December Writing Challenge 2020: Day n+1

(This week’s post originally appeared on THWACK.com as a comment during the 2020 December Writing Challenge.)

At the start of the 2020 December Writing Challenge, I wrote, “The act of writing is always a personal one. Even with supposedly dry, technical content, authors can’t help bringing a piece of themselves to the work.” Here on the day after the challenge has closed for another year, I hope this point is as clear to you as it’s always been to me. The level of personal connection and sharing we’ve seen over the last 31 days, even in topics as trivial as our choice of at-home work clothes or the online meeting habits of our pets, proves yet again THWACK® is anything but a “typical” online technical forum.

Back on Day 0, I mentioned my friends Yechiel and Ben, creators of the “Torah && Tech” newsletter (and book), and how they found significance in the day after achieving a particular milestone (the 101st issue of the newsletter, or the day after completing the #100DaysOfCode challenge). They commented on how the day after the challenge was in some ways more significant.

Today I want to highlight another point they made: the Talmudic tradition ascribes a significant level of honor to a student who reviewed their lesson 101 times, compared to one who reviewed it “only” 100 times. A student who reviewed their lesson 101 times was considered a righteous person who “serves G-d,” whereas the student who studied the regular amount (100 times) was understood to be someone “who does not serve G-d.”

Why? How could one more review elevate the student so much? And what does this have to do with us and the writing challenge?

By way of providing context, I’ll share how, in the days when books were rare and lessons were transmitted orally, students had to review what they’d learned or risk losing everything. The common practice was to review those lessons 100 times.

This takes me back to what Yechiel and Ben said about the day after the #100DaysOfCode challenge (i.e., day 101):

“On that day, without any tweets and hashtags, when I just sat at the computer coding, that’s when I realized how the challenge changed me. Coding was now a habit; it was something I did without needing any special commitments or challenges.”

Back to the Talmud: the student who studied 100 times was fulfilling the expected requirement, ticking off the box. They weren’t working in the service of anything greater than being able to say “yup, teacher, I did my homework.” But the student who reviewed 101 times was demonstrating their commitment to the subject itself, to the pursuit of knowledge, and—above all—to their improvement as a scholar and as a person.

They weren’t satisfied with rote memorization; they wanted to build a habit of analysis and rigor to carry them forward through life.

Here on the day after the December Writing challenge, I hope you find a bit of this same feeling. I hope you have a moment when you find yourself thinking a bit more introspectively about a particular idea or experience, a moment when your hand wanders to the keyboard or the whiteboard or the notebook to scribble down a thought to be more thoroughly developed (later, if not sooner) into an essay or blog—something you’d be willing to share.

In fact, I hope you have more than one of those kinds of moments. I hope this month of reading and writing provides the momentum to carry you forward—if not through life, then at least through the coming year.

And if indeed this is the case, I sincerely hope you’ll remember the THWACK community is the perfect place to share those thoughts.

In the spirit of positivity, hope, and optimism for what’s to come—and on behalf of myself and everyone at SolarWinds—I’d like to wish everyone the happiest and healthiest of years.

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