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:
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:
Being super-productive and motivated as you crank out article after article.
Writing about writing because you’ve run out of ideas.
Writing self-help articles to yourself.
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
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
In addition to that, I also got results in my business:
Results in my business
Upon reflecting on 5+ years of blogging, this writing challenge has been the thing that made the biggest difference.
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?
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!"
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?
To connect more with the unique perspective (or superpower) you bring to the world, you might like to take this quiz:
If you are unsure what you would like to do for a living, I also recommend this free mini-course:
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