I don’t write every day. I don’t necessarily try to, either. On weekdays I’ve been journaling every morning about what I want to accomplish that day. It’s become a habit, and an effective one. Occasionally I miss a day due to this circumstance or that, but not often. Weekends are a little more freeform about the schedule, so I don’t often journal then. It’s probably a good idea to start, though. It would be interesting to see if I can improve my weekend productivity. However, I digress; this piece isn’t about journaling specifically, it’s about writing.
As I was closing in on the end of October’s 30 Challenge, I realized I hadn’t chosen a challenge yet for November. I began to think about the month and what obstacles and events came with it. I don’t want a challenge that will cause undue stress or conflict, like deciding to go a month without shoes in January. That challenge might be better suited for July. So what, if anything, would I need to consider for November?
The most notable event in November is Thanksgiving. I’ll have some time off from work for the holiday itself, and Laura and I will be visiting friends the weekend prior, which gives us a couple of days then as well. The only other event I had planned was to go to attend DrupalCamp Atlanta the first weekend of the month. Well, there was one other idea that I’d been playing around with. I’d been itching to take an online writing class called How to Write Better, and I wanted to get it in before the year ended. It was a four week class, but could be stretched a few weeks longer if needed. So a little traveling, a couple of days off, and a writing class; that doesn’t sound too restrictive. But what challenge to take on?
A few days before Halloween, Laura mentioned that November was NaNoWriMo month. Well, I was planning on taking that writing class anyway. It sounded perfect! Their goal: write 50,000 words in the month of November, which equates to about 1,667 words per day. As a daily challenge it seemed perfectly reasonable. The trick with these challenges, however, was to keep them up every day for a month.
The month of November, 2017 began on a Wednesday. Coincidentally, I was placed on a new project at work that day as well, and I was to start immediately. I’m pretty meticulous about my schedule, so my day was already planned out, let alone the rest of my week. I was leaving for Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, so most of my remaining schedule had already been allotted to travel prep. As new items shifted their way in, others had to be shifted out and reprioritized. Writing for fun was quickly creeping down the priority list.
I managed to get a few words onto the page Wednesday night as well as Thursday afternoon while on the plane. Using a laptop on a plane is never comfortable or convenient, so I avoid it. Even typing on an iPad screen is crippling. I recently purchased a travel bluetooth keyboard, though, and its convenience was worth every penny. I used it at least three times on my four day trip to Atlanta. It folds down to one-third its normal size, and holds a charge for weeks, if not months, so you can use it just about anywhere when paired with a mobile device.
During that trip I missed writing only one day, on Saturday, but that was it. I tried to play a little catch-up on the flight home on Sunday, which turned out to be one of my more productive writing days thus far, but I am still behind.
Since then I have written every day, but I haven’t hit the daily goal of 1,667 words yet. It doesn’t seem like that target should be so difficult to hit, but I underestimated the time it takes to get the words onto the page in a coherent way. To even attempt this goal, you can’t edit while you write. You’ll go in circles. The best approach, I’ve learned, is to just keep writing. Keep the words flowing. Writing has a unique effect on the brain. It seems like once the words hit the paper, they are no longer clogging up your brain-hole and new ideas can come forward. Take this paragraph, for example. I’m not entirely sure where it came from. I was planning on saying something about missing my daily goal and I ended up here. Maybe this section gets cut in editing, maybe not. That’s the point. That’s what editing is for. Wait until it’s all out, then rearrange and cut and paste.
Oh, I almost forgot about the writing class. The work required so far has all been reading, and it’s not light. When I signed up for the class a week before it started, I found that there were 6 required books. That would be a tough challenge for anyone, but I already paid for the class, so I might as well throw myself at it, full force. I found three of the books available in audiobook form from the library or on Audible, but I would need to read the other three the old fashioned way…with my eyes. I made it through the first week of the class and I still have two books to go, which isn’t too far behind in the syllabus.
Keeping up with the videos and reading assignments in the class has definitely taken more of my time that I anticipated. Despite my to-do list being overloaded, I’m still managing to write every day. I do enjoy the time that I have to write, and I feel like I’ve been able to apply some of the things I’ve already learned from the class, which is exciting.
I don’t know what I expect to take away from this month of the challenge. I guess that’s the fun in them: watching yourself grow. Maybe I’ll have a novel. Maybe it will be just an idea or the beginning of a novel. There’s a lot left to do, and the month is moving quickly, but I’m truly enjoying the process.