Home > article, productivity, writing > Need motivation? Challenge yourself!

Need motivation? Challenge yourself!

There’s a book inside you. You know it. You can see it when you close your eyes. The characters are familiar friends. The world they live in is old and well-visualized. There is only one thing keeping you from bringing it outside: You.

What is your roadblock? Often times it’s only the perception of a roadblock that keeps you from starting or completing your project. If your complaint is “there isn’t enough time,” “my family keeps me busy,” or “I can’t see past a certain point in the story, I’m blocked,” then rest assured that those are the worst excuses ever devised; they are not even clever enough for a writer to have come up with. But, if you find yourself buying into these anti-productivity slogans, then perhaps what you need is a little self-competition.

Competition can be very good for a writer. Think about it: if you are getting paid to write an article for a magazine, your competitor is either another writer or your deadline. Nothing changes when you are writing for your own pleasure, or if you are banging away at your first novel in the hopes of getting it published. It’s just that your competition is ‘softer’ in a way. Your competition is YOU.

You’re not just one runner in a marathon. You are two runners: the pace runner and the runner trying to keep pace. If your pace runner isn’t doing his job, there is no goal to shoot for. You can just stop whenever you want and chat with an onlooker. On the other hand, if your pacer (that part of you egging you on) is ahead of you shouting encouragement and taunts, well, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. Are you a worthy competitor?

If you need to set a pace that will stretch your abilities, consider one of several ‘self-competitions’ that will challenge you by challenging yourself.

  • NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month is the grand master of writing self-contests. The idea is to write a 50,000 rough draft of a novel from whole cloth in the month of November. Creator Chris Baty has built quite a website that administrates the contest, where you can log in your progress through the week and talk in forums with others who have accepted the same challenge. I completed NaNoWriMo in 2007 with a manuscript that was around 50,010 words. Yay me! What a rush that was. Now, to edit it into something that doesn’t resemble sad mush. I’ll be posting about this later. I have ideas!
  • JulNoWriMo: Not to be outdone by November, July has its own contest. Though newer and not as fancy, its participants are on the rise. Too bad we just missed it! Keep it in mind for 2010.
  • 10K Day: Milli Thornton at the Fear of Writing hosted the first 10K Day in June, and it was such a hit that she decided to make it a regular thing, and even to add a second day (a Saturday) to the monthly challenge. Check out her site, which has just moved over to WordPress and so has a little construction dust right now.  This is a good site for a little jolt of inspiration to get you back to writing.
  • The 500 Words-a-Day Challenge: Debbie Ohi at Inkygirl has put out a daily challenge of writing 500 words a day or 1000 words a day. If these word counts seem small then keep in mind that a single Lego seems small, but with enough of them you can build a rocket ship or landspeeder or castle. Or TARDIS! It certainly helps that Debbie offers cool Yay Me! badges. That’s reward enough.

There are other self-challenge sites out there which you’ll find with a quick browse. Some of them require an entry fee. All of them challenge you to challenge yourself.

Let me know: which challenges have you accepted? And whether you completed the challenge or not, how did it help you with your writing? Feel free to post your answer in the comments below.

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Categories: article, productivity, writing
  1. August 14, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Thanks, Guy, for featuring the 10K Day in your list of suggestions. :~)

    If anyone reading this still quails at the concept of self-challenge, the 10K Day might be a good place to start. We are there to challenge ourselves to write as much as we can. But it’s done in an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support, where everyone succeeds no matter how many words you write that day.

    Check out the comment section from the July 10K Day (the August 13 event is still on the old blog) to give you a taste of what I mean:

    http://fearofwriting.com/blog/?p=71

    Even the ones who are a bit dismayed along the way (with what they see as their lack of progress) almost always end up saying a version of “This is way more than I’ve ever written in a day!” And they also love being in the joyful company of the other writers.

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