The 7 Day Writing Challenge (Lessons Learned)
Last week I did The 7 Day Writing Challenge.
Since I was struggling with getting up early to write, I decided to challenge myself by committing to just 7 days and see if it could make a difference for me.
There are three basic rules for the 7 day writing challenge:
- write every day for seven days in a row
- start writing at the same time every day
- write for a certain minimum amount of time every day
My goal was to write every day from 6:45 AM to 7:45 AM.
Let's see how it went.
I did manage to write every morning for 45 minutes. That's short of the hour I was shooting for, but I was consistent.
During my writing time I was completely alert, awake and focused on writing. However, my start times varied a bit, mostly due to the weekend when I allowed myself to sleep in.
What I thought would be hard, turned out to be easy. What I hadn't thought about at all, turned out to be surprisingly difficult.
Let's start with the plus side. There were three positive surprises for me during the week: my physical response, my productivity and the usefulness of my writing software.
Adapted Quicker Than I Expected
I had imagined that the greatest challenge would be sliding out of bed and forcing myself to write when I was still tired and sleepy, but that turned out not to be a problem. In fact, my body responded very quickly.
Each day, I showered and dressed for work before sitting down at the computer. My alarm went off at 6 AM every day. I was out of bed by 6:15 AM on the weekdays (about an hour later on the weekend). By the third day I found that I felt alive, awake and alert within minutes of getting up.
Interestingly, even though my bedtime varied, my awake time remained consistent, and that seems to have been enough to train my body and mind. I had imagined several more days of jet lag, but for me at least, it looks like the shift can happen in just two or three days by keeping a consistent wake time.
Even though I didn't keep my schedule to the letter, I did write all seven mornings for at least 45 minutes.
I spent most mornings writing drafts for blog posts. The draft of this post is being written on Sunday morning.
I wrote for a total of 5 hours and 15 minutes, about 45 minutes per day. During that time I produced almost 9000 words. That's more than 28 words per minute and about 1,700 words per hour.
Never in my life have I produced at such a rate. I have read about other writers who could produce about 500 words in a 20 minute session, but I never really imagined I could do that.
And it wasn't difficult.
I didn't feel I was pushing myself and I wasn't trying to get a high word count.
The byproduct of my week's work is seven first drafts for blog posts and one revised post.
The Benefits of Writing Software
The third positive surprise during my week long experiment was PieceWorx Writing Studio.
I created this writing software to remove the distractions and annoyances of working on a computer so that my writing sessions could be more productive and more organized.
The software was a breath of fresh air. There was no futzing around in the operating system looking for folders or files. I could just sit down and write.
It probably sounds like I'm patting myself on the back, but I originally created it to solve my own frustration, not to sell it. And for that, it really works.
When I needed to reorganize, it took about ten seconds to move files around. If I needed to journal for a few minutes to clarify some ideas, I just jumped down to my Journal folder.
The writing environment is so immersive for me, that I ended up with a rather annoying problem.
Every morning before sitting down to write, I turned on an electric kettle to heat water for green tea. If I sat down to write before the water was ready, it was 45 minutes later before I even noticed the time--every single time. In other words, I was instantly preoccupied with writing.
And in case you're wondering, I didn't burn the house down. The electric kettle has an automatic shut off.
The One Big Negative
While I was pleasantly surprised during my experiment, there was one major side effect which nearly sabotaged my week.
With each passing day I found more negative thoughts emerging from deep within my psyche. I experienced self doubt about my writing ability. There were voices telling me that no one will want to read what I write. Other voices insisted that I'm wasting my time, that I'll never be able to reach hundreds of thousands of readers like many other blogs out there.
By the weekend, I felt discouraged and depressed and found myself reviewing blog statistics.
Did you know there are 42.6 million new posts each month on WordPress.com alone and 18 billion posts viewed each month?
Really?! Are you kidding me?
I was working hard to produce great content for PieceWorx, but my internal resistance had kicked into overdrive.
Challenge Your Internal Resistance with Truth
We all have internal resistance trying to keep us from living our dream, but anything worthwhile takes time to develop.
Being the irrationally persistent person I am, I chose to confront the resistance with a healthy dose of perspective.
I must remind myself (and you) that we aren't competing with the 400 million English language blogs out there.
Start With Your Own Little Neighborhood
The web has connected the world and given each of us global reach, but we must remember that it is still a collection of millions of small communities just like the the physical world with its countries, cities and towns. The difference is that people who form the communities on the web don't have to be physically present in the same places to have a shared experience.
As a blogger you are not trying to get the attention of the world or compete with millions of other bloggers, you are trying to find your niche, a place where a few thousand people who are a lot like you can learn and share.
Think of a blog as a small town cafe or the neighborhood bar where a few people choose to spend their time with a few other people.
We are not international juggernauts, we are intimate and personal. We offer something that no general purpose website ever could.
Start small with realistic goals and see what happens, from there maybe you can build a bigger blog or expand in other ways. But it all starts with one small community with you as its architect.
I have a voice and a mission and I will help one person at a time, one day at a time. The World Wide Web for all of its immensity, is still a collection of small, intimate neighborhoods.
I'm preaching to myself when I say, "Don't let yourself be overwhelmed and don't forget that you must first serve a small tribe." It gives me a healthier perspective and helps me to keep going.
If you're struggling to make writing a bigger part of your daily routine, then I encourage you to give The 7 Day Writing Challenge a try and keep us posted on your progress in the comments below.