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.