Eight days and counting. I’m continuing to focus on my 75 Day Writing Challenge. I get a little antsy, though, because there is so much I want to do. In addition to becoming a writer, I want to make art as a regular part of my life. I want to clean and organize my house. And there is the ever-present issue of my health and weight. I know that if I try to work on all of this at once, I won’t have the focus to complete anything.
This 75 Day Writing Challenge is going so well. I thought that when I finish it, I will start a new challenge. I think my next challenge could be a 75 Day Health and Wellness challenge. I still don’t want to do 75 Hard, but I could choose five tasks that fit with my personal goals and fitness level. After that I could do some sort of arts and craft challenge and maybe a home organizing challenge.
I am hoping that completing these challenges will help me to build in the habits I want to establish in my life slowly. At the end of six months or however long it takes me, I will have a more balanced and productive life. When I get tired or discouraged, I remind myself that the time is going to pass anyway whether I’m working on the challenge or not. By the end of the 75 days, at least I will have something to show for my effort.
Today, I completed these tasks…
Wrote for 30 minutes
Read Scrappy Rough Draft for 30 minutes
Read The Scottish Prisoner
Read and took revision notes on Sins of the Father
I seem to be gaining momentum. For the past several months, when I would think about sitting down to write, I would cringe. It’s something I think about all the time but, for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve also been putting off revising the novel I wrote in 2018. I knew that I needed to read it before I revised it but I plunged in and started to rewrite it. The revisions soon stalled, of course, because I didn’t have a clear picture of the overall scheme of my novel. Yet, thinking about reading my novel also made me cringe. Another thing I wanted to do was study the process of writing. After teaching writing for over 20 years and writing off and on for nearly 50 years, you would think that I wouldn’t have any more to learn. While I’ve kept my academic writing skills honed, my creative writing skills have begun to rust.
Starting this challenge has helped me to gain momentum on all these things. I am writing for at least 30 minutes every day and I have read and taken notes on eight chapters of my novel. One thing I’ve realized is that it’s not as bad as I thought. I dreaded reading my novel because I thought when I read it, I would discover that it was crap. My draft is not perfect, but it’s not crap either. I think with some revision and editing, I can create something that I can publish. I’m not sure why this particular challenge is working when all my other attempts to create a writing habit has failed, but I’m not going to question my progress. I’m committed to keeping increasing my momentum.
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.
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.
I like this picture, because it reminds me of the most important part in accomplishing any goal-beginning. One of my constant struggles is procrastination. I have a task that I have to do that is difficult and daunting. The more I think about it the more difficult and daunting it seems to become. If I just force myself to begin, then the task becomes more doable.
Tonight, I sat here contemplating the white screen with the blinking cursor. I had no idea what I wanted to say. The cursor continued to blink at me, daring me to make a move, to begin writing. That’s the hardest part of writing for me–finding an idea. I know I want to post in my blog regularly, but what do I write about? What do I want to say? What is the brand I want to develop for my blog? This is what I struggle with, but I know I need to decide on a focus for my blog, so I can keep posting.
I have established three goals for my blog:
By May 30, I will develop a 90-day editorial calendar.
By May 15, I will develop a new weekly feature that I will publish every week until the end of the year.
By May 30, I will assess my theme and develop a focus for my blog.