Type, don’t hand-write. I can write pretty quickly by hand but it’s illegible. This means that when I’ve been in a pen and paper phase, at some point I have to transcribe the words I’ve written. Usually I can’t be bothered. Wasted words! (Although a daily writing habit is not a waste of time if you use it to loosen up and get the creative juices flowing. What you write needn’t be more than a warm-up. But still. I like to have the choice.) So for a 1000-word challenge, type your words. Or, tech lovers, dictate them and have software magically populate them onto your screen. I’m too shy to do that. My weird voice, out loud, ugh. If you’re not selfconscious, go for it.
Find fellow participants. Most challenges these days come with an associated website community or Facebook group. As a minimum they come with a hashtag. Seek out your peers and celebrate/commiserate with them. Share when you succeed and especially share when times are tough. Writers know what this kind of challenge involves. They can give you the sympathy/kick in the butt you crave.
Use prompts. Sometimes ideas just come to you as you tap New Document. Other times you sit there with no clue what to write. A creative writing prompt can nudge the brain into co-operation on days when you’re ready to write, except for a topic.
Steal other people’s ideas (and use them as prompts). If you’re doing this as an exercise in flexing your writing muscles, then grab some best-selling titles from Amazon/your local bookstore and write a story based on that. Don’t use anything else from the book. Create your own response to the title. This week’s Amazon top sellers include This is Going to Hurt, Murder At Work, and The Sapphire Widow. I’ve no idea what any of those is about but I reckon I could make something up. If you love what you’ve written, give it your own title and voila, an original story.
Don’t break the chain. If you wrote 1000 words yesterday (or a complete story, or whatever your writing challenge is) then do it again today. And again, and again. Yes, you could catch up by doing twice as much tomorrow. But that will be harder than just spending the time and effort now.
Reward yourself when you’ve done it. Or before you’ve done it. My reward is a latte and sometimes I need it in my hand before I can start typing. If you have more self-restraint than me, then enjoy your coffee/beer/wine/donut ….. / piece of healthy fruit … after you’ve completed today’s task. Make it something worth having. (I find it is hard to motivate myself with a blueberry. Krispy Kreme, no problem.)
Or promise yourself that when you’ve completed the entire challenge you’ll treat yourself to something really great. Maybe a book you’ve had on your list for ages. (Your suggestions for non-food based rewards in the Comments, please. I seem to be really bad at inventing rewards that don’t involve food or books. Because what else is there?)
These quick tips form my simple but effective strategy to keep going once the initial excitement of a creative writing challenge has worn off. The challenge is not the writing. It’s the motivation. Crack that and you’re more than halfway home. And on that note, I have a story to write.
Come back tomorrow for how to write a complete story draft in a single day.