Every year as November rolls around, I think about joining in the National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo for short.
The idea is to challenge yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s an average of 1667 words per day. That is quite a challenge to many writers, myself included. On an average day I am generally happy with 500 – 1000 words. On a good day I might stretch this to 1500, and on a fabulous – albeit very rare – day I can even get over 2000. I think my best day was a super 3000 words, but that mean about 10 hours of work.
I considered joining the challenge again this year, but realistically I just don’t have the time with my many responsibilities outside of my writing.
Poem a day
So instead I am going for an easier, softer and far more achievable goal: a poem a day for the month of November. So far I’m on track. I might even publish a few of them here on this site. (The first one appeared here.)
I have done this successfully before. On a six week holiday in Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain we were away for 45 days and I wrote 55 poems. Admittedly, some of them were haiku, but I achieved my goal. And I wrote some great poems as well.
Thought: perhaps I will create a new habit and write a poem every day of the year. Now that’s a challenge I can achieve.
The Writers’ Digest magazine is currently promoting a Poem a Day challenge. Participants are encouraged to write a poem every day for the month of April. I think it’s a great idea to get people writing, and they have a writing prompt every day to help you along.
Part of the deal is that the prompt is posted every morning and poets can take it from there, writing whatever the prompt brings to mind. For the brave there is also the opportunity to share your poem on the blog site, inviting others to comment.
A few years ago a fellow poet went on an extensive trip overseas. She told me before leaving that her goal was to write a poem every day during her trip. That seemed like a great idea, so I borrowed the idea when my wife and I travelled Ethiopia (to visit our daughter), Morocco and Spain. We were away for 45 days and I wrote 55 poems so I exceeded my goal. Most of these poems were vignettes of sights we saw, or responses to our many wonderful experiences. The poems ranged in length from haiku through to longer works over 50 lines. It proved to be a very rewarding and creative time. You can read about my travels on Trevor’s Travels. You can also read some of my poetry here.
To find out more about the Poem A Day Challenge click here.
Writing can be both wonderful and frustrating.
When a story or poem is coming along fine, everything is wonderful. When a novel is turning out the way you want it to, and the words are flowing, life is glorious.
But the writer’s life can also be frustrating. Your family, friends, life and sometimes even the Universe conspire to prevent you from your first love, writing. They can become great burdens, or enormous hindrances to The Creative Life.
But lurking underneath these obvious mountains preventing the next publishing sensation from reaching the shelves of our favourite bookshop are three not-so-subtle enemies of our writing life.
Enemy #1: Procrastination:
I think I could write a PhD thesis paper on this topic.
If I ever get around to it, of course.
Procrastination is Enemy #1 of too many writers. Consider these statements:
- “I never have any good ideas for stories.”
- “I’m too tired to write.”
- “I’ll start that novel – on the weekend.”
- “I’m too busy at work but I’ll write when I retire.”
- “My computer has died.”
Don’t let these be your excuses: just do it.
Enemy #2: Lack of Momentum
Momentum – or rather lack of momentum – can kill off a brilliant career in writing before you even get started. And if you do get started, and life gets in the way, lack of momentum can bury the body. It is so hard to get something like a locomotive moving, but once started, it builds its own momentum and before you know it, a runaway train is thundering down the mountains taking all in its path. Starting a train is like starting a story or novel; once it gets moving get out of its way and let it choose its own path. A little bit of writing every day – consistently without fail – is far better than leaving it for the weekend, or the holidays or retirement.
Enemy #3: Timewasters
Time wasters speak for themselves.
If you are doing something other than writing, no matter how interesting and worthwhile, there is no way you can reach your writing goals. (You do have writing goals, surely? They can be good motivators and can help keep that momentum going.) Identify your time-wasters and put them in their proper place. Some I grapple with include:
- Some television programmes.
- Checking Facebook and Twitter feeds many times a day.
- Checking my email several times a day.
- Unexpected visitors.
- Unexpected phone calls.
- Computer games.
Time management for writers is essential. Get those time-wasters under control and you will be more productive. (Note to self: take note of what I’ve just written – and apply it!)
Reader responses: in the comments tell me about your Writing Enemies, and how you deal with them. I’d appreciate that.
I am waiting, waiting, waiting.
I am trying to be very patient. If patience really is a virtue, I must be very virtuous indeed. You see, I’m waiting for the results of my Master of Arts Creative Writing thesis paper. Regular readers will know that over the last 18 months I’ve been writing a children’s novel set in Nepal during their recent civil war. I submitted the novel, along with a 10,000 word exegesis essay on the writing of the novel, about mid-December. We were told we might wait 6 to 8 weeks for the results. Two days ago the 9 week mark was reached, so I am trying not to get impatient. Two of my fellow students have heard their results but they submitted the week before me.
This experience has got me thinking about the patience that all writers need. Here are some of my thoughts:
Why writers need patience:
- Some writers need to patiently wait for writing ideas.
- Writers need patience when a story or novel is not going along as it should.
- Patience is needed when life gets in the way of writing schedules, especially if the writer has another job, or a family needing attention.
- You need patience when waiting to hear if a publisher is going to accept your story or novel.
- Once an acceptance is offered by a publisher, patience is needed when waiting to see the work in print.
- When a story or novel has been published, one needs patience waiting for a payment.
- Reading through reviews of one’s work can severely test a writer’s patience.
I’m sure most writers could add many more examples. What can you do while all the waiting is going on?
- While waiting for a idea for a story, read, read, read and do other creative activities to stimulate the mind.
- While waiting to hear from a publisher, go on with other writing projects to maintain momentum with your writing.
- While waiting for your work to be published, be sending out more work to publishers. Keep your momentum going.
- Remember that waiting is inevitable and a part of the writing process. Use the waiting time productively.
- Don’t give up.
Happy New Year to all my readers.
I hope the year 2011 brings you great joy, peace and at least some success with your writing. As I explained yesterday, one of my main goals for this year is to be published in a variety of forms: novels, picture books, articles, poems, short stories and whatever else life throws on to my path. I am also determined that this year will also see lots of submissions. If you are not submitting to publishers there is no way you can get published, so I’m determined that this is one area of my writing that needs to change.
Life is more than writing, of course, but over the last few years as I completed my MA Creative Writing degree there were some things which were neglected. As I said yesterday, I’m not really into making New Year’s resolutions. I’ve observed that most people don’t keep them however well intentioned they might be. I prefer setting firm goals with definite, achievable targets. My writing goals include a daily target for the number of hours spent on writing, the number of words written and the number of poems and stories submitted to publishers. I also have goals for other aspects of my life. These include:
- Reading: writers are readers so this is of utmost importance. This year I plan to read 100 titles (books and magazines; I read most of the magazines I get from cover to cover).
- Travel 1: I plan to visit my son and his family in Sydney.
- Travel 2: I plan to visit my daughter while she is teaching overseas.
- Exercise: I plan to exercise on average five times a week.
- Weight loss: I plan to lose 12kg this year through exercise and sensible eating.
- Hobby: I plan to go birding at least once a week, taking photos to share on my birding site.
I have many more smaller specific goals, such as cleaning out the garage, cleaning my office, gardening and so on. These are much more detailed plans and I won’t bore you with them here. I like making lists of things to do – and take pleasure in crossing them off when completed.
It looks like it is going to be another busy year.
I’d better plan to have times of relaxation too.