If you are thinking of joining our November open workshop or considering the chaos of National Novel Writing Month, read on for some encouragement and a few ways to spice up fall writing challenges.
I have a friend who is obsessed with New Year's resolutions. Every year she labors over her list of resolutions, debating which ones are both realistic and challenging, discussing how to hold herself accountable, ultimately trying to pick apart exactly what she wants out of the next year. I tease her a lot about her overly dramatized goals. “You don’t have to keep going to kickboxing class. You won’t die if you break your resolution. I might die if you keep talking about this though,” I would say, perched on the couch with a book while she stared at the fluorescent pink tennis shoes still sitting on the coffee table. “Well, I want to go, but I don’t want to go…you know?” Eye roll.
The truth is, I did know, and while I pretend to find her resolutions ridiculous and trivial, really I marvel at her ability to believe her life, her self, malleable. I think of resolutions and I think of winter swim practices—showing up every day in January, in parkas and thick socks, our wet bodies literally steaming from the contact between the heated pool and the cold air, watching as the crowds of resolute fools stalking the gym diminished as February approached. And they always did—diminish—because making such a sudden lifestyle change is hard to start and even harder to sustain.
I am jealous of my friend for being courageous enough to try, of being brave enough to be foolish, to fail if necessary. The truth is, sometimes there are things that I want to do, but I don’t want to do. I want the long-term benefits of waking up a half hour early to go jogging, but I don’t want to relinquish the moment, to give up those lovely moments of sleep. So, I let my self-awareness take over, let the knowledge of my impending failure, the self doubt, the cynicism concerning anyone’s ability to actually change, convince me not to try in the first place. Eye roll. Who’s foolish now? My friend or me?
The same friend, on top of her dresser, has a giant jar of happiness. I kid you not. Now that I think about it, this friend might honestly be Pinterest incarnate. This jar of happiness is full of tiny handwritten notes from all her friends and family, sharing a happy memory. Whenever she has a bad day, whenever she feels the old enticing friend self-doubt creep in, my friend takes out a note and reads it. She prepares for her resolutions and she prepares for when they might fail.
So this year, I’m challenging myself, and any of you other hesitant, borderline pessimistic people reading along: be courageous enough to try. Fall is the season for writing challenges and it’s as good a time as any. As no less than five of my Facebook friends posted on the first day of fall, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” Or, so says F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fall does bring a buzz of energy—no more oppressive lazy heat—and there’s less pressure—you’re not promising for a whole year, you’re just promising for now, while you have a crisp new perspective.
Okay, that was the encouragement part. Now, if like my friend, you need some back-up jars of happiness, here are some ideas I had for spicing up the normal daily writing challenge. You know those calendars at the front of ladies’ magazines, the ones with little extra challenges or treats sprinkled throughout the month? Think of these suggestions as “cute” things to add to your monthly writing calendar.
There’s one more week until November. If you’re in need of more encouragement or a writing community, come join us on Medium. Don’t be afraid to channel your inner optimist and plan ahead for those moments when you want to write, but you don’t want to write.
How many times have you made a strong cup (pot) of coffee or tea (or at least, some sort of drink with a bunch of energizing sugar and maybe a little coffee), thinking you’ll sit down and bang out a sheaf of fabulous new pages? How many times has that burst of energy actually been spent reorganizing your closet, or planning a vacation you don’t even want, or shopping online for innovative new cat toys?
I think we understand each other. Caffeine is wonderful. It is magic. So magic that it often seduces us into caring about things we do not care about when uncaffeinated. Caffeine transforms us. And when used judiciously, correctly, it can transform us into wordsmiths, narrative wizards.
Like right now. The words you’re reading are the direct result of, among other things, the perfect number of ounces of cold-brew coffee. It’s that “among other things” that causes some difficulties. Caffeine alone will not write your book. Among other things, it can be helpful to:
Turn off your WiFi/ Hide your phone/Abandon your laptop for pen and paper.
The internet is not your friend when your goal is productivity. In this case, the internet is just evil. It is the sinister dark magic that can and will counteract the good, warm, glowy magic of caffeine. You may want to write, but the internet wants you to click on a lot of things that you don’t need to click on and watch cat videos until your eyes hurt and you hate yourself. The internet is more powerful than you are. Accept it.
Estrange yourself from any friendly pets and/or humans in your immediate vicinity.
Both expect you, for some reason, to interact with them regularly. In your caffeine-fueled brain, it will make a lot of sense to have an intense conversation, or dance party, with whomever happens to be nearby. It will also make a lot of sense to spend an hour taking pictures of your cat, or letting it sit on your keyboard until it has written ten pages for you. Make all of these eventualities as impossible as possible.
Gather everything you might possibly need within arm’s reach.
Water. Pen. Paper. Picture of the cat you’ll miss dearly while you work. Dictionary. Thesaurus. Stress ball. Motivational poster. Tissues. Chocolate. Just get everything so that you have no excuse for getting up and fewer opportunities to let the siren song of caffeine energy lure you away from your project. Literally everything. Get it? Literally? Because you’re doing something literary? I hope you got it.
Caffeinated-you will not focus on something if it is not at least a little bit fun. If whatever you’re trying to write isn’t doing it for you, write a few paragraphs of something that has nothing to do with it. Write a story about missing your cat, locked away in a distant room down the hall. Write a poem about the internet. Just write words, and eventually they’ll be the words you want.
Writing prompts and warm ups to relax with
It's October, which means it's time to drink Pumpkin Spice Latte and write!
Before your next writing session, try out a few of these warm ups!
Hope we got the creative juices flowing! Feel free to share your warm ups via Facebook or the comment section!
Blogs are a great way to both start a readership and to become part of a writing community while keeping you writing. If you want to start a blog, here are a few steps to help and inspire you along the way.
Figure Out the Topic
Decide what you want to focus on and what you can talk about extensively. You can create a blog about writing, or review books, or about your travels. Maybe a collection of a few relating topics.
Name Your Blog
This can be tricky, especially if you want to purchase a domain name for it. Choose something short, so that it is easy for your future readers to remember. Don’t create a long winded name that is difficult to recall, let alone type. If you do happen to create a long title, make sure the part that becomes the domain is easy to remember. And make it relevant to your topic and to you.
Figure Out Your Platform
There are many avenues to set up your blog. You can start with Tumblr, Wordpress, Wix, Blogger, or purchase your own domain and install Wordpress.
Tumblr is the social media version of blogging. It makes it easy to follow other blogs and share content from other blogs for your followers. It is also easy to create and post content.
Wordpress, Wix, and Blogger are just a few websites that you can create a domain on for free. Alexandra Lindenmuth has an awesome breakdown of these websites here.
Create a Schedule
An argument against blogging is that it takes time and energy away from other writing. Design a schedule in which you have plenty of time to write posts and create other content. This could be weekly or bi-weekly. A schedule would help keep you on track with your blog posts and help you organize what kind of content you want to post at what time.
Write your butt off! I know this is easier said than done, but as soon as you start writing, ideas will keep flowing. Create content that you are proud of and that brings a new perspective into the writing world.
Don’t Forget to Share Your Posts
Sharing your posts brings readers to your blog. Sites that are great to share your blog to are Pinterest and Facebook. This helps direct people to your blog and may help build a readership.
Start connecting with other bloggers! Start searching blogs with similar content and leaving comments. The blogging community is great and you can guest blog and host guest blogs to help build your readership.
Most of all, enjoy it!