and much much more.

Now, I’m sure you have lots of questions. I’ll ask and answer them for you:

Why?

Okay, rude, but I get it. There was no real reason — I’m not selling anything, nor do I have a deep love of newsletters. I actually think I hate newsletters… But I love writing, I love journaling, and I love challenges. I told myself I wanted to write about big things every day of December, and then had a weird idea to invite people into my mind while I did it. I love talking about things that people think about but don’t talk about, from religion to sexuality to anxiety, then back around to the metaphors in a burnt grilled cheese.

Hm. Okay. But why a newsletter?

It’s really, really hard to get your stuff read/seen/watched these days. With algorithms playing God, it’s wrongfully tough to get your work into the hands of the people that ask for it. I chose a newsletter because I was in complete control of it — people opted in, and by the grace of God, waited to read it every day.

Wildly popular, you say? Who read it?

Literal angels, I think. I’ll be honest — I thought it would be ~50 people max, most of which are family, friends, a few coworkers, and my brothers signing up on multiple email addresses to make me feel good. I was shocked — or, shook as the cool kids say — with the people that signed up. A few hundred saints — most of which were people I don’t know, but that follow me on social media — joined my newsletter, read it, and even responded every day. I wouldn’t call it “wildly popular” in terms of the world’s standards, but for me, well — your girl felt like the paparazzi were snapping shots on every corner.

Would you like to brag about something for a second?

YEAH DUH. EVEN DURING THE BUSIEST MONTH OF THE YEAR, THE AVERAGE OPEN RATE WAS FOR THIS DAILY NEWSLETTER WAS 78%.

A year later, I’m preparing to do it again (more on that later) and reflecting on all the things I learned — about you, about myself, about making things and sharing them with the world.

Some are obvious. Some won’t mean anything to you. Some will make you think about storytelling and creative output differently. All are things I’ll take with me wherever I go. If you’re a maker of any kind — a writer, musician, vlogger, illustrator, idk what else there is — that shares things with the world, I hope you find these learnings as useful as I did.

If you’re a fan of one of the above, you’re about to see how much your active participation in all this means to us. It’s magic, really.

Lastly, if this reads like a love letter to all who joined me on this journey, well that’s because it is.


Okay. 10 things I learned writing for strangers every day for a month.

The first 5 are about the creative process. The last 5 are about the people on the other side. Godspeed.

1. Ask. Ask. Then ask again.

Asking a question is a risky experience. What if I sound stupid? Should I know this? Am I ridiculous to think I earned the right to ask this question?

Asking the question gets harder when you’re asking for something. For participation. For money. For time. For attention. It’s downright uncomfortable, and no matter how many times you’ve done it before, it’s always risky.

Do you know how fucking weird it is to ask people to sign up for a newsletter that, from the outside, seems purposeless and directionless? To ask people to swipe here, click that, enter your email, confirm your email, make sure you opt-in, check your email to confirm again, then OPEN, READ, AND RESPOND TO a newsletter about my life? I mean, you have to know that experience pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, I literally have no idea where that zone is in the first place.

That said, asking is the only way you get what you want. Ever. If I didn’t ask people to join The Daily Taryn, it would’ve never seen the light of day. It would’ve sat there, in the folders of my locked journaling software, and I would’ve missed out on one of my most personally and creatively fulfilling months of my life. Also, to my surprise, a few hundred people would’ve missed out on something special too. (I’ll get to the surprising effect TDT had on my readers, or you can read some of their thoughts here.)

So. Have a wild idea? Something you’d love to try? A person you’d love to meet?

Ask. Answers wait on the other side of questions.

2. Don’t ask for permission

Lol. ASK YOUR ASS OFF. Ask for everything… except permission to be legit.

When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it. -Amanda Palmer

Until recently, I never called myself a writer. I couldn’t. I didn’t feel like I earned it, despite having “writer” in my job title/description at almost every job I’ve ever had, or having people tell me I was their favorite writer.

Everyone can write. It’s one of the first things you learn, and one of the only things you do every single day. To call yourself a writer is to call yourself a great writer. It’s saying, “I’m so good at writing, I’m an actual writer, not a recreational writer like all you simpletons. My words are actually worth reading. Get ready for them.”

I always thought I’d call myself a writer once I wrote for magazines. Once I checked that off the list, I decided I’d call myself a writer when I published a book. Or when I was introduced as a writer at a conference. Or when I wrote something that was televised. Or when…

Little did I know, I’d feel comfortable calling myself a writer after people read my words and liked them so much, they wanted to read them every day. That to me was the hurdle I never knew I’d cross. If I waited to write and publish and share for the day people told me I was a writer, I would’ve never gotten there. My words would’ve lived and died in a notebook, only to be discovered by my kids when I passed.

I’m a writer because I didn’t ask for permission to be one. I just became one.

3. You can create time, and you should

We’ve all been here. We get excited by an idea but talk ourselves out of it because “there just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

This. is. wrong. Newsflash — there are 24 hours in a day. That’s actually a lot, if you think about it. But that’s the problem — we don’t want to think about it, because we don’t want to disappoint ourselves by looking at how we actually choose to spend those hours.

Before I started TDT, I was positive I wouldn’t have time for it. I don’t have time for anything, so imagining that time to think and write would magically show up was an oasis I’d never find. Before work is a crapshoot. Just no. After work, my brain is fried and can only be massaged with Netflix. And on the fortuitous days that I don’t have evening plans, I attempt to get my life back together by running errands, doing personal admin stuff (whatever that is), and taking an exceptionally long shower. See? Proof. No time for writing, sorry to all you cuties who signed up.

Then I remembered that I could create the time I needed because it was time I wanted. I wanted to do this newsletter — it was lifegiving and personally stretching and hilarious that people were reading along with me. I was excited by it, fixated on it, and needed to do it every single day. It became a priority — more than Netflix. More than the extra 15 minutes of sleep. More than scrolling through Instagram stories that I actually, truly don’t care about.

When TDT became my priority — my duty, really, to deliver some words to the gracious people who opted in for them — extra time appeared on my clock. Time was no longer an excuse that was holding me back. And, to my surprise, my days became more fulfilling. I was spending the time I did have on projects that made me think, learn, grow, and connect with the people around me. Creating this time was the best gift I could’ve given myself, and apparently, others as well.

4. Goals should be realistic and stretching and attainable through a process you enjoy

A quick note on goal-setting.

When starting TDT, I felt slightly insane saying I’d write and share something daily. Like, what type of writer feels confident enough to share something they’re proud of every fuckin’ day? Not this one, that’s for sure. But going into this project, I knew that — there’s not a chance I’d have well-formed thoughts and soul-touching stories and life lessons to share every single day. Instead, I was realistic with promises to these people (and myself).

I’d stretch myself by committing to writing something every day. That’s a lot, people. That’s a stretch. But I knew I could do it.

I’d be realistic by not putting bounds on what I’d write every day. Somedays, I wrote 20-minute long reads. One day, I literally sent this:

el oh el.

Lastly, I liked achieving my goal because I liked the process. I love writing! It’s fun and freeing and makes me feel confident. So although my goal was “write every day for 30 days,” I didn’t hate the journey that got me there.

Goals are no fun when they’re too big. Goals are no fun when they’re too small. And goals are no fun when you hate the road that gets you there.

5. Give what you’ve got

If you’re wondering, “how the hell did you write about something new and fresh and worth reading every day for 30 days” — well, rude, because I’m amazing… but also, I get it. It’s a lot.

There is no magic potion or self-help book or worksheet that helped me do this. Instead, a simple phrase that I repeated to myself throughout the month.

Give what you’ve got. Give what you’ve got. Give what you’ve got.

When I planned out my topics for the day, I’d start by zooming out. What do I know? What have I done? What can I share, from my own personal experience, that could be relevant to someone else? What do I have that I could give?

Not surprising to me, there’s a lot. You can connect with anyone about something. You share experiences or thoughts or fears or streets or definitely something with everyone. And chances are, if people are following you or willingly signed up for a daily newsletter about your life (lol), they probably feel they have something to learn from you.

So. When you’re stuck with a blank page or empty mind or blinking line, ask yourself what you know that you can share. Then, give what you’ve got.

5. Sharing is actually caring

To all the people who share things with the world — music or tweets or books or videos or pictures — you are actively caring for people by doing so. It is so hard to share things. It’s so scary and weird and personal. But it’s imperative.

When you share hard things or personal wins or deep thoughts or confusing fears or unanswered questions, you are creating safety. You are creating a moment for someone else to learn. To connect. To understand. To grow. To feel a virtual hug they might be missing. To whisper, “wait. me too.”

Through TDT, I’ve come to realize that my passion in life is to share my stuff so others can share theirs. So others can feel less alone. So others can feel more understood. So others can feel safe.

And jesus, it works. See next point.

6. “The world is waiting to be interacted with”

Four days into TDT, my friend and I were driving to play tennis while I gushed about how affirming the response had been so far, and how much people were loving TDT. I knew this because at the end of every email, I asked people to respond, either directly to the newsletter or by reaching out to my personal email. Even after the first few newsletters, my inbox was filled with responses, most of which were from strangers. I was shocked.

Probably also shocked, my friend says, “That’s so cool. See? The world is just waiting to be interacted with.”

The most true. By sharing my stuff, people felt more confident in sharing theirs. And by giving them a place to do so (literally, email me personally), they did. And it was amazing.

Over the course of that month, I received hundreds and hundreds of responses. I couldn’t believe it. I still don’t — I regularly go back through my email to confirm I didn’t lose my marbles and dream it all up. Some responses were as short and encouraging as “wow, loved this one. cried and forwarded. thanks for doing this!” and others (most, really), were newsletters of their own. People responding and sharing things they had never shared with anyone, but felt the safety to share with me because I was able to create it. Through this project, I learned that people are there. They are awake. And if they care about something enough to participate in it, they will gladly do so. And it will change your life.

7. You never know who’s watching

This learning still surprises and excites me every single day.

I figured 90% of my subscribers would be my mom, her friends, and my friends trying to show their support, and 10% would be stragglers who think I’m funny on instagram.

I was deeply wrong, and happy to be wrong about it. When I scroll through the pages of subscribers, it’s rare to see a name I know personally. It’s almost entirely strangers. Apparently, when you give the internet an opportunity to lean in and learn about someone, some will take you up on that.

Not only were they strangers, but lots of people from my past still lurking in the shadows and keeping updated on my life. I wonder if that’s how the Kardashian’s feel, with all of us trying our hardest to keep up with them and only a few actually get to do it in the real world. A surprisingly large number of subscribers were people who’ve confused me or hurt me or been on the other end of the biggest learnings of my life. This fired me up — not to do the newsletter version of subtweeting people them, but to continue on my way as I would’ve regardless. To know that not all stories or conversations have an ending — some pause and some go quiet for a few years, and some will start again.

My favorite thing about TDT wasn’t the writing or the numbers. It was the realness of the community — knowing that my words weren’t just flying off into the wilderness or being scrolled by on instagram. They were being read and felt and heard, by my mom and strangers and exes and young people and old people and people all across the world. By people commuting to work or pausing for lunch or waking up. By real eyes. By real people. By the confusingly warm and kind community I was lucky enough to create on a random month in a random year with random people who became a weird kind of friend.

8. Impact is weird

I wasn’t expecting people to like TDT. Sure, a few, but not… people, in the broad sense. I thought people would chuckle and smile and, if I was lucky, cry because of some powerful thing I said.

That all happened, and more. People loved it. They shared it with friends. They shared their learnings with me. When it ended, people demanded it back. And, although it hurts to type because it’s the definition of tooting my own horn, people repeatedly shared how much it changed their life.

A year later, I still stand confused, overjoyed, and flattered. I set out to write some stuff because I missed writing and sticking to a routine. I wrote what I knew because that was easy and potentially powerful. I asked people to come along for the ride. And what happened next was (and still is) hilarious to me.

The ability to impact others positively is the most underrated and important thing we have as humans. It’s magic. It’s easy. And it’s the right thing to do. Given proper thought, I bet you could list out all the times you’ve moved someone so much, it moved you right back.

That’s what this newsletter did for me.

9. You have raging fans and screaming cheerleaders — you just have to find them

I’ll keep this one short. Views are not just views. Reads are not just reads. Listens are not just listens.

There are viewers behind the views.

There are readers behind the reads.

There are listeners behind the listens.

There are real, living breathing people with friends and jobs and shoes and 401ks, behind every little stat that ticks up over time.

When you’re feeling like your community online isn’t real, remember that you have the power to breathe life into the numbers. Let them reach back out. Let them share what they’ve learned. Let them come alive.

10. Creativity is a muscle.

Prior to TDT, I felt scrawny in the creativity department. I wasn’t fired up to make things, so I didn’t. I had ideas but no gall to do anything about them. My creative muscle was sad and floppy and weak.

Since TDT, my creative muscle is FLEXED. Gross analogy, but it’s true.

My ideas at work are flowing. I’ve started a podcast. I’m kicking up my instagram presence (read: going tastefully ham on stories every day). And in January, I’m bringing The Daily Taryn back (sign up here if you’d like to join us).

Back to the analogy. Sure, the routine I created for myself kept me going to the gym. My goals were clear, so they helped me keep my eyes on the prize. But I don’t consider this personal win to be something I achieved on my own. Going to the gym was 10 times easier knowing that I had cheerleaders (subscribers) there waiting for me. My promise to them helped me continue to grow. Their yays and woos and yeahs kept me excited and fresh and ready to get yoked. Ew.


Accepting full risk of how odd this sounds, I’ll still say it; the responses to this project—really, the people behind it — have truly changed my life. I believe in the good of people and our ability to make life easier for others. I believe that creating and sharing and opening up is worth the time and the effort and the risk. I’m a better person for doing this. I’m more confident, excited, and awake.

Lastly, thanks to all who read along with The Daily Taryn. You are the real MVPs. I felt you there and I truly can’t wait to see you again January 1st.

For those new to me, hi. I’m Taryn and I like you already. If you’re curious about joining TDT, you can check out my website to see the angel that I truly am, or just go straight for the sign up here.

Taryn Arnold

Written by

loyalties: feelings, Smart Water, and the Dillon Panthers. Work: Patreon

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