Writing can be playful, spiritual, and thrilling. It can also be grueling, depressing, and impossible. When the writing flows like a clear stream it’s easy to think you’ll sail along forever. But when the writing hits a wall, like water stopped by a boulder, you believe you’ll never be a writer and there’s no point in trying. My advice is to ignore both of these thoughts.
When it feels easy, challenge yourself and see how you can improve your craft. When it feels like you’re banging your head against that rock, you also need to improve your craft. Both the smooth sailing and the rock are a signal that you can learn more.
So learn more about writing. Learn something every day, but remember the most important rule when writing:
If writing seems like that immovable rock, jump over the problem spot and keep going. If you can’t do that then back up to a previous point and go in a different direction, like a tributary on a river. If you put words on the page you’ll eventually erode that boulder. Your writing is water, it only moves forward when you add more and more.
I love October. It contains both my birthday and Halloween. It’s also a beautiful time of year when fall arrives, but you can still enjoy being outside and seeing nature’s splendor (unless you are dealing with tropical storms.) And did I mention it has by favorite holiday in it? (No, I don’t mean my birthday.) I love Halloween. It is a spooky holiday that anyone can celebrate because it can be as scary as you want it to be. I like my spooky on the light side, but filled with pumpkins, ghosts, and flying witches. Plus it has a fun history (but that’s another post.)
Since it is my birthday month I always feel the need to improve myself, so I have started a few challenges.
- I am do a mini running streak. In 2012, I did a year-long running streak, meaning I ran everyday for 366 days. I like the idea of streaking, but I find I run more when the streak is shorter. I was afraid of hurting myself during my year-long streak so I only did a mile most days. I decided to earn the Run the Edge 50 mile buckle, so I am running at least 2 miles every day in October. I am eager to run each day because I know that I can stop on November 1. If Runner’s World does their winter streak challenge again from Thanksgiving to New Year’s I’ll probably do that, too. For now my challenge is at least two miles every day in October.
- I like doing online challenges and Robert Lee Brewer, who writes for Writer’s Digest, is organizing a month-long Platform Challenge that I have joined. I have learned a lot and it is only day four. Day three’s challenge was to create a blog. I already have a blog, but I have not added any posts recently so this is my post for day three of the challenge. I did a Robert’s social media challenge several years ago and found it helped a lot, so I look forward to completing this challenge.
- I have started a fun story project. I don’t want to say to much about it here since I am not releasing it into the world until December, but I am writing a lot and bringing it to one of my critique groups. However, I want to keep track of how much I write and when I write. I’d like to write every day but I don’t seem to do that, so I want to have a weekly goal. My goal would be five thousand words a week. So far I am on track.
- My last challenge is a Halloween challenge. I made a list of thirty-one fun Halloween and autumn things to do. Some of them are short, like read a Halloween poem. Others are longer, like create a new costume. I tried to do something like this before because I like Halloween, but I forgot about my list. This time I added it to the charts I created to keep track of my challenges so I won’t forget.
So there are my challenges for October. As I said above, I have created a spreadsheet to record my daily progress. I think these challenges will make my favorite month that much more memorable. November is Nanowrimo, so I need to get all the fun I can get in October before I sink into a new writing project.
May Jack-o-lanterns burning bright
Of soft and golden hue
Pierce through the future’s veil and show
What fate now holds for you.
I love to complete half marathons and I love to write books. I don’t love the day to day training I have to do to complete half marathons and I don’t always love the day to day typing I have to do write books. To get myself to do the training for half marathons I print out running schedules and try to run as far as the chart says to on a certain day. However, I never use charts from writing books that tell what to write on a certain day. Why not? Why does one chart excite me and the other annoy me?
I think it has to do with the type of chart I like. I don’t like running charts that give me extreme detail about not just how far to run but how to run. I know I would be faster if I did more hill repeats or fartleks but since I am a run/walker and live at almost sea level those charts are hard for me to follow. I like the charts that say do X number of miles on a certain day. I enjoy getting out and doing my own thing for as long as the chart says I should. And that is why I don’t follow writing charts. They have too much detail.
Most of the books I have read that have writing charts tell you to work on setting one day and character on another. Since I am a diehard discovery writer (despite trying to change) I may not want to work on setting or character on that day. Instead I would like a chart that says “write X number of words on this day.” Each day of the week would have a variety of word counts, some longer and some shorter. I could write whatever I wanted to but I’d write as much as I was told to do.
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ― John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running
Now, it could be said that I might write more if I didn’t have the chart telling me when I should stop. While that is true, if I don’t write at all because I’m not following a chart then I was better off following the chart. I see now that the solution is easy. Turn my running chart into a writing chart. The easiest way would be to make each mile equal one thousand words. Tomorrow it says I should run three miles so I will write three thousand words. I can do that in about one hour so that works for me. My longest runs are on the weekend and that would be my longest word count. Ten thousand words might be too much but I could adjust as needed. It might be more fun to see if I could do it. I like a good challenge. Now it looks like I have one not just for running, but for writing, too.
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” ― Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
One of my goals is to write 500 words a day, every day in 2014. So far I have written everyday and only missed 500 words on two days. Most days I write 800 or more. In January I averaged 891 words a day. This may sound difficult to do but I gave myself only one rule. Write 500 words a day. It doesn’t matter what the 500 words are. Sometimes I type a post for my various websites. Sometimes I work on new projects. And sometimes I type whatever comes into my head.
I have a document called 500 words. Every other day or so I put the date on the page and start writing. This is discovery writing. It has no purpose except to be at least 500 words. I have one series going about a woman who is losing weight and discovering a new life through running. It’s not publishable but it is fun to explore her life. Usually I start something entirely new, with new characters in a new place with a new plot. I find it extremely easy to write these shorts. They have no beginning and no end. They are simply a spark.
Sometimes I feel guilty for writing shorts that are never going to go anywhere. I know I should be working on projects that are shippable. (If you haven’t heard of shipping it is the idea of taking your product and getting it in front of the public. You don’t really have a product until you ship it.) However, I try to remind myself that each of these character and plot shorts could be used someday in a story and what I write today could be invaluable tomorrow.
I am curious if other writers do this…I don’t know what to call it, perhaps, free writing. There are a lot of books and websites out there that have writing prompts. Do these prompts produce free writing? I never use the prompts because I have too many ideas in my own head and don’t need any more. I have often thought of writing a book called “Beginnings.” It would contain nothing but 500ish word story beginnings. Any writer could then take these beginnings and turn them into their own story. I still think this could be fun. I wonder how many beginnings I would need to make a book. I think at least 100. Perhaps my free writing could eventually be shippable, too.
The hardest part of writing for me is shipping it out. It is much easier to keep it in my computer where no one can tell me how bad it is. But I never regret it when I do ship something so I should do it more often. With self-publishing and Amazon it costs me nothing but time and perhaps an editor to publish a book. But just once I’d like to get something published by the big guys (meaning New York publishers). Perhaps not my “Beginnings” book, but something. So I need to ship to the big guys. A lot.
Writing 500 words a day has been a good goal for me. So far I have stuck with it more than any of my other 2014 goals. Maybe I should add a shipping goal to my list. I will ship something to a major publisher once a month. It would be a good start. And just maybe I’ll get less nervous the more I do it.
“The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.” – Seth Godin