Almost a year and a half ago, I joined a writing challenge, which involved writing every, single day. Each day was a new link. If I skipped a day, I’d have to start over. I can’t believe I have written every day for so long. There have been challenges and comforting moments.
When I first started the challenge, I was writing something near and dear to my heart, and I was determined to write it because I had put if off for too long. This kept me going for over two months. I accomplished much of what I wanted to write, and the story began to fade. I was going to edit it; and added editing to my Write Chain Challenge daily goal, so I would either write or edit each day. This idea quickly evaporated. The story was a mess; editing was harder than I thought. I gave up because it became clear my goals for the story still needed to be worked on further. That story was not ready to be finished.
This is when I hit my first bump with the challenge. I did not have a new replacement story, nor did I have a particular goal. However, by this time, I had too many links to give up on writing daily. Therefore, I started a journal. It’s nothing I can publish, but it kept me writing. This went on for several months, and I learned a couple of things from it.
I ended up thinking of a flash fiction story due to a journal entry, and I improved my writing. I used more adjectives and details. I could write the entry similar to a story if I wanted. It wasn’t like this every day, but when it started popping up in my writing, I was pleased. This was also a writing accomplishment I had not previously achieved.
Throughout my life, I have bought journals and have been given them as gifts. I love them. They’re colorful and meaningful. Some of them come with lockets in different shapes and sizes with cool keys attached, others look like they could travel through time and belong to anyone. Every time I got a new one, I was excited. For one whole week, I would write my daily thoughts and desires. Then, poof! The magic was gone, and the lovely journal would be put aside. Now, I have more consistent entries spanning a year! Another side benefit is that a journal entry can be about ANYTHING: feelings, story ideas, daily activities, frustrations, observations, quirks, etc. Later, when writing fiction, this information can be useful for character building as well.
My journal has made my write chain links strong and consistent. Of course, when the time was right, I put aside my journal and returned to fiction. From time to time, I still write an entry to keep it going, though because it is definitely worth it.
There have been hard times along the way. Days when it was extremely tempting to give up, and stop writing daily. I have used a couple motivational ideas to keep my going. Starting out, I knew I had a commitment problem, so I picked the perfect number of words. Sixty wasn’t enough because it was too easy to accomplish without much effort. Surprisingly, eighty was my perfect number. Some days I would get to 77, and sigh. Three more words were needed. I forced myself to continue, and ended up with close to a 100 or more. I make sure to finish my sentences when writing instead of writing the exact number of words needed and stopping mid-sentence. It’s a great trick for adding more words to the daily word count.
My word count goal was also useful for hard times and challenges. I have had quite a few of these. When my computer crashed, I had to get creative with how I wrote my words until I could get a new computer. I used paper notebooks, and on an especially creative day, I used a cell phone app. I would not write a novel this way, but it was perfect for temporary use. On exhausting, difficult, sad, or celebratory days, I could always spare five minutes. Whether it’s a family member in the hospital or Christmas, I could still manage my word count goal.
On days when the motivation was not there, I had to remind myself I only had to invest 5 to 10 minutes. I would push myself to do it, feel accomplished, and yet not annoyed or exhausted since the obligation was more than reasonable. This kept my write chain going because I knew if I quit, I would quit for awhile. Which brings to me to a powerful motivation to write: I wanted to keep the chain going.
Once I had some links behind me, I did not want to have to give up and start over from the beginning. The thought of starting over was daunting. All my previous links would vanish. All those days, gone!
As this over-analytical thinking takes longer than writing my 80 words, I stick with the writing. On my worst days, I start down this path, sigh, figure it’s not worth all the hassle of giving up, and continue to write. It has gotten to the point where my brain is learning to head straight towards the thought “Just write” with shorter and shorter trips down the Give Up Highway since it’s already been there and already knows all the pros and cons.
It’s important to remember your daily goal is your minimum goal. The sky is the limit when it comes to the maximum to write daily. In less than a year, I have written over 115,000 words! I find that number extremely inspiring! Sometimes, it’s a matter of just getting started.
Lastly, I want to address the inspiration muse. Artists everywhere talk about the muse. She’s a fleeting beauty. Getting inspired can be as easy as a random thought, the latest popular incident or controversy, listening to a great song, watching a fascinating movie, reading a touching book, or finding fun pictures and quotes. All of these things can be found anywhere on the internet: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Netflix, Amazon, images found on search engines etc. If the internet isn’t available or isn’t particularly inspiring that day, there are museums, libraries, parks, and personal life events. The latter doesn’t have to be big either; a small life event can lead to interesting story seeds.
The trick is in the timing. Inspiration lasts for less than 5 seconds. Once it is felt, it must be acted upon immediately. Any hesitation and it floats away. On great days, it comes back. On less wonderful days, she can be gone for good. Even if it is at an inopportune time, like in the middle of an epic scene of a show I’m currently watching, I have learned it is best to take a few minutes and write. It’s a record of the inspirational idea, and words to add to the story.