What I Learned in My September Challenge (On Writing & Editing)

There is always enough time to write-It was about middle of the summer when I started feeling that I was spread a little too thin. From house duties and raising my two children, to my volunteer days at the Farm, and everything else, I just didn’t feel like I was spending enough time on my craft. Dedicating my time to writing everyday this September has taught me that you can always make enough time to write.

The words are always there-There was only a couple days in the whole month where I really struggled to sit down and write my words. What I discovered was that no matter how I felt starting out, usually around the 500 word mark, my brain would be clicking and the stream would be flowing. A couple of those struggling days I wrote about struggling, and it was interesting because that created some of the best material.

This is an important lesson for me to learn too, because I am quickly approaching the stage where I need to worry less about getting new idea on the pages, and start to focus on finishing things. Knowing that the reserve of new words is just sitting there waiting to be tapped, lets me know it is okay to go ahead and pretty up some of my work for ya’ll to see.

Enjoying Marginal Gains Over Beginner’s High-I know when I seriously started writing I really liked the frenzied creative fit that I would go into. ODing on Coffee, with the music pumping, feeling the surge of ideas and adrenaline as I smashed my keyboard, that is what I liked. Being forced to treat is more like a job, and put the work in each day, challenged me to face the reality of what writing is, which is work.

In those earlier stages you are just so mystified and eager that you’re just impressed you got something down on the page. But after writing for a month, and only noticing the slightest improvement in my writing, that taught me I have to learn to appreciate the small progress forward. Its like working out. If you are seriously overweight and unhealthful you might be able to drop ten pounds in a week of training, but as your training goes on it will be more difficult to reach your goals. The big payoff disappears and you could be left struggling for motivation.

To me this is what separate the “Greats” from the rest of us losers. I really struggle with it too. When I can act crazy and just puke this stuff out on the page I am all right. But when I am faced with the day in day out prospect of marginal progress, it just zaps the passion right out of me. This month long challenge made me really aware of this, and take notice that writing is a game of inches, and like all things your determination, not your skill, will determine your success.

The Benefits of Working Ahead-So when I wasn’t writing on the new book, I focused on writing new blogs. This has allowed me to get a little ahead of my blog, and create a backlog which I will be going through in the future. Going back and editing blogs which I wrote days previously is great practice as an editor.

Having the supply of blogs and being able to make posts has led to a slight uptick in views. This taught me that if I want more people to check out my blog I need to work for those views. Having blogs done in advance allows me to focus on reading other people’s work and making meaningful contact with those writers too. It becomes less about getting my new post up and more about contacting other bloggers.

Working ahead means on the days motivation may escape you, that you do not regress. It also means that there is always material to work with and edit. Working ahead also helps you mature your work, because everything has some time to chill. This is especially important for heathen like myself, who are prone to the flame war.

Take a Break-So this meets up with the last point, we need breaks. Writing for thirty days has improved my abilities, making my writing clearer, making me a better reader, establishing my work ethic, etc., but after thirty days straight, you start feeling a little punch drunk.

I would say it sort of dampens the passion, but that seems to not really capture my experience, because in so many ways I am more fanatic and in love with the whole thing, more than when I started, because my appreciation for Writing/Reading is so much deeper. It’s more like an addict type problem, where of course you love and completely need the thing, but same time moment it takes hold, there is this new bubble of experience, which is sort of bored by the whole thing. It’s contradictory.

Why are we scared of this crazed pursuit of goals? Because we see that it creates both Michael Jordans and Howard Hughes. This tells us it is better to stay in the middle of the pack, because we can’t be Mike and we don’t want to end up Howard. Just like sports and business there is competition out there in the writing world. Its not even necessarily monetary, though that is a major issue, but it is fundamentally a competition for attention. Reading is seen as a form of entertainment. The amount of entertainment time is proportional to the amount of time it takes you to survive, therefore entertainment time is a fixed sum, relative to each person. In other words your story has to be great to get attention. To know what’s great we have to check and compare ourselves to the greats, and then you realize true level of the competition is in the craft itself. And you probably don’t got it, so…

But yes, final point, take breaks. Take long, winding breaks. Play more X-Box, read more stuff, enjoy time with friends and family. Hell, have a BBQ! Don’t end up some psycho trying to be great, because you might just do it.

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2 thoughts on “What I Learned in My September Challenge (On Writing & Editing)

  1. Do you know about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? It’s an international online challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in November. It works out at 1666 words a day. You’re allowed to plan and outline and research and build characters etc in advance. Then on 1st November you just sit down and write. No time for editing or rethinking. It’s amazing. And through the website and sometimes local meetups you get lots of support and encouragement.

    After your September challenge it’s probably too much to do it this year, but check it out for next year. I think you would enjoy it. http://nanowrimo.org/

    1. Haha yeah you are spot on, the November challenge would seem a bit much after my September challenge, too many challenges for any sane person! Then again…I am a crazy person! Maybe I’ll get all fired up and just do that old NaNoWriMo sum thing or other thing thing! 🙂 Good luck in your own efforts.

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