October 20

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Should You Do a 30-Day Writing Challenge? Here Are My Results

30 days ago, I started a daily writing challenge. Why, you may ask? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Of course, that's the same explanation a hungover, concussed college student would give for trying to jump over the table last night, so perhaps a more thorough exploration is in order?

Unlike a drunk college student, this exploration will allow you to make an informed decision on whether or not you want to dive head-first into something that will be painful. 

(You didn't expect a 30-day writing challenge to be fun, right? Let's just say that it's called a challenge for a reason...)


Let's get started with some basics:

Goal of the 30-day writing challenge:

The primary goal of my writing challenge was not to create 30 new blog posts. It was to improve my skills and to become a better, faster, more efficient writer.

If you do a writing challenge, I would encourage you to also aim for the goal of building your skills.

To make the most out of a 30-day writing challenge and build more skills, you need to focus on experimentation. Don't just do the same things you always do. 

For instance, here are some things I experimented with or focused on improving during the writing challenge:

  • including stick figure drawings and other illustrations in my articles,
  • doing a quotes-based article,
  • adding visual elements (such as icons, click to tweet boxes, etc.),
  • writing super-short articles,
  • using formats other writers recommend,
  •  stretching outside of my comfort zone by writing about things I didn’t want to write about,
  • writing about new topics,
  • using humor (or should I say: attempts at humor?), and
  • picking better cover images.

As you can see, there are many things you can experiment with during 30 days.

It's a bit like those chemistry experiments we had to do in high school: not every experiment will work but you should still be able to learn something in the process (for instance, what not to do if you want to keep your eyebrows...). 


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Okay, let's talk about the rules I followed in my 30-day writing challenge (which I learned from Shane Melaugh as part of a longer, 90-day challenge).

Rules of the 30-day writing challenge: 

  • Publish one article every day 📢: just writing doesn’t count. You will learn a lot more by actually publishing it.
  • Do this 30 days in a row: you could take weekend off but you will get more (frustration/growth) out of it if you don't take breaks. (I didn't).
  • Do everything you need to complete the article in a single day: creating one finished product each day during this challenge will train you to quickly see a writing project to completion.*
  • Do this in addition to your regular work: while you might want to postpone huge additional projects, there's no reason to exclusively focus on writing during the challenge. (I didn't.). 
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment: during my challenge, I made an effort to improve my writing, try out new things, and leave my comfort zone.
  • Give yourself four hours (or less) for doing this every day ⏳: this upper limit is both to prevent the writing challenge from taking over your entire life, and to train yourself to stay focused and deliver within a limited time period.

* This include finding a topic to write about, doing any necessary research, drafting, editing, and publishing the article itself.

If you don't do a challenge, it's generally more productive to “batch tasks” by doing similar things at the same time (for instance, brainstorming a bunch of article topics at once),


So, what can you expect when you start following these rules? Well, as I soon realized, during each writing challenge, you will go through 4 phases:

The 4 phases of a writing challenge:

PHASE 1

Being super-productive and motivated as you crank out article after article.

Phase 2

Writing about writing because you’ve run out of ideas.

PHASE 3

Writing self-help articles to yourself.

PHase 4

Starting a “Dear Abby” column because you’ve run out of problems.

When I shared this with a group of fellow writers who were also going through the challenge, one woman remarked: “What phase are you in when you're feeling annoyed about the whole thing?"

Me: “Oh, right! There are actually 5 phases. Actually, being annoyed is stage 2. No, stage 5? Anyway, it belongs in there somewhere!”

(Disclaimer: even though I teach people how to do what they love, I don't always love my work...)

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But enough whining about how hard it is to do this challenge (there will be more on this later), for now, let's discuss what results I got:

Results of my 30-Day writing challenge

Results in my writing

  • I did indeed publish 30 days in a row, which means I added 30 new posts to my blog.
  • In total (including this post, which is Post #30), I published 27028 words… which amounts to an average of about 900 words per day. My longest article was 1725 words, my shortest 130. 
  • Almost all of these blog posts are (somewhat) SEO-optimized… to the extent to which that’s possible in a challenge of this type… which took some additional time.
  • Some of my posts are really good and I’m proud of them…. others not so much (but I still learned a ton from them which is what counts, in the end).
  • Looking back over everything I have written, I think my articles have gotten a lot better. For instance, my voice comes out more.
  • What improved is not just my writing itself, but also the presentation. For instance, I think I have gotten better at choosing interesting cover images and presenting the article in a more visually appealing format.
  • I have also become more efficient and developed a workflow that makes sense.

However, I didn’t just get writing-based results, I also got results that belong more in the realm of personal development:

Results in my personal development

  • My self-confidence grew tremendously as I pushed through the discomfort and stuck with something I had decided to do.
  • I felt very proud of myself for showing up day after day after day.
  • I decided to use the same format to start playing the piano again (after a decade). By learning one new piece each day, I rapidly got used to playing the piano again. I wouldn't have done this without the writing challenge. (This, in turn, inspired a family member to also start playing an instrument again.)
  • The challenge helped me to base my self-esteem on doing things within my control (and feeling successful as a result of sticking to it), as opposed to external things and outcomes outside of my control.

In addition to that, I also got results in my business:

Results in my business

  • More people checked out my blog and I got more client inquiries.
  • I also received more other inquiries (for instance, for guest blog posts on my blog or republishing my article on someone else’s blog… I also received more spam).
  • Doing the challenge made it easier to encourage clients to do uncomfortable things as it was obvious that I was walking my talk.

So, based on all the results I got, I can recommend this challenge… as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Speaking of what you’re getting yourself (and, well, everyone you live with) into, I believe I promised you some more whining about how hard the challenge is: 

Was the writing challenge hard?

  • Yes! Not all the time (sometimes, I looked forward to writing, particularly in the beginning) but there were definitely many times when showing up to do the work was hard.
  • What was also hard is not taking any breaks during the weekend for an entire month. (I’m typically in favor of rest days, as this helps people be more productive. However, with this particular challenge, I think it helps to do it continuously.)
  • I definitely was more “prickly” to be around so if you do a challenge like that, it might make sense to warn your partner/friends/family members/flatmates, etc.

As my husband—who definitely doesn't suffer from PTCS (post-traumatic challenge syndrome)—definitely didn't say when I announced that I would do this writing challenge: 

"Can you, umh, quarantine yourself during the challenge?"

"It's 30 days!"

"Perfect."


So, should you do a 30-day writing challenge?

Well, as the saying goes: “I didn’t say it would be easy, I said it would be worth it.”

Based on my experience, the challenge isn’t easy but it’s certainly worth it—as long as you don't end up damaging your relationships due to "challenge grumpiness."

I neither got divorced nor disowned and I'm now a better writer, so I'll count this challenge as a win.

P.S.: Did I mention that I'm in desperate need of a massage?

Additional resources

To connect more with the unique perspective (or superpower) you bring to the world, you might like to take this quiz:

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If you are unsure what you would like to do for a living, I also recommend this free mini-course: 

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