Last week, I inadvertently began Jeffrey Goins’ 30-day writing challenege.
How does one “inadvertently” sign up for a challenge? Well, that’s easy enough. I signed up for 30 writing prompts to “get me started writing” on a given day. I just didn’t know they’d be coming to me daily, in a challenge format. But Mr. Goins must understand the human psyche, because he’s gotten me writing 8 days of the 10.
(I Sabbath from writing on Sundays.)
Having now hit the 10-day mark of the challenge, what’s fascinated me are two revelations. First, the prompts have not always gotten me motivated, but the challenge of writing new content on that day has. Second, I’ve been writing far more than I had thought.
As a guy trying to juggle a healthy number of income-producing jobs as well as personal projects, my writing ventures are fairly slow-going. Stronghold has been in active revision for almost a year, and the screenplay adaptation for it continues to sit unfinished. My upcoming young adult ode to evangelical weekend retreats is in a holding pattern until summer. I never even finished the second draft of my children’s book, and the blog—well, you see how consistent I am here.
Bottom line is that I always feel like I am “not being a writer” because I am not publishing income-producing content. Congratulations, Capitalism, you’ve trained me to believe my work is disqualified if it’s not earning me anything.
The truth, however, is that’s a misunderstanding of the creative process, and my own output. I am writing constantly.
Goins’ challenge has shown me that taking the 20 minutes a day to get 500 free-associative words on paper is a valuable exercise, and the challenge dynamic has forced me to do it nearly every day. But as I stepped back from this, I’ve come to realize that those are 500 fresh words over and above copious amounts of pre-writing correspondences, written prayers, and endless notations and revisions on pre-existing work. The fact that the fruit of those labors has not yet come to harvest does not negate that seeds have been sown and the rewards will come in time. In fact, looking at things today, I see what I am already reaping.
The blog has been more active.I am getting close to releasing a second edition of Stronghold. My writing muscles are not only getting a workout on the daily, but different muscle groups are being strengthened. Outlining, brainstorming, list-making, planning, article-writing, interviewing, revising, editing—all of these facets of the craft continue to get a regular workout 6 days a week, and that’s an encouraging thought.
It just took inadvertently signing up for a writing challenge for me to see it.
So be encouraged, struggling writers. If the game is in your guts, chances are you may be doing more work than you realize, strengthening your craft all the time. Take an inventory; see where you stand. If you realize you’re not hitting the grind, then check out Jeff Goins’ 500-words-a-day challenge. It may provide the kick you need.