Up for a Challenge?

- by Elaine Isaak

Welcome, NaNoWriMo, to the end.  The final day.  The sprint to the finish line to earn that covetted, self-printed certificate.  The most important certificates, as we ought to remember, are those we work hard for and attain because they represent a personal victory, not because they look good on a wall or will impress our friends. 

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing  Month:  a challenge to scrape together all your spare moments for the month of November and write a book (or, in this case, 50,000 words of continuous prose, which is certainly a good start).  I have many friends, both serious writers or published novelists, and those who view it as a hobby, who look forward to NaNo every year.They are spurred to write quickly and make use of the energy of daily practice, as well as the heat of today’s deadline, to turn off the internal editor for a while and just get the words down.  A lot of crap is written during this month, but a lot of gems are discovered as well, and may be polished into the crowning moments of someone’s published book.

Wherever you are in your writing career, challenges like this can be a great way to reach further and try harder.  A challenge can get you motivated to produce, to start new work, to dedicate the time that writing requires, especially if your challenge includes your friends or Twitter followers, or some other group willing to raz you if you’re not doing the work–and to cheer you on if you are.

I can’t participate in NaNo because I also have a small gift business, and November is the busiest month.  However, I once challenged myself to write a chapter a day starting in February (my slowest time for the business).  I produced 38 chapters in 35 days–and what I consider my best book yet, perhaps because of the sustained energy level of that challenge time.

Most working adults can’t afford to take a month, but challenges come in all shapes and sizes.  A friend and I did a 100-words-a-day challenge, emailing each other when we’d done our 100.  Often once we got started, we wrote more.  A word-count or page-count goal might be just the thing for you.  The keys for a good challenge are: 1. quatifiable (countable units of progress), 2. deadline pressure intensity (write a story for a contest, or choose a goal you know will be tight), 3.  Accountability (somebody looking out for when you falter–even if it’s just your daily word-count tracker)

So what do you say–are you up for a challenge?

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