As November — and NaNoWriMo — come to a close, it’s time for me to issue my annual December Writing Challenge. There are a number of thoughts behind this challenge, and its timing. The first, perhaps most obvious, is that if you spent November writing like crazy in order to finish your NaNo novel, the last thing you should do come December first is collapse in an exhausted heap and cease to write. It’s tempting to take a few days off, to reward yourself for all your efforts with a mini vacation, but if you do that, you lose that excellent momentum you’ve built up by writing regularly for the entire month. Don’t stop; keep writing.
The other main reason behind a writing challenge in December stems from the month itself. December can be insanely busy, jam packed thanks to the holidays and the fast approach of the year’s end. It’s easy to get caught up in shopping and cooking, family visits, parties, and travel. Many businesses also face the end of a fiscal year, which means tying up lose ends. If you work any sort of retail, December means extra hours or wrangling seasonal staff. December appears to be a natural month to write less, or stop writing entirely, which is precisely why it’s an excellent month to challenge yourself to write. If you can maintain a writing practice in December, you can probably write all year round.
Finally, the end of the year is coming up quickly, and with it that annual practice known as making new year’s resolutions. I’m not a big fan of random resolutions, myself, but I do think it’s important to look back at the year and see what you’ve achieved, and use that as a basis for setting goals for the year to come. It’s far easier to do this if you’ve at least been writing regularly. The December Writing Challenge will set you up with a running start for your writing goals for 2016.
The rules of the writing challenge are very simple: Write every day. There’s no word count requirement, no set time of day you need to put pen to paper or attack that keyboard. You just need to spend some time writing every single day.
How long do you need to spend writing? Well, that’s up to you. Ideally, if you can squeeze in an hour a day, that would be fantastic, but I know that’s not always possible. So I encourage you to try for at least half an hour. If all you can manage is fifteen minutes, so be it; maybe you can sneak in a second short session as well, if that’s the case. But the important thing is to make a date with your writing every day.
What should you write? Whatever you want. If you’ve got a current work in progress, great. Deadline looming? Even better. But if not, don’t feel you need to write the same thing every day. Tackle a stack of writing prompts or see if you can write a new piece of flash fiction or an essay designated for a particular magazine. Experiment. Play. If you feel blocked on one project, alternate it with something else. Just keep writing.
A daily writing practice is about commitment, priorities. It’s about saying that your desire to write, to be a writer, is important enough that it deserves a slot in your day, just like brushing your teeth or taking the dog out. It’s about developing the habit, training your brain to deliver on command as much as possible. Plenty of people argue that you don’t need to write every day to be a successful writer, and there are certainly examples of that, but for the purpose of this challenge, the goal is to write every day and see what you come up with.
Life does happen. I understand that, and of course there can be tons of life packed into the month of December. So, for the sake of your sanity and in honor of holiday madness everywhere, I give you two free days if you need them. That means over the course of December you can take up to two days of your choosing off from writing. Family descending for holiday celebrations and you have a day of airport runs? Fine. Hung over from your father’s infamous egg nog? I get it. If you need the days, take them. But try not to. Who knows what kind of interesting writing you’ll produce in your egg nog-induced stupor?
So that’s the December Writing Challenge for 2015. Starting tomorrow, commit to your writing, or if you already have a daily writing habit, recommit. Remind yourself what you love about writing, and why it’s a part of your life. Then sit down and do it.