Yes, I’m late today, but at least I’m not as late as I was last Monday. Today I want to talk a little about writing challenges and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
There are a lot of writing challenges available for writers of all sorts to participate in on the web. Some take place annually, such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo which I participated in). Some are weekly all year long, such as The Daily Post’s Tuesday challenges and Charli Mills 99-Word Flash Fiction weekly challenge over on her blog Carrot Ranch Communications (which our very own AJ takes part in). Really, just google “writing challenges” and take your pick.
So why are there all these challenges? Why should you elect to participate in one?
No one says you have to do anything you don’t want to do. But, how are you to know your limits if you don’t test yourself? That’s something a challenge will do for you. Challenges, by definition, are a sort of call to action. To take part in something, to question the truth or validity of a thing, to invite someone to engage in a contest. When you participate in a challenge, whether for writing or anything else, you are questioning your ability to accomplish a task. Can you do what needs to be done? Are you good enough?
The problem with challenges, or at least participating in them, is that we tend to doubt our own abilities. We can’t do it so we don’t even try. We’re comfortable writing what we’ve been writing and we don’t want to try anything else. And that’s when your writing gets old and stale, and you find yourself in a writing rut. Then you ask why isn’t anyone liking what you write.
If you don’t push yourself to write, if you don’t try something new, your writing becomes a dry, crusty piece of bread that no one wants to eat. It ends up in the trash or food for birds. Committing to a challenge isn’t even necessary. Just challenging yourself to write something, even just a grocery list, can be a challenge in itself. Try just sitting down once a week with a piece of notebook paper and a pen (no computers) and filling in the entire paper. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you fill in the paper. The challenge can be just writing once a week or just actually sitting your butt in the chair to write (something a lot of writers have trouble doing). And no one ever has to know whether you succeed or not.
Get out there and look up challenges this week and just see if there might be anything that catches your eye. You might find yourself attempting to write out of your “normal” genre, or maybe attempting poetry. But no matter what you challenge yourself with, keep challenging yourself and pushing your limits.