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For the month of April, I am participating in Rebecca Barrett-Fox's writing challenge. I sent in $20, with the agreement that if I write 400 words a day, five days a week, for four weeks, I will get the $20 back. Now that I have completed three weeks of the challenge, this is what I've noticed.
I've joined a group of participants who largely have a wider writing experience and responsibility than I do. Some are doing research, writing books, teaching in colleges or universities. I, on the other hand, want to learn to write daily. I don’t have a project to work on other than my blog, which does not need daily updates.
Without a project, I began this challenge by sitting down each day to a blank screen and doing stream of consciousness writing about whatever I was thinking about. It was scary. I don’t have profound or meaningful thoughts to share every day. I began with a lot of doubt about why I was audacious enough to sign up for this.
But as the days passed I caught myself noticing topics I wanted to think more about. Sometimes I'd have a conversation that I wanted to process. Something I read might trigger questions about life. Or other times, life might hold so much to think about that I'd need a place to record it. Sometimes a memory would come to mind. One week I wrote four days straight about some neighbors whose land we used to farm.
As I’m writing these thoughts into my google document, I begin to understand myself better, and to gain a bit more clarity about the emotions and reactions I’m having to my experiences. So there is the first plus.
The second is just the truth. It doesn't matter if I'm a writer or if I have important things to say or if there is anything of value for anyone else to read. It is $20 dollars, which isn't much, and I only lose it if I don't follow through on the challenge. I'm starting a habit I've wanted to start for a long time, I'm starting it for free, and isn't that enough? So no more angst about this!!!
The third builds on the second. Even if I end up writing nothing of value, I now value writing enough to set it into my regular schedule. I have to make time for it, so beyond the $20, it has value for me in the time I invest. Whether I have a project or not, I need to be writing. Period. So there will be words daily, and I will send them in, whether they are part of a project or not, whether they help me understand life or not, whether they are drivel or not.
And fourthly, since it takes time, less time is spent doing something else, like Facebook, or Netflix, or other time wasters. I'm trying pretty hard to not let it cut into my 'people' time, although there have been a couple of nights I've gone to bed late in order to send in my words for the day. So mostly inadvertently, some of my vices are getting less time. This seems to be an easier way to reduce time wasters than guilt. Maybe a choice to do something is more motivating than a choice not to do something?
So far I've only found one problem, and it isn't with the challenge.
I’m writing on my computer, but I have not decided on a way to organize these writings.
Every year I try to go back through my current journals a couple of times, usually at the new year, and also the week of my birthday. Doing this gives me a sense of the direction my life has taken, the lessons learned, gratitude for graces I've experienced, validation for painful times, recognition of things I wish I'd done differently. It is an important part of how I go through life.
When I go back to review my life from the last year, these writings for the challenge will not be in my journal because they are on my computer. It is much easier to send a word count from my computer than from my handwritten journal. I want to keep record of these thoughts as part of my learning and growth. I need to find a way to organize it to be easily accessible. It needs to happen soon, before it is too overwhelming.
If you are interested in the challenge, it is opening up now for the May challenge. Deadline to sign up is April 30. Instructions are here.