Imagine Giving Yourself
The Gift of Becoming A Writer
If you've ever dreamed of being a writer, you'll know the struggle of trying to make that dream fit into the reality of daily life. Making time to write among all the other priorities of daily life, not to mention dealing with your stubborn inner critic, can be a Herculean task.
You end up reading about writing, writing about writing and talking about how you'll get back to writing 'some day'.
What if you could turn "some day" into "everyday"?
What would that do for your dreams of writing success? What would it do for your sense of fulfillment? What would it do for your writing?
JULIE'S STORY: A WRITING LIFE, TRANSFORMED
In early 2010 I was a frustrated writer: I was averaging two short stories a year and had convinced myself I had no idea how to write a novel. With a young family just starting school, a husband, friends, and part-time job, I felt guilty, self-indulgent making any real time for writing.
Worse, I was beginning to suspect I didn't know how to write a story any more. When I could start a story and the writing got hard, I just stopped and let the story die.
I was on the point of giving up. I was down. It leaked into every corner of my otherwise lovely life.
So, one day, driving home from something mundane but 'necessary', I decided I would do something extreme to make my writing get on the list of 'necessary' things in my daily life.
If I couldn't write one story, why not challenge myself to write 31? In a month?
I couldn't fail any more than I was all ready failing.
And I might just figure out how to write again.
A year later, and I have the almost-30 stories I wrote in May plus many others I have written since, standing at my back, applauding, every time I sit down to write. In November I 'won' NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words of an almost-complete novel -- something I really and honestly didn't think I could do (until about three days into the challenge).
And the biggest surprise of all? The time I invested in my writing had a positive impact on every other aspect of my life. I was more productive, I was happier, I was more attentive to my husband and kids when I had the satisfaction of knowing I had done my writing that day. My laundry pile had never been smaller, (because I now saw laundry time as 'plot-development time' rather than resenting the chore). The difference was so noticeable that now, when I start to get cranky, my husband takes charge of the kids and sends me off to 'have some writing time'.
I'm now starting to comb through my backlog of stories, figuring out the best ways to get them out to readers. I also have a newsletter (with actual subscribers!) and an ebook in progress. My writing life has never been healthier, all thanks to the crazy decision to do an extreme writing challenge.
Writing Challenges saved my writing life.
And now I have a workbook to help other people through their first Extreme Writing Challenge. I hope it transforms your writing life at least as much as it has mine. There's nothing to sign up for and no charge.
So, What Is An Extreme Writing Challenge?
A writing challenge is an attempt to write a mind-boggling amount of work in an insanely short amount of time, preferably as part of a herd of other writers who can apply positive peer pressure.
StoryADay.org, National Novel Writers Month, Poem A Day, 3-Day Novel, Write1Sub1 all have strict goals, a fixed timescale and a supportive online community.
There are times when quantity is at least as important as quality in learning an art.
Critics carp that any writing being done to a schedule can't be 'good' writing. But let's face it, any writing is better than no writing. These writing challenges force you to make time in your life for your writing, incorporate it into your daily routine, and they give you rough first drafts which might have taken you years to produce without them. It's an incredibly powerful tool in any writer's arsenal.
The harder I work, the luckier I get. -Samuel Goldwyn
The harder I work, the luckier I get. -Samuel Goldwyn
How To Make A Writing Challenge
Work For You
If you are thinking about doing a writing challenge you'll know three things:
- You know it will help with your productivity and, in turn, with your mastery of the craft. It'll be a big step on your writing journey. It might make the difference between "wannabe" and "actual" writer.
- You can't imagine quite how you'll find the time in your already busy life.
- You're scared. You're scared of starting and then failing to finish. Most of all, you're scared of sucking.
Well, you can do it. If I could, you can. All you need is a friendly hand to lead you through the process.
What's In The Workbook?
This free workbook has three main modules and plenty of room for you to capture your ideas now, while you're inspired. (This will be a huge help to you in the middle of the challenge, when the novelty has worn off. Simply dust off the workbook, open to your notes, and you'll be raring to go again.)
It leads you through the decision process in a logical way, to help you figure out if this is the right time for you, gives you tools to help you approach the challenge, and helps you discover what you stand to gain.
Module 1: What If You Really Did This?
The question and answer format in this module leads you through an exercise of imagination: What if you really did this? What do you stand to gain?
You'll take a realistic look at what might happen if you 'fail', and crystalize your reasons for wanting to do the challenge.
This will be an immense help during the middle of the challenge, when things get harder and the novelty has worn off, but before adrenaline rush you get when the end is in sight.
Capturing your answers now will give you an invaluable resource for the future.
Module 2: Inspiration On Tap
This module draws on all your sources of creative inspiration (you'll be surprised at some of them) and creates a personalized toolbox for you to use during the challenge.
It's hard enough finding time to write every day but there is nothing worse than making time to write then discovering the well of ideas has run dry.
This module takes you through a guided 'inspiration walk'. You'll capture ideas, source of inspiration and prompts to inspire you at any time during the challenge. Keep this one handy.
Module 3: Tools of the Trade
It's all very well to have good intentions and it's great to have inspiration, but it's hard to succeed without having all your tools in place.
This module helps you plan out what tools you will need to capture your ideas, to write every day. Where will you write? What's your back-up? What is your strategy for coping with bad days or missed deadlines.
This piece of the puzzle can make all the difference between an abandoned challenge and a successful one.
You Know You Want To Write
But You Keep On Stalling. Why?
Because it's scary, that's why! BUT taking action becomes much less terrifying if you have:
- A clear picture of how much it could rock your world to live your dream
- A mentor or role models who show you that it really can be done
- A toolkit and map to keep you on track after you’ve taken that first big step.
So download this workbook and create your own, personalized toolkit for creativity.
How To Use The Workbook
I strongly recommend sitting down for a quiet half hour, printing out the workbook and writing in your answers. Keep it on hand as your chosen writing challenge begins.
Re-reading your answers later is a great way to tap back into all your early enthusiasm (for example, half way through the challenge when you're wondering why you ever decided to do this crazy thing!).
What Other People Are Saying
Feedback so far has been full of excitable adjectives and exclamation points, whether from newbie writers or seasoned NaNoWriMo winners. (That surprised me a bit. In a good way.) I'm eager to hear what you think of it.
A Few Last Things
When you have worked through the workbook, I'd love it if you would send me an email (julie at story a day dot org) or leave a comment on this blog post answering one of these questions:
What was the most fruitful part of theworkbook for you (the one you could have kept finding answers for all day)
Did you discover anything unexpected about yourself?
Or just tell me what you thought, and if there are any parts that could be improved. Your input will make future versions of this workbook truly awesome.
Ready to get started?
P.S. If you like the workbook and would like to hear about other creativity tools designed especially for short story writers, sign up for the StoryADay Creativity Lab mailing list - an infrequent mailing that only comes out when I have something really useful to share. Sign up here.