What’s the biggest challenge we face as writers? If you ask me, it’s the simple act of getting started.
This is especially true if we don’t write regularly, a lesson I learned the hard way back in 2005. Life got hectic and I took a break from writing, figuring I’d pick it back up in a couple months. I had no idea that my hiatus would last for seven long years.
I tried to write, at least for the first year or two. I’d open a blank document and stare at it for hours, write a handful of words only to delete them in frustration. After a while, I gave up entirely, deciding I wasn’t meant to be a writer. What other explanation could there be? There I was, struggling just to write a sentence or two when I used to write thousands of words with ease.
At the time, I honestly thought I’d lost the ability to write. It never even occurred to me that I was out of practice.
Unfortunately, this way of thinking is all too common. Some of us fail to remember (or were never taught) that writing is an act of discipline. We treat it like a light switch, something we should be able to turn on at will. We wait for an ideal time, the perfect idea, some blinding flash of inspiration, assuming that the rest will take care of itself. We don’t expect it to be difficult. If it is? We just don’t write.
This is why I didn’t write for nearly a decade. I was waiting for it to be easy, holding out for some mythical time when all obstacles would disappear. It wasn’t until 2012 that I realized what should’ve been obvious. Writing had come easily in the past because I’d done it consistently. It had nothing to do with muses or talent, nor being in the right frame of mind. I was able to write so much because I’d formed a habit.
That shift in perspective? It changed everything.
Of course, we understand the importance of habits. We know that how much you do is far less important than how often you do it. Exercise is a perfect example. A hard workout a few times a year won’t make much difference. But a light workout several times a week? That’s how you build endurance, making yourself stronger over time. Those 20 push-ups might be difficult at first, but if you’ve been doing them regularly for a couple months? Not only can you do them easily, but you’re ready to take on bigger challenges.
This was the philosophy I applied to myself when I started writing again. I didn’t expect to write several thousand words in one sitting. I figured that if I could do just a little each day, I’d be able to strengthen those writing muscles. Maybe I’d even get back to where I’d been before my hiatus.
With that thought, I challenged myself to write 100 words per day. That’s about the length of a paragraph, maybe two, which seemed like a reasonable goal. I didn’t feel like I was making much progress at first, but soon enough, I was going over the limit more often than not. 237 words. 462 words. It added up, allowing me to finish a short story by the end of the month.
By the second month, I was back in the zone. Hundreds of words became thousands, and I felt confident enough to tackle my first epic length project.
Since then, I’ve written over a million words of fiction. True, I still struggle sometimes, especially when I’m not writing every day. But I don’t give up on myself. I don’t let anything fool me into thinking that I’m not meant to be a writer. I just keep trying, getting stronger every time I push through another obstacle.
The “100 Words Per Day” challenge did amazing things for me. That’s why I feel compelled to share it with other writers – I know how difficult it can be to write consistently. This challenge makes it possible to do that without a lot of pressure, a low key commitment that works with even the busiest of schedules or lack of inspiration.
Beyond that, you’ll make a decent amount of progress, even if you stick to the bare minimum. If you write 100 words per day for a year, you’ll end up with 36500 words. That amounts to half of a novel or a complete novella, several short stories if that’s what you prefer. Not bad for just a paragraph or two per day, is it? Most people can manage that in less than half an hour.
Of course, this is all about forming a habit. That’ll make writing easier, which means you’re almost guaranteed to go over the limit. If you do? Good for you! If not, you’ll still have the satisfaction of knowing you’re making legitimate progress with your writing.
THE “100 WORDS PER DAY” CHALLENGE
Write at least 100 words per day for one month.
While we’re on the subject of low pressure challenges, here’s another one I’ve found useful. It’s great for folks who dislike word counts, and like the 100 words challenge, it only requires a few minutes each day.
THE “THREE SENTENCES PER DAY” CHALLENGE
Write at least three sentences per day for one month.
I typically do these for a month since that’s about how long it takes to form a habit (at least for me). You’re welcome to do them for as long as you like, though. It’s a great way to keep yourself in the habit, even on days when you have minimal time for writing.
Ready to give one of them a try? If so, feel free to click on the title of the challenge you’ve chosen. This will take you to the forum where you can post about your progress and share with others who might be participating.
I’ll be posting other challenges in the future, but I hope these will help if you’re feeling stuck. Best of luck with your writing goals in 2018!