My 30-Day Writing Challenge
Do you want to become a better writer?
Most of my output is information. Usually, that output starts with writing something.
I figured that the daily writing habit would be useful.
Read what I learned when I first started the challenge and how to get through it.
In the beginning of January I wrote about the 30-day challenges for this year. In the middle of May, I 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 not to do stuff. The second was a lot harder.
30-day writing challenge
In the middle of April, I decided that for the next 30 days I will write a 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? Minimum 2000 characters, no spaces. 2000 characters mean approximately 300 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.
A lesson here is to break your challenge into sub-components. If you are trying to improve your writing, then focus on writing and leave all the other activities for later. My challenge became more of a “publish a blog post every day” challenge.
When you are just starting, focus on one thing you want to improve most.
What to 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).
Finding a theme for your writing is important. It’s a lot harder to stick to a theme than write on random topics. That’s why you call it a writing challenge.
What do you have to say about your topic
Second, I had to have something meaningful to say about the topic. Coming up with the substance proved to be a real challenge.
If you are an expert in some field, then that would be a great topic. But if you are not then writing about your take or experiences about the topic is a good way to go. 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.
Again, references and substance are what make your writing stand out. Making an effort to think through what you write will increase the value you get out of the whole challenge.
I am a slow writer. On a good day, I can write about 3000 characters per hour. The writing task includes time for thinking and rewriting on the fly. So, to sum it up, my writing challenge had expanded to the 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!
When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. — Stephen King
Decide what are the parts of the writing challenge
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.
And the key is to develop a daily writing habit where you take time to write in one session. You can later expand it to have many writing sessions in your day.
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. — Louis L’Amour
I accidentally set myself up for harder than expected task when I decided to write on a certain topic. The topic limits your options and requires a lot more time for researching and coming up with a decent topic.
I suggest that you write something that needs effort. Free flow writing is almost effortless as you write what happens to bubble on top of your mind. Focusing and writing meaningful content will build the writing habit and your brain.
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 hard drive.
If I would do it for the first time, then I would focus solely on writing. Publishing daily is a huge task and may derail your 30-day writing challenge.
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 task than you expected. You may consider setting a time limit for different activities (15 minutes research, 30 minutes writing, 10 editing). Do not start any other time-consuming activities during the period of the challenge.
The good thing is that as you progress, you will become a better and faster writer.
Family and other obligations
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 notice may keep you from a lot of misunderstanding later.
Your challenge will take one hour a day.
Don’t make it any longer or it becomes hard to sustain.
Sometimes, even more, depending on what you decide to include in your challenge. If you write for business, then the time may be a part of your regular workday. If the time is an extra activity, schedule time for it.
I wrote all the content during the 30-day writing challenge on the fly. Writing from the hip leads to inconsistencies, writing about the same thing in a different way, errors in the flow of thought. To avoid that write the post and then edit after 24 hours. Editing after 24 hours is one of the best pieces of advice about writing I have ever had. I didn’t use it. Make sure you do!
The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. ― Terry Pratchett
What did I get out of the challenge
I learned a lot!
I am a better writer now than I was 30-days ago. It is totally worth it. I have a much deeper understanding of the topics I wrote about. Writing for others makes you really dig in and familiarize yourself with the material.
Writing is also slow thinking. Slow thinking helps you go deeper into the subject matter and internalize the concepts. Now, that I write every day, I sometimes write about the topics I want to understand better or the decisions I have to make.
So, here you go. This post is 1349 words, 5926 characters (no spaces), and 7225 characters (with spaces). It took me 115 minutes to write this post and 56 minutes to find an image, edit, and publish the post to WordPress.
Start your 30-day writing challenge
Now it’s your turn.
Start a writing challenge that could turn into a lifelong daily writing habit.
- You’ll become a faster writer.
- You will express yourself better.
- Your thoughts will become clearer.
- You will become an idea machine.
- You increase your willpower that you can use on any other areas of your life.
Now, I celebrate.
Image: The Anxious Type by JD Hancock