“I only like to write when the muse moves me, but I’m having trouble getting the motivation to finish something. Help!” –Bemused
You know what you need?
A good ol’ fashioned dunk in an icy lake!
Just kidding. But it’s 95 degrees here and I’m a little delirious with the heat.
Writing challenges are popular in the writing community. You know why? Because they work. Here are 29 reasons you should think about signing up for a writing challenge:
- There’s a ton of them. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is the most popular, along with its sister program I’m doing right now, Camp NaNoWriMo. There’s also Story a Day in May, the Clarion Write-A-Thon, and a ton of books to choose from. There’s a little something for everybody!
- You’ve always wanted to try, but life has got in your way. It’s cool. Life gets in everyone’s way. A challenge will help you make your writing a priority.
- Everyone’s doing it. Famous authors and new authors. People you like and people you hate. People who will challenge you to write more and people you can’t stand to let get ahead of you.
- But it’s mostly nice people. The writing communities who participate in challenges are all about encouraging each other and keeping each other accountable to persist throughout the challenge.
- It’s competitive. You can find yourself hammering on your keyboard to catch up with your buddy’s word count.
- But it’s actually not that competitive. Nobody “wins” and nobody “loses.” The only person you compete against is yourself, and if you don’t reach your goals? It’s cool. You’ll still have some great material to work with at the end.
- Pump up your word count. Focusing on your writing will make you churn out a fat stack of words.
- Practice makes perfect. New science says that experienced writers use more of their brains than newbies. Just like dancers or musicians, the successful artists are the ones who practice.
- Quantity begets quality. With all those words, you’re bound to write something of quality eventually.
- But it’s not just about the word count. It’s about honing on your craft in the most efficient way possible.
- Follow a prompt. Certain challenges (hint hint—stay tuned in the coming weeks) provide specific prompts that allow you to attack certain parts of your craft, such as more realistic description.
- Write better characters. For some of us (cough cough—me), conveying emotion and drawing realistic, likeable characters can be a challenge in itself. Writing speedily can help you get out of your own head and into the characters.
- Learn how to plot. Still, in order to be fueled to write every day, it can be helpful to have a game-plan. A writing challenge can help you make one.
- Think outside the box. Writing challenges can allow you to explore new ways of writing and kick your muse into high gear.
- Overcome perfectionism. Perfectionism can paralyze you from writing for fear it won’t be ‘perfect.’ Guess what? Nothing you write will be perfect the first time around. So you might as well write it anyway!
- Freeze your inner editor. During a NaNoWriMo challenge one year, my region drew pictures of our inner editors, locked them in a box, and literally put them in a freezer for one month. Goodbye, red pen.
- Get new ideas every day. The more you write, the more new ideas you’ll have to cultivate to fuel it!Plus, it will get you in the habit of coming up with new ideas on a regular basis.
- Trump writer’s paralysis. The best way to beat self-doubt is to actually do the thing you’re afraid of doing. Prove yourself wrong. Problem solved.
- But still finish something. Afraid to get to the end of that first draft? Creative challenges are designed to help you to finish something, whether it’s a novel or a flash fiction, and that’s something to be proud of.
- Finding time to write is hard. But with a challenge, you’ll find yourself squeezing in spare time on your lunch break, on the bus, or in those precious minutes after the kids are asleep.
- Go at your own pace. Most challenges have a small task or a target word count per day, but if you’re busy during the week, you can spend a few hours just on your writing during the weekend to reach your goals.
- You can write whatever you want. Most writing challenges give you a a certain amount of time to write a certain number of short stories or a novel, but if novels-in-verse or memoirs are more you thing, go ahead. Bend the rules.
- Build a habit. Not like when you were a kid and got scolded for chewing your nails. After the challenge is over, you’ll be more ready than ever to build writing into your life all year long.
- Learn to deal with Writer’s Block. Writer’s block will happen, but you will face it head-on and learn techniques to combat it.
- It’s a real stress-reliever. Coming home and letting go of everything but your novel can actually help you relieve stress and anxiety.
- It’s fun. With new prompts and exercises every day, some challenges can get you in a playful writing mood. And while we’re on the subject . . .
- You actually like to write. It should just be said at this point. This is something you enjoy spending time on. It’s not a job. It’s not a burden. It’s for fun.
- It’s rewarding. You will feel like a brand-spanking-new person after you finish that first draft.
- You have a story to tell. Only you can tell this story. A writing challenge can help you get it out into the world.
Speaking of challenges, check out Conquer the Craft in 29 Days (#CTC29).
It’s a prompt-a-day challenge designed to help you write more, write better, write smarter.
There’s still time to join, but it’s happening now so hurry and sign up. Click the link for more info.
Got a question? Tweet me @beccaquibbles with the hashtag #askbecca, email me at becca [at] DIYMFA [dot] com, or just leave a comment below! You could see your question answered right here at Ask Becca!
Rebecca Ann Jordan is a speculative fiction author and artist in San Diego. She recently won Reader’s Choice Best of 2013 for her short story “Promised Land” at Fiction Vortex and has published poetry and fiction in Flapperhouse, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, Yemassee Journal and more. Becca is pursuing a master’s degree in Creative Writing from California Institute of the Arts. See more from her at rebeccaannjordan.com.