My 30-Day Writing Challenge
In the beginning of January I wrote about the 30-day challenges for the year 2013. Now in the middle of May I have successfully completed two 30-day challenges. One was in February and consisted of me modifying my behavior. It was relatively easy as I just had to not do stuff. The second was a lot harder.
In the middle of April I decided that for the next 30 days I will write post about how to improve your life. I wrote the first post on Saturday, April 20. Talk to People and Solve Your Problems was 247 words in length and everything seemed easy.
As I progressed through the challenge I started to create rules for myself. How long? 2000 characters, no spaces. This means approximately 500 words. Every post had to have a nice image. Or two when I used a quote from someone famous. It took a lot of time to find those images. I had to get the post in such a shape that I felt it is OK to publish it. And of course, the original idea to write about something people can do to make their lives better started to set limits on the topics I could write about.
First, I had to find something that would help people. Sure, there are a lot of posts titled “XX things to make your life better right now”, but most of them have about one sentence or paragraph for each item. I had set myself a minimum limit of 2000 characters per item (no spaces). Second, I had to have something meaningful to say about the topic. This proved to be a real challenge. In some cases I didn’t have the experience on the topic. Third, I made myself another rule, back up with science whenever possible. That led to hours of Google searches that I had to do to write on a certain topic.
I am a slow writer. On a good day I can write about 3000 characters per hour. This is includes time for thinking and rewriting on the fly. So, to sum it up, my writing challenge had expanded to following activities:
- Finding images
- Editing images
- Posting to WordPress
- Linking to related content
This took an amazing amount of time out of my day. Now is probably a good time to thank my better half for putting up with all of this. Thank you, Jana!
Now, after countless hours spent on my 30-day writing challenge here are some lessons I learned.
Every day just do it. No matter what, just hammer away at the keyboard. Don’t break the task up into different parts of the day or you will spend a lot more time on it in total.
I accidentally set myself up for harder than expected task when I decided to write on a certain topic. This limits your options and requires a lot more time for researching and coming up with a decent topic.
However low your standards, if you decide to publish immediately you will have to work a lot longer on any given post. For me something I write for a public blog post has to be a lot better than a draft in a forgotten folder on my harddrive.
Know how fast you can find new ideas. How fast do you write? How much time do you need for thinking while writing? Set your targets for the challenge accordingly or you may end up spending a lot more time on the tash than you expected. You may consider setting a time limit on different activities (15 minutes research, 30 minutes writing, 10 editing). Do not start any other time consuming activities for the period of the challenge.
The time has to come from somewhere. Tell your family or colleagues (you may do this professionally) that you will take X amount of time for the next 30 days for writing come hell or high water. The advance notice may keep you from a lot of misunderstanding later.
All the stuff I wrote during the 30-day writing challenge was written on the fly. This leads to inconsistencies, writing about the same thing in different way, errors in the flow of thought. To avoid that write the post and then edit after 24 hours. This is one of the best pieces of advice about writing I have ever had. I didn’t use it. Make sure you do!
I am a better writer now than I was 30-days ago. It is totally worth it. I have much deeper understanding of the topics I wrote about. Writing for others makes you really dig in and familiarize yourself with the material.
So, here you go. This post is 827 words, 3592 characters (no spaces), and 4395 characters (with spaces). It took me 75 minutes to write this post and 36 minutes to find an image, edit, and publish the post to WordPress.
Now, I celebrate.
Image: The Anxious Type by JD Hancock