Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words: A Writing Challenge and I’m Doing It All Wrong

500words_wide-e1388529158371

In an effort to fulfill my 2017 personal writing pledge I made a move to start my writing year off right and joined Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words: A Writing Challenge.

About two years ago I read Jeff’s book, The Art of Work, and shortly thereafter began following his blog. One tenet of Jeff’s teaching is that simply getting in the habit of writing 500 words every day will make you a better writer. I’m not sure why I never noticed it before, but at the beginning of this year I discovered Jeff offered a personal writing challenge and signed up immediately.

The very next day I received my first encouraging email from Jeff and started writing whatever I wanted – stream of consciousness ramblings, journal entries, small snippets of scenes that would never fit in any of my current projects, and some incomplete blog posts I would likely never finish. What was missing was structure, purpose and committment to the words I recorded each day. Beyond getting 500 words down each day, it occurred to me that I was doing this all wrong.

But you know what? That’s OK!

It was my choice to join the challenge. It was my decision to put my own abilities to the test. Jeff masterfully set out the guidelines, but if they don’t work for me then why shouldn’t I adjust them to fit my own personal needs, desires and goals?

What choices did I have? I was behind on the challenge which was a huge hit to my self confidence. I had not written 500 words for several days because I felt defeated so early on. I never took time to establish my goals for the challenge before feeling the push to jump right in, leaving me without focus.

So again I ask, what choices did I have?

  1. I could unequivocally give up. Not a good option for me or for building my writing self confidence that has been battered and bruised so quickly this year.
  2. I could continue on as if the last couple of missed days were no big deal. Jeff does suggest you don’t worry about missed days, but after having missed three I didn’t feel I was even living up to the spirit of the challenge in the least.
  3. I could reboot the challenge. Start again on Day 1 and move forward.

Take a wild guess at what I chose! Sure this is a challenge. Hey, the word “challenge” is right in the title! DId I fail? If you have to put a label on it, I certainly did. I’ll freely admit I failed. But, you know what. We don’t make progress without some setbacks. If everything came so easily to us and we knew every attempt would be a success, then why bother to even make an attempt? So yes, I can proudly say, “I failed at my first attempt at Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words: A Writing Challenge.

But, you know what? I tried again. I didn’t make it with my second attempt either because, UGH, I hate to even say it, but “work got in the way”. This has been my favorite excuse and one I am working to lock securely in my attic (see my last blog entry for more on my favorite excuse). Things have settled a bit at work, but I cannot count on them staying that way. Regardless I’ve rebooted the challenge for a third attempt and I’ll keep restarting until I am satisfied that I have met the challenge!

With a longer break between my second and third attempts, I took time to reasses and refocus my approach to the challenge. I formulated a better defined plan, which was missing from my first start, to ensure I can meet the challenge. In addition to focusing on my novel, I’ll use some of my daily writing sessions to address my approach and progress throughout the challenge. Establishing both writing priorities as well as contingencies for those days when the planned writing does not flow are my personal keys to reaching at least 500 words through 31 days and maintaining what I expect will be an ongoing writing habit.

So yesterday was Day 1 of the challenge and I have met the goal by working out some new ideas in the novel I am writing. I blasted past 500 words easily before I headed to work. This post followed along with my plan and resulted in a successful Day 2. I have high hopes for Day 3 and throughout the remainder of this week.

You can to join Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words: A Writing Challenge by clicking one of the several links I have included in this post. Jeff sends out a daily email with writing prompts, tips, suggestions, and encouragement to help you on your way. He also has a Facebook group you can join to share your progess and receive encouragement from fellow participants.

If you struggle with sitting down and doing the work like I do, then give this challenge a try. Like me, if at first you don’t succeed … well, you know the rest.

Good luck!

Advertisements

My Favorite Excuse

strong-box-1429334_1920

Many have used it. Some use it too often. I’ll bet we’ve all heard others lay it out there. Personally, I have thought and even uttered these words aloud far too often.

“Life got in the way.”

With so many different flavors of this same, old excuse, I’ll admit I’ve put some of these to use as well.

“Work has been crazy”

“Other responsibilities took precedence”

“I didn’t have time to fit it in”

For the last couple of years I have had strong desire to write. Fiction, non-fiction, journalling and blogging have all played a part in this dream. I think about it daily, yet I don’t act. I assumed I could develop a good writing habit by blogging. Regularly blogging should be an excellent way to develop, practice and expand my writing abilities. The blog also provided the important opportunity to share my writing publicly in a relatively safe space. By choosing the WordPress community I knew my blog would gain some notice by other bloggers, a mostly positive and encouraging group in my experience, yet remain relatively hidden until I actively publicized my work. The initial likes for my posts were a great encouragement to continue. I attempted posting regularly, but for me this was not often enough to consider myself a blogger, and I could not find the time to draft, edit and post even weekly. Eventually the posts dribbled down to once a month before abandoning all but the idea of the blog.

Life got in the way.

And here is the thing, the Life that got in the way isn’t the life I dream of. The Life in my way is the life of requirements, of responsbilities, of duty. Dreams and desires don’t play much of a role in the LIfe that always seems to get in the way. But, they should!

Just because writing doesn’t pay the bills, keep the house clean and keep my family safe and secure, does not mean it is any less important than these other priorities. What writing does for each of us is very personal. It may allow us to express our inner most thoughts in a safe way that otherwise would remain secret forever. It allows us to share the stories in our heads bursting to get out that would likely never be told. It allows us to be creative when the rest of our life isn’t. Whatever your personal reasons are for writing, remember they are important, they should be priorities and, most of all, there should be a place for them in your life.

Someday I want to say, “hey, I was going to vaccum the living room, but life got in the way.” When I can apply this excuse to these required, yet uninspiring responsbiliites, I will know that the Life of this excuse is my life of writing.

For now, I have crammed this excuse in a box and hid it in the attic so I can be serious about my writing. It will take significant effort to keep the excuse secure. Strong excuses have ways of slipping out of the thickest box even when wrapped in several layers of chains and locks.

As I catch myself using any flavor of these excuses, I stop and ask myself, “Why?” What made the other items on my list so much more important than writing? What did I spend my time doing that stole my focus, but wasn’t a priority? How could I have managed my time and energy better?

It isn’t life that is in my way; it’s these excuses.

What is your favorite excuse keeping you from putting the time you want toward your creative pursuits? Please share your thoughts in the comments, below.