Whenever I start something new, there is always a honeymoon period at the beginning. Whether it’s a new diet, exercise routine, or a writing project, I enjoy the novelty of the new activity and give it 100% until, suddenly, after a couple of weeks, it starts to feel more like work than play. I get tired of slogging through the lessons or following the routine. I start to skip a day or two. I think to myself, It’s just one day. I just need a little break. I’ll get back to it in a little while. Before I know it a couple of days become several and a little while turns into never.
One of the reasons I chose to pursue this 75 Day Challenge was to confront this tendency I have to give up on things when they lose their glitter and turn into drudgery. I want to teach myself that I can stick with my goals even when they get hard or I get bored–that it’s worth the effort I put into it. While this challenge is focused on my writing, I am hoping that the discipline I develop from this challenge will help me fulfill other goals in my life, like losing weight and getting into shape or finally organizing my house.
During the pandemic, I’ve heard a lot of messages that I need to be kind to myself and I need to forgive myself for my mistakes. Sometimes, though, being kind to myself really means that I am making excuses for not following through on something I have committed to doing. Today, for example, I got to work at 7:15 and worked until 5:00. I could have told myself that since I had worked so long I didn’t have to go home and work on my writing challenge. It was understandable that I wouldn’t be able to complete all the tasks I had set for myself. I didn’t do that, though. After dinner, I helped my son with his homework and then I got to work. I really wanted to sit on the couch and play a game on my IPad, but instead I sat at the dining room table and worked on revising my novel. Maybe, I was able to fight off my fatigue because this process is still novel and fun. Whatever the reason, I was able to stay committed and finish Day 3 of my challenge.
Today, I completed the following tasks:
- I wrote for 30 minutes.
- I read Scrappy Rough Draft for 30 minutes.
- I began reading the rough draft of my finished novel.
- I read for 30 minutes.
- I wrote this blog post.
Starting a challenge like this is always daunting to me. In February, I downloaded a workout tracker. The names of the months were spelled out in bubble letters and the letters of the name were divided into segments to represent each day of the month. I was going to work out every day, but only worked out for one day before I gave it up. The tracker is still hanging on the fridge. It mocks me and reminds me of my failure. I worry that this challenge will go the same way. I will stick with it for a few days and then give it up.
The same obstacles that kept me from completing my workout tracker also threaten my writing challenge. I suffer from chronic pain which leads to fatigue. I work full time. When I get home in the evening, I help my son with his homework and have to cook dinner and do chores. This time, however, I am developing some strategies that will help me overcome these challenges.
First, I am looking at time differently. I realized that it is hard to sit down for two hours at a time to work on my challenge, but I can look for small amounts of free time. This semester, during lunch, I have been playing with my phone and streaming shows on my computer. Yesterday, I used that time to write my blog post. Today, I started writing the novel I am going to use for my Camp NaNoWriMo challenge. I also read a book on writing and completed a couple of exercises. On Tuesday evenings, my son attends his youth group so we usually eat out and he doesn’t work on homework. Usually, I sit on the couch and watch a show, but tonight I completed a plan for revising the rough draft of a novel a finished a couple of years ago. Then, I read for 30 minutes. While I wasn’t able to complete all five tasks I’ve set for myself on Day 1, I have to say Day 2 was a success. Here’s to a hopeful beginning.
A couple of days ago, I asked myself, “Will I ever be published?” The answer was a resounding NO! Because I’m not writing–at all. I have a lot of excuses for why I don’t write. I have too much work to do. I’m too tired. I don’t feel like it. But, until I stop finding excuses to avoid writing, I will never publish anything.
A few weeks ago, I heard about a challenge, called 75 Hard. In this challenge, you do five things every day. You follow a meal plan. You work out for 45 minutes twice a day. You drink a gallon of water. You take a five-minute cold shower. You take progress pictures every day. This challenge is not your typical fitness challenge, but is purported to increase mental toughness. For some reason, I keep thinking about this challenge. It’s definitely not a challenge I would undertake. I am not going to drink a gallon of water a day or take a cold shower, but I like the idea of sticking with something for 75 days and keeping track of my progress. What would happen if I stuck with something for 75 days? How much progress would I make?
I have decided to launch my own 75 day challenge. My goal is to write every day for 75 days, without missing a day. Following the 75 Hard tradition, I am going to complete the following tasks every day:
- Write for 30 minutes every day
- Publish my progress in a blog post every day
- Read a book about writing for 30 minutes every day
- Make five revisions to my completed novel every day
- Read a mentor text for 30 minutes every day
As I review the five things I am committing to completing every day, I realize this challenge is going to be hard, but that’s the point of the 75 Hard challenge. While my tasks aren’t physical, they represent a tremendous mental workout. Wish me luck! I’m counting this as my Day 1.