Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The challenge is over

I heard about something called The 100/100 Challenge a few months ago. The basic idea is to write at least 100 words per day for 100 days. The person from whom I heard about the challenge left room for a weekend in there if you need one ... a five days on, two days off thing. Three consecutive days off and you have to start all over again.

The challenge isn't really about the amount of words you produce, it's about producing every day. If you write 1000 words one day, you don't get to take the next nine days off with a smug smile, thinking you're ahead of the game. To actually be challenging yourself you have to go back every damn day, whether you feel like it or not, whether you 'got ahead' yesterday or just did the minimum. Face that uninspiring keyboard or heavy, heavy pen every day and advance your story by at least 100 words.

I took the idea to my local RWA and got a few suckers other writers to commit themselves to the challenge. It started on January 5th--time enough for everyone to have finished with their holiday excuses, but still close enough to the New Year to feel like a resolution. I also opened it up to those who were editing with the miniscule goal of 1 page a day.

I am tempted to talk about how the group did as a whole, but the truth of the matter is, no one's writing journey is about anyone but themselves. So I'm just going to talk about the effect it had on me.

  • I learned that I can write from home on a regular basis. This was about more than the challenge. It was also about saving some freakin' money. I like leaving the house to write, but it gets expensive, and I didn't want to use going out or not going out as a crutch, so with the small goal of 100 words as a target, I figured I could at least do that much from home.

  • I learned that forcing myself to write doesn't put me in that amazing headspace that allowed me to fall in love with writing in the first place. But sometimes, when I forced myself to come up with words to fill the page, that headspace would take over and I'd find myself writing a few pages instead of just the minimum.

  • I learned that the quality of my writing doesn't seem to vary, regardless of whether I'm in that headspace or not. At least not according to how it reads when I go back after a few days.

  • I learned that I can knock out a page or two in the notebook before I go to sleep and that I can write in bed, in the armchair or on the couch. Even the patio. I don't even have to be sitting up. I just have to decide to do it.

  • I learned that I cannot write every day. Some days the ideas, the voices, the inspirations just need some time by themselves to percolate. The two day forgiveness built into the challenge really saved my bacon. I never broke the 3 day rule, but I did take a full two weeks off in the middle when I had a death in the family and went home. I could have written during that time if I really wanted to, but I didn't. That time was about family, not work. For that, I am adding another two weeks to my personal challenge.

  • I learned that being accountable to a group made me more likely to pick up the pen when I had frittered the day away without getting a single new word out.

  • But I also learned that it whether I write the words or not, whether I report them or not, whether I rely on my crutches or blame my muse for abandoning me or whip out 40 pages a week, it doesn't matter to anyone but ME. It affects no one but ME. If I do the work, it benefits ME, if i don't, it only gives an edge to the author that DID finish her work.

So, at the official end of the challenge, I had only written 64 of the 100 days. But, in that time, I handwrote 121 pages, which, when typed into a manuscript (courier, 12pt, double-spaced) expands to 172 pages or approximately 43,000 words. That's not bad for a goal of a mere 100 words per day.

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: Wicked Pleasures
Currently reading: In A Bind

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