Tips for Participating in Writing Challenges

On the first day of the new year, Jeff Goins’ 500 Words A Day Writing Challenge began. Jeff’s posts on this challenge had entered my inbox. I read them, and I thought: “I already have goals set. Probably shouldn’t sign up.”

With each post I read, I was tempted. Jeff makes a good case for his challenge. You’ll note in his post at the link above Jeff shares the following:

Here’s what I know about writing: It happens in small bites. Step by step. One little chunk at a time.

This sounded easier. I pondered the possibilities for three days and on January 4th I began the challenge.

I talked with friends who had signed up. And Jeff’s rules for the challenge made it seem like a reasonable challenge to help shape a new habit of writing daily. After all, Jeff’s own philosophy of 500 Words says it all:

My 500 Words is a 31-day challenge designed to help you develop a daily writing habit and become a better writer.

I will be the first to tell you that I didn’t write every day. This is obvious since I didn’t begin until January 4th. But there were other days where life did intervene, and I didn’t write. A longstanding rule in our home before and after retirement, Sundays are reserved for family time and to honor the Sabbath. I knew those days I wouldn’t be writing.

At the end of January 31st, I had written a total of 16,011 words, many more than I had written per month when I started the challenge.

And the challenge goes on even with Jeff in Africa and February underway. A strong community has grown on Facebook where we gather to record our successes and not so successful days. With January’s success, I intend to stick with the challenge in February.

No matter the context of the writing challenge you choose to take part in, the following tips may be helpful to you:

  • Set aside a time each day specifically for writing, hopefully away from distractions.
  • Do not edit as you write–free write. There’ll be time later for editing.
  • Remember: This is to help develop the habit of writing every day.
  • If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Life intervenes, and there’s always tomorrow.
  • If you don’t make the goal each day, at least write something.
  • Hopefully, your writing will be on a specific project but perhaps it won’t. That’s OK too.
  • Allow yourself freedom to write and let the words flow.

My takeaway:I now realize I can sit down and write almost every day, and I can forgive myself on the days that I don’t. And I finished the 31-day 500 Word Challenge!

My goal now is to write every single day. Writing is my passion, and my passion feeds the rest of my life. 

And for you, why not consider coming along with us in February to get a feel for how this challenge works? You just might like it!

What to Do When Life Interrupts Writing

I could just as easily have titled this post “Writing Life and Goals Interrupted.”
Silhouette of woman running

When I posted recently on my goals for 2014, my enthusiasm and intention to hit the track running full speed ahead and keep up that pace was undeniable.

Life had other plans.

Often life does. Somehow it manages to stay far enough in the background that you don’t sense it moving in to your plans.

2014 started out with interruptions.

My husband and I were both hit with health issues. For him the issues he’s facing are enough to change the “who does what” around our home. I have assumed the tasks he usually does on top of my own. My appreciation for what he does regularly is growing daily.

Each day I have looked at the list of goals I carefully wrote out, and I’ve despaired that I’m falling behind. But I don’t want my husband to feel guilty. So, I say nothing and my mind whirrs with the schedule that’s already off.

But wait — should our goals be so rigid they make us miserable? 

Where does it say that attainable goals should be met on a given day, unless an outside source has set a deadline?

Is it healthy to be so inflexible as to ignore circumstances around you in favor of goals?

One can strive to complete the goals, ignoring life’s needs, or
one can be flexible enough to adjust those goals to fit them into
the current circumstances of your life. 

I would rather have not been faced with choosing to adjust my goals or set some of them aside temporarily. But it would have been my greater choice not to have my husband ill.

When thinking of goals, we must also think of flexibility, patience, and resolve:

  • Flexibility to accept and adjust;
  • Patience to wait out the current circumstances; and
  • Resolve to return to our goals and continuing striving toward the finish line.

Self-discipline

Do you have thoughts about the rigidity of goals or resolutions? Are you willing to make adjustments and allow the circumstances to take over temporarily?

New Year, New Look, New Goals

Attribution – xjrshimada
Attribution – xjrshimada

New Year

Here we are in 2014. Can you believe another year has passed by? 2013 sped by like a high-speed rail train.

Days flying by in a blur. Projects piling up no matter how fast we moved. Ideas for stories and books constantly dancing in our heads.

Where did it all go? Do we really have to have an answer?

After all, we’re here now — in 2014.

A clean slate. Ready to begin anew.

New Look

In this new year, I decided to tackle my 2014 goals right out of the box.

  • Among my goals is the completion of my memoir manuscript. And if that happens (and why wouldn’t it?), I need to be thinking about personal branding and author platform. Two fairly heady subjects. I decided to choose one of them to work on first.
  • Branding won out! When I began blogging, I didn’t know the first thing about branding. However, along the way I have read a number of posts and articles on the subject and with working toward the finish line with my book, I decided it was something that needed serious attention.
  • Note the new name, Sherrey Meyer, Writer. The tagline, however, remains tied to the central theme of my book and my goal here, “Healing life’s hurts through writing.” I chose to use my name and my calling to enjoy the freedom of being who I am almost every hour of every day of the week:
      • She who writes
      • She who loves words
      • She who hopes to help others write their stories
      • And with the new name, it was time to also adopt a more professional look, something crisp and clean with an underlying hint of purpose and mission. Look around and explore. A few things are different. Most things are nearly the same. I want you to be comfortable here — this is where we meet.

    New Goals

    In my last post, I talked about my goals for 2014. To date, I’m keeping pace. I want to mention something I came across after that post which is helping a lot with my daily writing goal.

    Catching up on a little reading the other day, I came across a post by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer. In it, Jeff talked about establishing a regular writing habit, writing every day. The challenge is a simple one: write 500 words every day for 31 days, starting January 1st, or when you came across the post. Then you post how many words you’ve written on any given day on Twitter, Facebook, in the Facebook Group Jeff has set up.

    I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? So, it was January 4th when I sat down to tackle my first 500 words. That day I wrote 1200 on my memoir, and my daily goal I had set here was to write 1500-2000 each day. Call me elated — I was close! And each day I’ve averaged about the same.

    Attribution
    Attribution

    Maybe my first goal was a bit lofty or maybe I’ve just got to get past that 1200 mark.

    Further, Jeff’s challenge has provided entrée for me into an online accountability group, and I’m meeting some greater writers.

    The takeaway on New Goals is that although we set up goals, we need to be flexible to allow ourselves the opportunity to take advantage of something we weren’t expecting which aids in achieving that goal!

    What about you? If you set goals for 2014, are you well underway? Have you had to make changes and be flexible? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

    Striving Toward My Goals in 2014

    In yesterday’s post, I wrapped up 2013 by reviewing my ups and downs during the year. Some were writerly, others family.
    Overall, my year ended on several high notes, and I have many writing friends and communities who contributed to the high moments.

    But now it is time to move on to 2014 and what the next 364 days hold in store.

    Striving in 2014 image
    Striving in 2014 image

    I never make resolutions. Why? Because I break them.

    Goals are a different story. I can’t explain why. BUT goals I somehow manage to keep on a high awareness level. Goals are usually in my mind, never written, only for my mind to see. This year, however, I’m stepping outside the box and sharing them with you thereby giving myself a sense of accountability.

    Drum roll, please —

    Writing Goals:

    • Complete first draft of my memoir, writing 1500-2000 words five days per week
    • Self-edit manuscript at least twice
    • Engage editor and proofreader to check my manuscript
    • Platform building and branding efforts
    • Begin drafting book proposal
    • Post here once a week

    I recently read and reviewed Brooke Warner’s new book, How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal. This book invigorated and encouraged me so I believed I could really do this. Warner’s easy style and straightforward explanations of platform building, book proposal, branding, and more instilled a sense of self-confidence I have not until now felt.

    I knew I could write. Many of you told me that. I had published several short pieces and had others accepted. But could I make the giant step to finish a book and then approach the point of publication. This one boulder stood between me and finishing my memoir. No more!

    Attribution
    Attribution

    My red cape is at the ready, and SuperWriter is about to start work on the next great memoir! Thank you, Brooke Warner!

    Other Goals:

    • Learn more about SEO
    • Incorporate better social media skills related to time management
    • Consider eliminating book review blog due to time required
    • Redesign blog to make it more brand-based (already underway!)
    • Consider focus on writing blog
    • Consider publication of one short e-book

    Personal Goals:

    • Greater focus on spiritual health (recent reactivation of my devotional blog, Sowing Seeds of Grace, is a beginning)
    • Health and fitness (make time for 30 minutes of exercise at least five days/week)
    • Home and hearth (planning chores more effectively around writing time and time spent with husband)
    • Yard and garden (more time outside digging in the dirt)
    • Knitting and quilting (the other half of my writing room — make some time each week to indulge myself in one or the other of these)

    This may seem to be a long list, but a single human unit has many needs to support a healthy and balanced life. Without some of these listed components, I do not feel as if I’m thriving. I will find balance by allocating time wisely and knowing when to pull back on something allowing a sense of flexibility to reign overall.

    AND NOW, my focus word for 2014 —

    Merriam-Webster.com defines “strive” as “to devote serious effort or energy.” I believe in order to carry out any or all the above, but primarily my writing goals, I must devote serious time, energy and effort to capture the prize — completion of my memoir manuscript in 2014. And I will strive!

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    Attribution

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