It’s October, the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year. Three months left. What have you accomplished this year? Are you ahead, behind or exactly where you want to be in your writing?
This year has gone quickly, hasn’t it? Soon it will be Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then 2013 is over. The weather is changing, the hours of daylight are decreasing, and there’s a real temptation to slack off, to coast to the end of the year. But I have a better idea. Let’s use those last three months, 90 days, to finish the year with a flourish. If we were football players running behind or only one touchdown ahead of the other team, would we relax in the fourth quarter? No way. We’d go all out to score some serious points. The game isn’t over until the last second ticks away.
Maybe this fourth-quarter push is why so many writing challenges occur in November. The most famous is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, in which people engage in marathon writing sessions in an attempt to write a whole novel in a month. There are also several Poem-a-Day contests, the most famous of which is run by Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer. Engaging in one of these contests is one way to cram a lot of writing into a short time. I’ll probably do the poetry challenge again because I do get more poems written than I would otherwise.
But maybe you already have something else you need to be doing with your writing. Have you been working on a project that you’d like to get done by the end of the year? Is there something you’ve been meaning to start and haven’t yet? Did you really hope that you would sell more articles and earn more money this year? Sit down and have a staff meeting with yourself. You still have three months, one quarter of a year. What can you do in that time and what is your plan to get it done?
What’s our fourth-quarter strategy to win the writing game for this year, to approach New Year’s Eve knowing we’ve done our best?
If you’d like to tell us your plans in the comments, we’d love to hear them. Sharing your intentions may help you to follow through.
I still have a few copies of Freelancing for Newspapers available for just $10, including postage. Part of my fourth-quarter game plan is getting rid of excess book inventory. If you’d like a copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, in which participants challenge each other to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. DigiWriMo, born here at Marylhurst University in Oregon, challenges writers to pen that many words for online outlets, such as blogs and web publications. PAD is Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem a Day challenge, which he offers in both April and November. Unlike so many writing activities, these do not cost money. Although the sponsors would love donations, there is no fee to participate.
All of these challenges push you to write, write, write. They let you post your progress on-line and offer various publication possibilities. NaNoWriMo has turned into a vast community with online forums and in person “write-ins” in many communities, including even my own Newport, Oregon. You “win” if you write the desired number of words. It’s a lot of words—approximately 1666 every day–and if you’re sticking by the rules, they all have to be fresh writing, no revising or adding to something you wrote before. It takes a great deal of dedication to reach the goal. I honestly have never gotten past the first week on this one.
DigiWriMo is new to me, but I plan to try it this year. Again, it takes a lot of work, but you’ll be cheered along by your fellow participants, and the sponsors promise to offer lots of prompts and exercises and ways to collaborate with other participants. [Note: As I’m posting this, I’m having trouble making the link work. Try @digiwrimo on Twitter to connect. ]
I have done the Poem a Day challenge several times. Although I missed some days, I had other days when I wrote more than one poem, so I came out with a nice batch of new poetry. Robert Lee Brewer, who publishes poetry prompts every Wednesday the rest of the year, offers a new prompt every day of the challenge and encourages poets to use them to write a poem and then post it online. He frequently offers contests for the best poems of the challenge or challenges poets to create chapbooks out of their PAD poems.
There are other challenges, and not just in November. Occasionally smaller organizations will challenge their writers to write toward a goal together, literally or at the same time in their own spaces. Search and you will find them.
All of these challenges have one beneficial effect: they give you an incentive to write. The one drawback (besides wanting to ignore your family or your job) is that sometimes you are driven to write garbage just to achieve the desired number of words. But out of that garbage, you may find some gems.
I urge you to consider a writing challenge. Simply working toward a goal with other people helps smash whatever blocks keep us from committing to our work. However, I also offer this suggestion: You can adapt the challenge to your own needs. Maybe you’re halfway through a project and just want to work on that. Maybe you just can’t do weekends or you’re going away for Thanksgiving. Work around it. Use the official goals and times to work on what you need to work on. Challenge yourself.
We still have more than than two weeks before November starts, but if you sign up now, you can get in on the pre-challenge discussions and planning.
I invite you to comment here on what you plan to do and how you’re doing. I’ll be doing DigiWrimo and the Poem a Day challenge.
Ha. 613 words. At this rate, I’ll be done in 83 days. But wait. It hasn’t started yet. I’m just warming up. How about you?