Monday, November 2, 2015

21. Participate in Writing Challenge - CHECK

When I put this item on the 4040 list, I did not have a daily writing practice. It felt like a stretch goal for sure, but one I was certain I was up for. I didn't have a topic, but I figured I had a year to figure that out. 

Fast forward a year, and I DID have a writing practice and a topic, “31 Reflections of a First-Time Novelist. I also had a bit of arrogance. “I write every day. This should be easy.”

Except it wasn't. Yes, I write every day. But I don't write audience-ready material every day. This is where the surprise challenge and fatigue came in for me. But I persevered.  I reminded myself of the big picture and kept at it. 

The challenge held other surprises for me. I was a newbie to this 31 dayer community and its Facebook participation. I figured I'd take a backseat and watch more seasoned people do their thing while I learned the ropes. I did not anticipate taking the role of cheerleader and encourager. 

It was uncomfortable hearing so much negative self-talk. A lot of bloggers had put unbelievable pressure on themselves and they expressed feelings of failure almost before the challenge began. I wasn't witnessing much joy in the process, which made me sad because my writing practice is drenched in joy.

I know why these sentiments made me so uncomfortable. I recognized my earlier self in them. These feelings of perfectionism and shame and guilt and aggravation had long been a part of my self talk and I didn't even realize it. I see now why I always felt a sense of inertia. I couldn't muster the energy to propel myself forward in my pursuits, whether it was writing or in simply washing the dishes some days. Of course, I couldn't manage forward motion. My negativity had me mired in the muck. I have worked hard—with the help of friends—at recognizing this BS and turning that noise down. My life is so enriched because of that one move. I was sad to see that this negative self talk was an obstacle for others.

I thought about Laura Munson and the impact of her positivity and mentorship. I decided early in the challenge that Laura's was going to be my approach in this community. I wasn't going to stand by as other women got mired in their negativity. I knew they were the only ones who could change it, but I wasn't going to sit by idly listening to it. I challenged them, as others have done for me, by encouraging them to take a walk (a strategy straight from Dan, my writer-coach-friend), take a deep breath, and forge ahead. 

I felt like a broken record when women started lamenting how far behind they were in the challenge. 

I typed these words over and over when I heard their worry over missing a day or seven:

“In a month or a year you will have created a collection of 31 posts. At that time, it will not matter how long it took to create the collection. Take a break, take a breath, and then get back to it. You can do this!”

Before this challenge, I would not have envisioned myself assuming this role, but after 270+ days of writing daily, I felt I'd earned the credibility to speak up. I could see in new ways just how valuable Dan's encouragement and challenges to my beliefs about my abilities has been. 

I will admit to feeling some impatience too. While I don't know this for certain, I have a sense that a lot of participants have more flexibility in their days, meaning they don't get up and go to a job outside their home.  While they are busy, they have more control over their daily schedules.  I have a day job and a 90-minute round trip commute, and I managed to get my posts published most days by 7 a.m. I had to stop paying attention to Facebook complaints about how difficult it was to get the day's post completed.

I came to appreciate how a specific topic can make the writing challenge easier to navigate. I suspect for many women, they had picked a broad topic which made it harder to decide how to approach each day's writing for 31 consecutive days. The blogs I chose to follow were also very specific and I didn't get the same sense from these bloggers that they were struggling with what to write each day. Having drafted an editorial calendar for my posts was definitely a key to my success. I didn't follow it to the letter, but it served as a guide and helped me with setting a pace for my overall story and made sure that I was covering everything I wanted to say about writing my novel.

This challenge taught me that I have a lot to learn about the tech side of blogging. There are a lot of improvements I need to make. But I didn't try to add that to my list of to-dos during the month of October. I kept my focus on the writing and will whittle away at the blog improvements in the coming year. It was a situation of learning what I didn't know I didn't know. But now I do, and I can make incremental progress toward a more sophisticated blog. 

If I decide to participate again, it will only be if I can find a specific enough topic that I can write about with fresh, separate posts for 31 days. Right now, I have no idea what that will be, which is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. 

I have made new connections over the past month, and I am excited to continue building relationships and readership through this community. I am really proud of my final product—my collection of 31 posts about writing a novel for the first time. It will be fun to re-read the posts as my writing life expands and includes experiences I cannot even imagine today. I am so glad I found this challenge, put it on the list, and can mark it off.

1 comment:

  1. I love this...I love that your daily work at writing, which brings you so much joy as a writer (as well as to those of us who love reading you) can serve as a platform to encourage others. It's not easy to write every day, but you did it...and you added to your blossoming body of work and continued to build your novelist's house. So proud of you!