Welcome to this year’s December Writing Challenge. Those of you familiar with the challenge from past years already know how this works, but for newcomers, or for anyone looking for a refresher, here’s a quick rundown on how to tackle the challenge. But first, why should you participate?
December can be a crazy month. The holiday season means days crowded with shopping, travel, entertaining, and a pretty full social calendar. But the end of the year can also bring with it very busy work schedules, with deadlines looming or year-end reconciliation of one type or another. December also tends to be the month when we plan for the new year, setting goals or resolutions. This type of chaos can spell the end of dedicated writing time for anyone juggling a writing project along with a day job and a personal life. So, each year, I set this challenge. I encourage writers to make their writing a priority and keep up with their writing practice, even for a few minutes each day.
The rules for the December Writing Challenge are simple. You can adapt them as you see fit, to work with your personal goals and schedule. Writers already working professionally, who have a deadline, might want to ramp up the challenge to meet their goals. Newer writers can feel free to use the challenge as is in order to keep up their momentum through this busy time of year. If you’re coming off of NaNoWriMo, the challenge can be an excellent way to finish up that first draft if you’re looking to take it from 50,000 words to something more publishable. Whatever your goal, the challenge can help you push forward.
1. Write daily. Butt in chair, hands on the keyboard; curled on the couch with a pen and notebook; sitting at your favorite cafe. Wherever you prefer, using whatever medium works for you. But aim to spend at least a few minutes writing every day. I do recommend you try for half an hour, but if you can only manage 15 minutes, call that a win.
2. Ignore word counts or page goals, unless you need to hit a deadline of some sort. This challenge is not about finishing a project or being super productive. You just want to keep your hand in the game so, come January when you have a New Year’s resolution regarding your writing, you can dive right in. The challenge helps keep your writing muscles limber through the holiday season.
3. Write what you want. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry. Work on a novel, a memoir, some essays or short stories. Tackle one project all month long, or write something different every day. Feel free to play or experiment. Stretch your imagination. Whatever keeps you writing.
And that’s it. Those are the basic rules for the challenge. I will say that, regarding that first rule, daily writing is the goal, but it’s flexible. Don’t look at that and get discouraged.
Officially, I give you two free days to use as needed. Swamped getting the house ready plus cooking for incoming guests? A little hung over following your office holiday party? Use a free day. Or don’t. But keep in mind, the challenge should work for you, not against you. So, don’t let it add to your stress if you only end up writing a few days a week.
Tips for Finding Time to Write
If you can carve out a bit of time each morning before you start your day, terrific. But we all know how difficult that can be, particularly if you share your house with people vying for your attention. So, a few tips for ways to make writing your priority.
1. Tell people you’re participating in the challenge and ask them to help you keep to your writing time. Put on a literal writing hat (tiara? mouse ears?) when you’re working at home, so your family knows to give you your little window of quiet.
2. Schedule writing dates for yourself, either alone or with an accountability partner. Mark them on your calendar, set a reminder, and go write. Keep that appointment the same as you would a dentist appointment.
3. Keep a notebook and pen on you at all times. Write in the car when you’re waiting in the carpool pickup or the Starbucks drive-thru. Jot notes in the waiting room at the doctor or while getting an oil change.
4. Actually leave your desk during your lunch break, and go work on your own writing instead of working through the meal.
5. Break your daily writing into smaller chunks, especially if you need to hit a deadline or other goal. Several small writing windows instead of one long one might not be ideal, but it’s better than not writing at all for want of a long enough block of free time.
These are just a few ideas to get you going, However you approach the December Writing Challenge, have fun with it. Good luck, and happy writing!