A New Personal Challenge

writinginpublicIt's the first of September. A month ago, writer Dean Wesley Smith launched a new challenge for himself. For one year, he is going to "write in public". Every day he is putting up a new post, talking a little about his day, his writing process, what he got done, and how he did it. He's calling the series of blog posts "Writing in Public: A Year in the Life of a Professional Fiction Writer". He kept it up all through August, and it's been an awesome read. You can catch his first post here. As a secondary goal, he's planning to write about 100,000 new words each month, for a new monthly magazine he wants to put out - of all his work!

Understand, Dean's been doing this for decades. If you haven't read his blog, then you don't know his history - which involves over a hundred traditionally published novels and over two hundred short stories sold to various venues. He knows his craft; he also knows his methods, and has built up systems for getting things done over the course of decades of work. So what he's doing, really, is giving the rest of us a peek at those methods and systems.

It's been fun to watch. But what about doing more than just watching?

A month ago when Dean first started this crazy challenge, I asked him if he'd be offended if I tried to take up the challenge as well. His reply?

Kevin, completely up to you. Remember, this is for a year. It’s the long push that’s important here. Might want to bring the elephant down to a month to start. (grin)

So of course, I chickened out.

Hey, I have THINGS going on, right? I have three young kids. At the time, I was job hunting (found a new one, and starting full time this week, in fact). I need to earn a steady income to keep the roof over our heads and the fridge full. And writing isn't paying more than a bill a month or so. I still did some writing in August, but it's WAY easier to avoid the accountability. To continue just plugging along as a dabbler, instead of pushing myself.

I didn't get nearly as much done in August as I would have liked.

And I had a month to think about this idea of this challenge. I raised a bunch of objections for myself.

1) Who's going to want to read about MY writing process, anyway?

I'm not DWS. I haven't been doing this for decades. So why would anyone want to read about my writing work?

I do have one thing going for me, there. I have another job, and kids - two things Dean doesn't have. Most writers aren't in Dean's boat. We can't wake up at noon and write off and on until 4am, then go back to sleep before waking up to do it again the next day. We need to fit in writing around the day job, at least. It's a different challenge. What I experience as I push myself to excel might have some value for other writers who want to do the same thing.

Or maybe no one will read it. At this point, I'm OK with that result, too. Because by holding myself accountable. I will be making myself do a little more, and push a little harder. Whether or not anyone reads these posts, they ought to help ME write more. And that's a win all by itself. The data I will collect - about when I wrote best, when I worked faster or slower, and how I found space in my life for more writing hours - should pay more dividends in the future as well.

2) What if you fail?

Failure is embarrassing. We're brought up to hate it. But I've done some reading this month, and I think that's a poor attitude. Failure is only bad when we don't learn anything from it. Or perhaps when we fail because we didn't try.

From a certain point of view, August WAS a failure for me, because I didn't meet the writing goals I had set for myself. I failed even though I never started the challenge, because the private goals I did set were not met. If the thing we should derive from failure is some sort of learning, then what I ought to be taking away from August is "what you did last month DIDN'T work - time to try something different!"

Maybe I won't manage this challenge, either, but I certainly intend to give it my best shot. And I'll learn something from it regardless.

3) You don't have time for this.

Yeah, there's the big one. Because, of course, none of us do. Really. None of us have time to step out, step up, and do the things that matter to us.


Except that's a lie. We have all the time we need for the things we want to do. We just have to dump some of the things that are less important, but sometimes find ways to fill our days anyway.


The New Challenge

I'm going to take Dean's advice, and stick to just one month. For 30 days, through the month of September, I will put up at least a short blog post every day. I may not write every day, but if I don't write, I'll mention briefly what else I was up to. I'm going to use the little image I put together for this post for each one in the series, so they'll be easy to spot. I'll tell you as much as I can about the writing process, what I was working on, when I was doing it, and how I was fitting in those words.

And because I'm not Dean, I'm going to hit a 60,000 word target this month, rather than his 100,000 words. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to do 100,000 words! But 60k in a month will be my best month ever. So, baby steps. :)

If you're interested in following along as I go down this crazy rabbit hole, welcome. I'll spend some time answering questions people leave in the comments as I go along.

Wish me luck! This ought to be a lot of fun!