Last spring I set up two 30-Day accountability challenges. Four groups of writers signed up for two different challenges: the Early Morning Writing Challenge and the Scheduled Writing Challenge (or both).
Many asked to be notified if I ran the challenges again, so this is your notification!
Time to Sign Up
Life has been incredibly full this summer and fall, and I couldn’t find a full thirty days to do the challenge. However, I decided to run both challenges for 25 days instead, from October 1-October 25. Many people claim it only takes 21 days to make a habit, so we’ll go with what time is available.
If you’re unsure about the benefits of such a challenge, I did a guest blog about our experiences, Writers at Work: Making On-line Writing Challenges Work for You. Below is an excerpt of what I wrote, including the experiences of some of the participants. It might help you decide if you want to join the October challenge. [Sign-up details at the end.]
Each group mentioned different difficulties when they checked in throughout the day. The early morning “dump it on the page” groups had the highest number who completed the challenge. At first they had a hard time putting the writing first, feeling like they were squandering time they didn’t have to waste. Gradually they realized that the early morning “dump” writing was clearing the decks—priming the pump—for the more structured writing later. As Heather W. said, “I forgave myself and wrote what I needed to write in the morning to get into my day. The ‘real writing’ is always waiting for me.”
The scheduled writing groups had more challenges because they were trying to squeeze the writing into their already crammed days of small children and day jobs. At first, many scheduled their writing session late in the evening, after their day job ended and the kids were in bed. If they got the writing done, often they were exhausted from staying up too late. Gradually, over the month, I noticed a number of them shifting to writing during newly discovered “down” times during the day: waiting room times, sitting in the car pool lane, sitting in bleachers, while cooking supper, etc. They became better at noticing previously wasted times throughout the day, and consistently they reported at the end of the week that they couldn’t believe how much writing they finished just by fitting it into odd “unused” times in their busy days. That was a major paradigm shift for many of them.
Another big benefit was reported by McCourt T. “During the challenge I attended a writing conference, and I really appreciated how writing every day boosted my confidence. I felt that I could confidently talk about my works-in-progress because I was actually spending time on them!” This confirms what professional writers frequently say: nothing makes you feel more like a writer than writing.
One surprising result was that one participant decided she didn’t want to write professionally after all. As Kim T. said, “I stopped checking in 2/3 of the way through the month because I realized that I don’t want to force my writing. I don’t want to schedule it in my day and be held to that… I have realized that I don’t want to be a full-time author. I want to keep writing as a hobby—to write what inspires me when I am inspired to do it.”
Did the challenges actually help the participants? Heather W. thought so. “I signed up for the early morning challenge. The theory was that if you wrote in the morning before your brain really kicked into gear that, when you sat down to write later, there wouldn’t be as big a struggle to focus and find the right words for your story. I hoped that would be true. It was… I initially felt I wasn’t ‘doing it right’ because my early morning writing was a more of a diary, a place to vent frustrations, count my blessings, organize my day, etc. I thought I wasn’t really ‘writing.’ Well it turned out that the ‘non-writing’ was one of the best things I could do with that time. It just made the rest of the day better.”
Many participants noted that even writing fifteen minutes daily reactivated the feeling that they truly were writers. As McCourt T. said, “I was surprised that some days were so busy, I really only had about 15 minutes to write, but those 15 minutes made a difference. Just focusing on my writing each day, even if for only a small amount of time, made my writing seem like a priority again… this challenge helped me realize that writing every day is good for me—not just for my writing itself, which definitely improves the more I do of it, but also for my mental well-being and sense of personal accomplishment.”
The participants exchanged email addresses when the challenges ended so that those who wanted to could continue. Many expressed the concern that Jennifer R. voiced here: “I would love to continue to stay involved in an accountability group. I have never written more consistently than I did while participating in this challenge. I am afraid that without the accountability group I will fall back into my old habits and writing will only happen when I get a chance instead of making time for it.”
If you would like to be part of either accountability challenge, all you have to do is email me BEFORE OCTOBER 1. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the SUBJECT LINE, put “early morning challenge” or “scheduled writing challenge” or the words “both challenges.” That’s all I need from you to add you to the appropriate group. You will hear from me by September 30 with instructions.
A bonus: if any of you plan to do the NaNoWriMo write-athon in November, this October challenge will give you some much needed writing habits so that you can hit November already in the writing zone!