After hearing Jeff Goins speak at FinCon in September I became inspired to push myself as a writer. So I embarked on a challenge for the month of October where I would write 500 words a day for 31 straight days. This isn’t unique to me as there are similar writing challenges being promoted around the web at certain times of the year. But I thought I’d give it a go to see what I could learn and accomplish.
I encouraged some of my blogging friends to join me. To my surprise 19 signed on. So 20 of us set out to encourage one another and see how much we could write in October. Here is how it went and here is what we learned.
What I Learned From Writing For 31 Days
I successfully completed the challenge, writing 500 words a day for 31 straight days. The fewest words I wrote was 501 (think that was when I was sick) and the latest in the day I finished a writing assignment was 11:30 p.m. (almost missed that day).
This challenge drove home several points for me:
1. I need a consistent place to write but shouldn’t be afraid to mix it up occasionally. I did most of my writing at a desk in our living room that looks out through a window towards our front yard. But several times I went to the local library and I wrote once in our basement. Variety can help ideas flow if you are stuck.
2. I was able to chop some of my longer articles into multiple writing sessions. I did one 1,500+ word post over three days. Sometimes I feel fatigued at the end when writing those longer posts. I felt fresher for each segment and the actually writing time proceeded at a faster pace.
3. It feels great to get ahead! By writing so consistently, I was able to get several weeks of posts done. This has allowed me time to turn to other projects that can help move my blog forward.
4. Writing on the weekends is really tough. Going forward, I will still write consistently through the week. But I will not do any on the weekends, only doing preparation and editing for the upcoming week’s posts.
5. Accountability plus encouragement are key ingredients to reaching any goal. It would have been more difficult to do this without the support of the other challengers. So “Thank You” to all who participated for helping me.
Some Words From the Other Challengers
Here are what some of the challenge participants learned:
“I honestly wasn’t able to reach the writing 500 words for each day. I knew that would be the case though as we went on a five day family vacation in the middle of the month. I did average out to more than 500 words per day so I guess that counts for something. 😉 Seriously though, one of the things I learned was how much of a difference it is to actually be excited about what I’m writing on. I knew that already, of course, but got to see it play out each day as I sat down to write. I can write a 1,000+ word post in 15-20 minutes if it’s something I’m excited or feel strongly about it. It’s the 500 word posts that I don’t feel that way or have no direction on that take exponentially longer. I imagine that’s a balance that many of us walk through and was a reminder to let things simmer when I’m not feeling it and move on to something I can do well on in order to maximize both efficiency and quality.”
“By doing the Oktoberfest writing challenge I’ve learned to develop the habit of writing daily. I have also learned that writing 500 words could be accomplished in less than 30 minutes if you’re prepared. I’m not sure if I have become a better writer, but I can definitely say that writing is becoming easier and easier every day.”
“When I decided to take up the challenge of writing 31 days in a row, I honestly thought it would be much easier than it was. For the first two weeks, I wrote 500+ words per day without fail. During the third week my efforts unraveled somewhat as three days in a row, I barely wrote 100 words. At first, I felt disappointed about not being able to make my daily quota yet I reminded myself that any effort, is better than none at all. This experience reiterated to me that as with many things, becoming a better writer takes continual practice. In the process, I honed my skills as a writer and developed a greater sense of respect for the craft.”
“I limited myself to five minutes of writing (plus time for proofreading) and that was critical for my success this month. Translating that to freelancing and blogging – it’s important to set limits, otherwise I can churn for hours perfecting my posts. Yet the support I’ve received for my series shows that I don’t have to spend hours on every post in order to resonate with people.”
“While I wasn’t successful in writing 500 words everyday, I definitely wrote significantly more than usual. I found the process deeply meditative and looked forward to the days I was able to commit to writing. I often found myself expressing gratitude in these words and I hope to continue this practice going forward. The ability to write is a gift and it’s a gift worth sharing.”
“I found the challenge harder than I thought it would be to be honest, because at the end of a long day at work, I found it really hard to focus and write 500 words on a post. To formulate ideas and get them into readable posts every day isn’t how I normally work with blogging, so found this a difference experience. But, I did enjoy the task of writing and planning, so I’m going to try and write at least part of a blog post every other day, and keep the momentum going! I did appreciate the challenge and I think I’ve learned a lot about my own writing style and how I work best with my blog. Thanks, and I look forward to other challenges in the future!”
“31 days of writing have ended and it has certainly been an experience. A good one that is. So what have I gotten out of it? I know now that I can write a good 500 word piece in about 30 minutes. I know now that by writing a lot I can put a lot of articles on the side for later usage and pull them out when needed. This gives time to edit and end up with a much higher quality product than when just writing and posting. Plus I have a stock of articles to use when I otherwise don’t know what to write or doesn’t have the time. On the other hand, I know now that writing on the weekends or when the kids are home is not very productive and will not be something that I will be doing unless I have to….
So thank you Brian, for this opportunity to participate in this writing challenge. I hope we all keep up the good work and keep on writing.”
“The challenge of writing 150 words each day during the first twenty days was very successful. I found myself writing more than the established goal most of those days. On the twenty-first day I continued my trend despite having to return to a full workweek along with returning to school. Following this I found myself challenged with finding the energy and time to write. Overall, even though I missed a couple of days, I did well and learned that writing something new every day is like exercising. It allows you to build your mental stamina that increases your writing competency and frequency.”
“Writing, no matter how fun, is work. It takes WORK to write and write well. Let me tell you just one tiny section of it: no one punctuates correctly on the first try. Writing, no matter that it’s work, is fun. It is fun. Lots of fun. So much fun that once you finally get started you don’t want to stop an hour later because you have to get the kids from school, or go to bed, or make dinner, or… to get up and pee.
Because it’s so much work to have fun it’s hard to start. You know since it’s work that you have to put forth effort; and you know since it’s fun that you have to have lots of time to really be fulfilled. That leads to only feeling you can write when you have at least a four hour time block (one hour to warm up, one to draft, one to write, and one to put on finishing touches. Notice the fun/work/fun/work pattern.)*
So really. I did well with the challenge. I had decided to hold myself to a twice a week blog posting schedule. I did post a few late and one total miss but not too shabby. I am thankful for the challenge to keep me going during this first tender month. I am thankful that I’ve learned what it takes to really write; and I hope I keep these lessons with me to continue on my journey.”
Have you ever written for 31 straight days in a row? What goal have you accomplished recently that has you pumped up? Do you feel it’s easier to complete a goal if you know others are participating? What role does accountability play in helping us reach our goal?