I had seen the advertisements on Facebook for a Seven Day Creative Writing Challenge since it was free and I have nothing but time, I gave it a try. The aim was to write 1000 words per day for seven days. No writing prompts, no hidden agenda, just write. Sometimes we think life has to be much more complicated if we are to learn its secrets. We justify why we don’t have the time, or experience, or skills to accomplish our life’s ambitions.
Below is a list of seven things I learned, not by years at school, or readings hundreds of books, or becoming an English Major; this is what I learned about writing by writing.
1.) I CAN do it. – I saw people who posted they didn’t write because they were sick, or they were tired, or had writers’ block, or had a bad day, or they were depressed. Guess what? I had all of those and I still completed the task. Not saying that to boast, just acknowledging that the more I did, the more I wanted to do. I have been sick enough this week that I gave up on the gym because that was something I did not want to share. But I was strong enough to continue writing because that is something I wanted to share.
2.) There is ALWAYS someone better or faster. – I saw people who posted 4,000 to 5,000 words in a day. I saw people who posted 2200 words in less than an hour. At this point, the most I had posted was 1354 words for a single day and it took close to 8 hours to accomplish that. Sure some of that is because I am so weak I randomly fall asleep at times, sometimes I over think, and let’s face it my typing skills are bad. It may have taken me 54 years to comprehend this, but I realized, I am not competing with the Universe, I am only competing with my own fears and doubts.
3.) It doesn’t have to be ALL or NOTHING. – I am a very slow reader, in part to the fact that I avoided it for so many years. This week I also finished Stephen King’s “On Writing” book, which I had only started four days earlier. For me to finish any book in less than two or three months is a major accomplishment. I guess perhaps both goals were the same (to improve my writing), but I did not feel I had to block out the world to achieve either one.
4.) Don’t Limit yourself. – I consider myself a morning person, but even on the day that I started at 4:30 in the afternoon I could write. I often write with music in the background but found there were days when I was so eager to get my ideas down, that I didn’t turn on the music until after I was done. I used to spend hours upon hours at my desktop and thought it was the ONLY place I could create. Since my surgeries, I have been bedridden for 20+ hours per day. Now I write both on my laptop and on a smaller tablet. This “aha” moment was reinforced because now every day the FIRST thing I do is grab my laptop.
5.) Different can be good. – Sometimes I get a little compulsive. If I decide that I want to write about a person and come up with more questions than answers, it can, and often does, stop me dead in my tracks. Learning a new program called Scrivener, I noticed it had a section for location sketches and for characters sketches. I spent three days of this challenge writing detailed character sketches. I have always been character driven, but I wrote about my settings for a change and surprise, surprise it was one of my most productive days.
6.) Do NOT give up. – I saw people post they only wrote 500 or 600 words and would try more the next day. The sad part was they posted this at 9:30 in the morning. I mean even if you work a ten hour day, you still have lunch breaks, after work, after dinner, etc. It was if they had convinced themselves they can ONLY create during that certain time of day. Yes, I’ve done that, been there. Don’t think me heartless. I know life happens, but the one post that gave me this “aha” moment was. “Sorry, I only wrote 500 words today because my brother died last night.” I was writing at the moment my wife took her last breath seven years ago. I did NOT write the next day, but it is possible.
7.) Draft mode is NOT Edit mode. – When I started this challenge I wrote as I always had. Wrote a few words, questioned if they were the right words, looked for the right words, wrote a few more words. When I kept seeing people with two and three thousand word counts, I was getting discouraged. Then it occurred to me, I was not writing a book, an article, or a short story, I was writing to be writing it did NOT have to be perfect. What I was writing about were things I would write about in the future. Another “aha” moment, if you edit while brainstorming you are only limiting your imagination.
One doesn’t have to be in a contest or a class or a writing challenge to continue learning how to write better. I don’t have to have the best computer or the most expensive writing software. People do not need to go on Facebook and ask everybody else what they think makes the perfect story. If you want to be a better writer, then write.