In this video I talk about why people take part in StoryADay (and why it might be right for you). Listen now or read the transcript, below.
- Are you sick of failing, and know you need something extra to help you reach your writing potential?
- Do you want to be happier, more fulfilled and easier to live with? (I can’t guarantee this, but it does seem to be a happy side effect of writing more)
- Would you like a tool to help you plan for success in May?
- Watch this video, then request your Creative Challenge Workbook here.
The Gist of the Video:
Most people come to StoryADay because they’re looking for something extra in their writing life. I certainly was when I invented it!
Failing To Write Is Painful
When your writing is going well, you feel like you’re getting to the essence of who you are. When you’re not writing, you still have the urge to create, but you’re not acting on it, and that feels pretty terrible.
One dark March day in 2010 I decided I was going to write a story every day in May because I had been failing to write anything at all. (It seemed like a logical leap to me!)
Way back then I was miserable because I wasn’t writing. I was busy. Maybe you are too. By the time you fulfill all your daily obligations, you’re drained and it’s easier to put writing off for tomorrow.
Or social media keeps interrupting you.
Or maybe some big show is coming back for its last season…and it’s so much easier to just go downstairs and watch that than it is to sit at your desk and create something new.
(It IS difficult to create something new.)
Persistence Pays Off (But Can Be Difficult)
Even if you are writing, it’s easy to get lost in the middle or to get discouraged because first drafts tend to be messy. Maybe you lose confidence in your ability to write and then end up with a fear of failing again.
I have been there. A lot. I was there when I founded StoryADay May in 2010. I’ve been there since. Pretty much every project has a moment like that, but I’ve learned some things over the years that have allowed me to take myself and thousands of other writers through the month of May.
What Happens If You’re Not Writing?
Writers-who-aren’t-writing are sometimes frustrated, sometimes bitter, and sometimes they’ve closed off their creative impulses.
When that happens, we can even stop finding pleasure in other writers’ success. Or maybe we lose our joy in reading because all we can think is ‘I could write! I could write! if I could just find the time and the motivation and the space and the confidence I could write better than this guy’ or ‘I would love to be writing as well as this woman’
Bill Murray’s Sage Advice
Bill Murray, actor and comedian, offers this advice: we do everything better when we are very very relaxed. He says, “the more fun I haven’t on a job the better I am as an actor”, and that’s certainly true for writing.
The more anxious you are about writing, the less likely you’re going to have any fun and the less likely your writing is going to be any good.
You may end up spending time resenting the people around you because they’re taking your time and attention away from your writing…and none of that reflects the person you want to be.
What I Learned When I Began Writing Regularly
The first year I ran StoryADay it was tough to give myself permission to leave my young kids and husband and go and make time to write.
But when I came back downstairs every night, I was a different person! A better person.
I felt connected to the person I really am. It was an act of self respect. Not to mention the fact that writing is fun!
When the writing is flowing, it’s energizing. If you can complete a story—which is the challenge for StoryADay May, to complete a story every day—you get that that endorphin rush, that dopamine hit of finishing the story.
Understanding The Story
When you finish a story you begin to understand what your story wants to be.
You may start with a premise or character, a title or a cool idea, but it’s not until you’ve written most of it that you know what the story really is about. Themes emerge, and revision ideas become clear.
Then, after you’ve finished your writing for the day, you come back to your everyday life, satisfied. You’ve fed the part of yourself that is essential to who you are. Best of all, the people around you start to notice.
When you are fulfilled the people around you sense it. In turn, they start to believe you’re serious about your writing, and they begin to take pride in it, too
Making–and keeping–a commitment to your writing is wonderful for your writing practice. It’s wonderful for creating a big stack of stories. But it’s really wonderful for your self-respect, for teaching you that you can do things that are hard, and it’s really important for telling people around you ‘this is important to me! I am a writer.’
Writing is not about bestseller lists. Writing is not about publishing deals. Writing is about communicating our ideas to another mind by means of squiggly marks on a page and it’s important. It’s important to the world.
We’re deep thinkers. We’re sensitive. We should be the people influencing the culture. Why let somebody else create the culture when you could be putting stories into the world that come from your heart and will shape your readers?
How ‘Doing The Work’ Can Change Your Life
People in the StoryADay community have:
- Completed their first story since school
- Had their first story accepted for publication
- Rediscovered joy in their writing, revised their novel, taken it to agents, been published, written and published their second books, and turned their own children into their biggest cheerleaders, who now make sure their parent has time to write!
- Begun to believe that it’s possible to make writing part of their lives.
Charlie Jane Anders said in her Nebula acceptance speech that she wasn’t sure she was good enough to write the book she wanted to write. She hoped her award meant that the next person who was arguing with themselves would “be able to tell the voices to shut up and just go and write their frickin’ book.”
When you write, when you build your writing practice, you send ripples out into the world. Writing becomes part of your identity.
If you write, you’re a writer.
I want you to find ways to have that identity shift.
I would argue the StoryADay is one of those ways. I aim to make it simpler and more fun for you.
Simpler and More Fun
During StoryADay May I make it easier for you to start writing by giving you prompts every day. Each one is a mini writing exercises, to help you focus on one thing at a time. (It’s hard to get overwhelmed when you’re only thinking about one thing!)
I try to make it simpler for you to integrate writing into your life by putting a limit on this: we’re going to write a story a day for a month.
We’re not going to do this forever.
I’m not asking you to write two thousand words a day for the rest of your life.
I’m saying: take one month and try and write a story every day in order to,
- Build a portfolio of first drafts that you can revise and submit and have fun with, and
- Experiment with your voice and your genre, what length you like to write, everything!
- Experiment with your writing practice. Find out what works on a weekday, what works on a weekend day, what works on a special occasion, how you’re going to write your story when you’ve got a birthday in the family, or when you’ve got to take a trip; on a mundane day.
Do you thrive on routine or do you thrive on novelty? Do you need things quiet? Do you need things busy?
You’re not going to know what works for you until you try it.
You could take years to discover the answers if you’re not writing regularly.
Give me a month! Commit to writing everyday. You will find ways to develop a writing routine and a writing habit that works for you.
Some of it won’t work. Some days you’ll try something and it’ll be a bust and you’ll think, ‘I wish I hadn’t worked in that coffee shop, it was terrible.’
But at least, then, you have data to work with.
This is a process of learning about your specific writing needs, your specific writing voice.
I can’t give you the answers, but I can lead you through the process and I can give you support. The StoryADay community can give you the support you need to make your writing a priority for this one month.
Finding Your Tribe
We have a great community here at StoryADay and I think you will enjoy hanging out with them. There are people who’ve been here since 2010. There are people who just found us. It’s very supportive, very non-judgmental, and everybody’s just here to write. Everybody’s insecure! I think you’ll like us.
And it’s so much easier to live up to your commitments when there is a community behind you (virtually or in real life).
Plan for Success
I do encourage you to come over to the website. Dig around a little bit. Try some prompts.
If you haven’t signed up for the mailing list yet do so and I will send you the Creative Challenge Workbook. (If you are already on the mailing you can still use that link to get another copy if you’ve lost yours!)
This is the perfect time to go through the Creative Challenge Workbook exercises: what would it mean to you to get to the end of the month having written all month?
(And remember, you don’t have to write 31 stories in 31 days. You can make up your own rules. Just make sure they scare you a little bit.)
Lots of people come into StoryADay with a bang, then they fall away a little bit. Not everyone makes it to the end.
The Creative Challenge Workbook helps, because it it captures the excitement of the days before the challenge, and it helps you to keep that excitement in mind on days when the novelty’s worn off by Day 12.
Strategies for Success
In my next post I’ll tell you some of the strategies I have discovered, over the years, for killing that mid challenge slump and really allowing yourself to live up to your expectations.
There are some very specific things you can do which will improve your chances of getting to the end of the month with a stack of short stories, a bunch of new friends, and a deeper understanding of your writing practice, your voice, your strengths, your opportunities for development… so stay tuned.
I really look forward to spending some more time with you in May.
I’d love to hear more from you about how I can help with your writing journey. Please leave a comment below, telling me your biggest challenge around writing.
8 thoughts on “Are You The Writer You Want To Be?”
I have been a so-called “writer” on and off since the 8th grade when Sister Mary Wilbur gave me an A++ on a short story I wrote and I’ve had the bug ever since. I am now 75 years old, 15 years into my retirement as a high school teacher and coach, and I’m still struggling at this. By this time I thought I’d have a best-seller in my resume or at least an Oscar nomination. Oh, I’ve sold 6 short stories (pay ranging from a single copy to $1300), a finalist in a screenwriting contest, but when these small accomplishments didn’t propel me to stardom, I was crestfallen. But when I reflect on this, the answer is always the same: I’m a writer who doesn’t write. I think about writing, stories, characters, and plots, but I don’t do the writing. Now, I feel it’s now or never. Upon reflection, I felt I was actually doing the work when I was taking a writing class or in a writer’s group. I’m a person who needs feedback, negative and positive. I can’t do it in a vacuum. Thank you for listening. That was a lot to get off my chest and confess to.
Challenges? Time (a more than full-time job in healthcare). Focus (serious ADHD, not just an excuse). Laziness (self explanatory). I look forward to a May of discipline and discovery. Thanks for all you do!
Sounds like some accountability is JUST what you need (ask me how I know…). Looking forward to hanging out more next month!
Thanks for this video! It was really inspiring and I’m looking forward to the further emails, because I think my biggest struggle is a lack of confidence that sort of paralyses me as I write…robbing me of ideas and words…
Thank you for taking the time for this video. It was so encouraging and calming. I think I have a better idea of how I can best approach this in a way I can sustain.
I’m so glad to hear that. You’ve got this! 😉
I think my biggest struggle is my lack of confidence in my writing ability, my censor, my voices that tell me I can’t do it, I can’t “make it”, I will never be as good as X. And then the procrastination that comes from that- dreaming about writing is easier, less concrete, less challenging than actually doing the work.
Oh yes, you are definitely not alone!
Two thoughts spring to mind: 1, remind that your annoying censor that it is comparing your first draft to your hero’s polished and published draft. Even THEY weren’t that good in the first draft; 2, do consider using StoryADay May as a vehicle to write stories at a velocity that outruns all your fears. Join us and just commit to having fun and writing *something* everyday, until you’re too exhausted to care about quality 🙂
Everything can be fixed in revision!
Thanks for commenting!