ON A WHIM, and in a desperate attempt to revive my regular writing practice, I joined a 28-day, 20-minute per day writing challenge starting January 2nd and running through the end of the month. The challenge is sponsored and organized by Story Circle Network, an organization for women writers, which has been a powerful influence in my own writing growth.
When I signed up, I thought, Maybe I can do this. Sure, I can write 20 minutes a day, six days a week. Then I found out that we would be put into groups and within our groups we would have accountability partners to whom we would send our writing every day. That person would then provide feedback — not critiquing the writing itself, but responding to what was said.
What? I have to send my horrible first draft off-the-cuff writing to some poor soul to read every day? I suddenly felt very vulnerable. How would I handle this? I was planning on using the challenge to re-establish my journaling practice. Would I be able to write honestly in my journal knowing that someone — some stranger — would be reading it?
Ultimately, I decided that I could, and so I dove in.
My group has only three people in it, so we resolved to do a rotating circular share, where writer #1 sends her writing to writer #2, who sends her writing to writer #3, who sends hers to writer #1. And once every 10 days we rotate positions so that we could have the opportunity to read everyone’s work.
As I am writing this, we are now 25 days in, and I have missed only 2 days of writing in that time. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- It’s difficult to maintain a daily writing practice if you don’t have a set schedule for writing. I already knew this, but this experience has confirmed for me that establishing a specific time of day or sequence of events (after lunch or before bed, for instance) is crucial to actually doing it. When I don’t specify a time and I have a busy day — and my days are always busy — I often find myself on my way to bed when I suddenly realize I haven’t done my 20 minutes. I must then force myself to sit down at the computer and write. It’s difficult to feel inspired in this situation.
I used to get up every morning at 5:00 am to write before work. That time is now taken up with my physical training (cycling and weights). Over the past year or so I’ve questioned my priorities in this regard, but I have also learned that I must put my physical and mental health first. So it’s a bit of a conundrum that I haven’t fully solved — yet.
- No matter how convinced I might have been that I could reinstate a daily writing practice on my own, I needed the accountability of sending my writing to someone each day. In my example above, if I didn’t have an accountability partner, it would be so easy to just shrug and say, “Oh well, I’ll write tomorrow,” instead of sticking with my commitment.
- Writing brings you closer to others. The three of us started out as strangers, but in the course of the last 25 days, we have shared a great deal of our lives with each other. Sometimes our writing takes the form of letters. In this time of pandemic isolation, I am appreciating the social interaction as well as the opportunity to form new friendships. I have also read two of their published books, a graphic memoir (Catalogue Baby) and a novel (Where the Stork Flies), which has deepened my understanding and appreciation of these women.
- Taking on a challenge with others is a good way to start a new habit and gain momentum toward your goals. Sometimes in life, we all need cheerleaders.
- Staying committed to a goal in the face of obstacles improves self-confidence, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of success. Even a goal as simple as writing 20 minutes per day for a month can form a foundation to build upon.
What happens next?
I will finish this challenge. Then, I will set myself another simple, achievable writing goal. (I will let you know what it is.) And, I will find an accountability partner to help provide that extra support when my motivation flags.
What are your short-term writing goals, if any? How have you structured your writing time? And do you have friendly support or are you attempting to push through on your own?
And finally, would you be interested in being part of an online writing circle, where you shared your writing with a small number of writers who helped hold you accountable to a writing schedule?
Put your answers in the comments below and let’s start a conversation.