I wasn't sure if I should post this because I don't like to fall short on my goals or promises. And when I do, I usually keep those shortcomings to myself like any self-respecting introverted people-pleaser. Also, I don't usually blog this often :)
But, I promised I would check in with you after my 30-day writing challenge. Yes, I tried writing every day for 30 days. Guess what happened?
How about I show, instead of just telling you. In terms of the whole writing from November 14 – December 14 challenge, here's what my tick-the-box-as-I-go writing calendars looked like:
Yup. I might have fallen short on that one.
But when I promised in a blog post a few weeks back to update you on my writing progress, I really meant THAT! So here goes. This will be a very short and sweet blog post! A few things I learned:
- Just because you like doing something doesn't mean it's always fun. I thought I'd start with this lest you assume that writing creatively is a chore for me. I really do enjoy it, which is why I'm trying to devote more time to it. However, when you turn an enjoyable activity you do on a whim into a daily habit, there are days when you just don't feel like it. Inevitably, every time I sat down and wrote for an hour, I started enjoying myself about 5 minutes in. Getting myself to that point, however, was the hard part.
- Printing out pretty calendars and setting Google calendar alerts does not a success guarantee. I found these free, printable calendar templates and thought that by printing them out and checking off the days that I wrote for a solid hour, I would stay on top of my goals. This often motivates me when it comes to exercise, and I figured something that was physically staring me in the face every day would be inspiring. You can tell I started to get desperate by December ... my words of encouragement went from "write" to "just keep writing ...". There's nothing wrong with calendars and other tools; I rely on them every day to do my job! But next time, I'll remind myself that the calendars themselves don't produce the hard work and discipline.
- Having accountability would have been a good idea. When you work from home, there are no annual reviews, no weekly team check-ins, no one to check on your progress. I try to do some of this on my own, but at the end of the day, I'm a pretty forgiving boss when it comes to non-client work. Next time, by partnering with other writers working toward similar goals (NaNoWriMo is a great place for this, as is my local Writer's Center), I can encourage and be encouraged by others who are trying to get novels out of their heads and into readers' hands!
- Paying also helps. If you've ever signed up for a gym membership, you can relate. When you've paid for a class, chances are high that you're going to make it. If you've paid for a monthly membership, you're going to go as often as you can to make the most of that membership. The same could be said for writing spaces. Back to the Writer's Center, writers can book a quiet space for their writing purposes. I usually prefer free spaces like the library (or, even better, my own home!), but I also know that by paying for a space, I show up and get work done.
- Timing is important. Just like having a designated space, I think having a designated time would have helped. I told myself I would write every morning, but often I found myself pushing that hour to the evening. Because I wasn't consistent with this, I started to miss days — and you can see how that turned out for December! Next time, I may just come to grips with the fact that I'm more awake in the evenings, and set aside a time that will work better for me.
- Procrastinating often yields surprising results in other areas. Maybe you're like me, and you end up ticking the most off of your to-do list when you're putting something else off. I'm not recommending that we all trick ourselves by taking on projects we dread even more than what's currently on our list, but I also want to recognize that just because we're not being productive in one area doesn't mean we're not being productive in another. It may be lame that I'm putting off writing so much so that I'd rather be preparing for my Quarter 4 taxes, but if it weren't for these moments of dire procrastination, I might never get my act together!
Work Hard, but Take it Easy
I know we're our own worst critics and harshest judges. Even though I'm a forgiving boss, I can also be a pretty critical one. I think my key takeaway from my 30-day challenge is that while I need to be writing every day, it's OK to find methods that work for me. Maybe it's writing something different every day; memoir Mondays, fiction Fridays, etc. Maybe it's heading to the same coffee shop every morning, or to a designated work space after dinner. Maybe it's sending whatever I wrote to an accountability partner.
Part of this self-acceptance involves recognizing our own successes. I may not have written a novel in 30 days, but I did blog a whole lot more! Also, the day isn't done yet. I may have a novel in me yet :)
As you can see, I'm still trying to figure this whole thing out. But I'm giving myself the freedom to do that. If you're an aspiring (and sometimes, struggling) writer, I hope you'll do the same!
Thoughts, Questions, Ideas?
Let me know in the comments below! I'd love to hear what you think about writing challenges and how you meet them! Or just tips for getting to the gym.