Each year, I challenge you to spend your December writing a little bit every day. Why? Because for most of us, December marks the busiest part of the year. Between holidays and end-of-year work projects, traffic and crowded stores, family and entertaining, it can be chaotic. Writing often takes a backseat to all your other tasks and commitments. Then January hits, with its new year resolutions, and your brain stalls out immediately on your writing goals.
My challenge involves prioritizing your writing. You don’t need to write a great deal (unless of course you have a deadline or other motivating factor). The idea is to write a little bit every day. Try and grab half an hour, but fifteen minutes will do. Warn your friends and family that you’re setting aside a little time each day for your writing. Mark it in your calendar. Whatever you need to do to commit to the page.
I’ll post the full rules for the writing challenge later in the week, and I’ll be back on Sunday, December 1st, to kick it off officially. Over the month, I’ll be posting mini peptalks here, with suggestions to keep you going. I’ll post reminders on Twitter daily, too, along with a little cheerleading.
I hope you’ll join me for this year’s December Writing Challenge. If you’re working on NaNoWriMo, it’s a great way to keep up your momentum. If you’re hoping to make inroads with your writing in 2020, this will give you a push. Dare to take your writing to the next step and see what you can do. Happy writing!
Are you a writer? Do you aspire to be one? Whatever your current status and goals, you have a set of motivations that drive you. Perhaps you’ve loved telling stories since childhood and the ideas are piled up inside your brain, pushing you to let them out into the world. Maybe you’re a wordsmith who enjoys crafting sentences and creating a beautiful flow of text. Or maybe your motivations are a combination of things, such as a love for storytelling, a fascination with research, and a driving need to work a flexible job that you can perform at home or while traveling.
Whatever your reasons for becoming a writer, you likely have a list of things that motivate you — large and small — to sit down at your computer and work on your manuscript. There’s the bigger picture — which includes your desire to be a writer in general — and the smaller one, as well — which might be a combination of a challenging scene you’re dying to write and a deadline looming on the horizon. These things join forces to motivate you, to make you want to get down to the actual work of writing.
But what happens on days you don’t want to write? Days when you don’t feel like it? Maybe you’re not quite sure what comes next in the story, or you had a late night and just the thought of being creative makes your head throb. Or it’s possible your day job requires you to put in some extra hours this week, and the only way you can squeeze in your writing time is to stay up an extra hour before going to bed each night. And you really don’t want to do that.
It happens. No matter how much you love to write, no matter how strong your desire to succeed, you are only human, and it’s impossible for a human being to be highly motivated about something every hour of every day. This is where discipline comes into play.
Discipline gets a bad wrap in terms of the words we use. It tends to have more of a negative connotation these days, bringing to mind parents who believe in spankings, or long prison sentences. But somewhere among those numbered dictionary definitions is the one I need, meaning self-control, or orderly or prescribed conduct. Discipline is the thing that gets you to the keyboard when you’d rather not get out of bed in the morning.
People have two basic modes of conscious behavior: Things they do automatically, and things they think about before deciding whether or not to move forward. The things that come automatically didn’t always do so. Your parents reminded you to brush your teeth for years, most likely, before you truly adopted the habit. It probably took a few years of your childhood for you to get out of bed without prompting and get ready for school, but that habit helped train you for getting ready for work later on.
As an adult, you’ve developed your own set of routines, and it probably took a certain amount of discipline to put them in place. You may not always feel like hitting the gym, but you make yourself go because your health and fitness are important to you and because you understand the dangers of breaking that habit. Likewise, you don’t always wake feeling excited about going to your day job, but you go because you’re a responsible person who needs to pay their bills, and because your coworkers count on you. So where does writing fit on your scale? Is it something you do daily, automatically? Or is it something you think about and then decide to move forward, or not?
If you wish to make writing your career, if you want to be serious and professional about it, you need to treat it as you would any other important, nonnegotiable aspect of your life. Behave like a professional writer from the moment you determine that’s your ultimate goal. You don’t write because you happen to feel like it that day; you commit to writing because it’s important and you set the time to do it. Then you show up and do the work. Don’t wait to feel inspired. Don’t take time off simply because you’re feeling less motivated that day. You need to treat writing as a job if you wish it to become one.
Happy Friday, everyone! Quite a busy week, here, and I’m looking forward to the weekend with a bit more relish than usual. I’ve been fighting off a cold — no idea where it came from, since I spent last weekend sitting on my couch with a stack of books — and while it hasn’t laid me low yet, it’s made productivity a challenge. Mostly, I want to sleep.
I do hope you all have more exciting weekend plans, however. Everyone seems to be in holiday prep mode. All the evil commercials have hit the air waves. And of course some of you are no doubt mired down by NaNoWriMo still. Whatever you’re up to, I wish you a wonderful weekend, and I’ve got a few links below to get you on your way. Enjoy!
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the first day of spring. As a season, spring represents new starts, rebirth, the end of a long winter and so on. Personally, I’ve always considered spring as a time to take action. It’s motivational, seeing all those birds hopping around, flowers starting to sprout, weather improving. Thoughts turn to planting a garden, cleaning out the accumulated debris of the winter — both indoors and out — and maybe starting new projects to get ready for summer. What better time to pick up an old novel-in-progress, dust it off and see it with fresh eyes? Or to step back and assess where you are with your writing goals and how you can retrench for best effect?
If any of this sounds silly or overly convenient, I’ll let you in on a secret. The key to motivating yourself to keep going through the rough patches — the writer’s block, the work crises that make it hard to steal writing time, the heartbreak in your love life that makes you want to curl up and ignore the world including your WIP — is tricking yourself into meeting the challenge for one more day. If you wake up in the morning feeling less than energetic, if you feel like writing is the last thing you want to do, scratch around for a reason to be motivated.
Today, spring is as good a reason as any to get off your butt and get to work. If you’re not a writer, I’m sure there’s something else you can do to spring into action for the new season. Pull your running shoes out of the back of the closet and go for a jog. Make an appointment to get a new hair cut, or go get your nails done in some pretty spring shade. Get online and check out the schedule for your nearest major or minor league baseball team and see if you can buy tickets for an early game. Take your kids to the playground this afternoon. Clean out your kitchen junk drawer. Do something. Energy is contagious.