I’ve been thinking a lot about challenges recently, specifically, internally motivated challenges – the kind we set for ourselves. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a bit of a challenge junkie, which probably goes hand-in-hand with being a very goal-oriented person. I like to see that challenge or goal or thing I’m not quite sure I can achieve sitting out there on the horizon. I like developing a plan of strategies and tactics to get to it. And while I don’t always love the plan when I’m in the thick of it, I’m very good at keeping my eye on the prize and powering through the tough parts.
This tendency has its downside, as you can imagine. It can be difficult for me to know when a challenge is the wrong thing for me or to recognize when it’s not going well (like the 3-day cleanse/eating reset/borderline fast I did recently. Zero stars. Will not do again). In physical challenges, I’ve been known to push through the pain, which can be a bad thing when that pain turns out to be a long-term issue like a strained SI joint or a broken finger. And in business – well, let’s just say I’ve worked some ridiculously long, hard hours on more than one complex and intense project. But I keep setting challenges for myself. Why? As I asked myself that question in the middle of the 3-day fast from hell, my hunger-fueled brain came up with only one clear answer – most of the time, challenges work for me.
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere! As a writer, my next logical question was, of course, how can I use this to my advantage in my writing life?
We’ve actually participated in a number of writing challenges here at 8LW over the years. Each November, at least a few of us participate in NaNoWriMo. We’ve been known to post writing sprint challenges, word count goals, and our results (the good, the bad, and even the truly depressing). Every Friday, Elizabeth challenges us to write part of a story incorporating a list of words and phrases. Several of the ladies have entered contests (and have wracked up some impressive wins!). As a group, we do seem to like the adrenaline of the race, the thrill of the hunt, and the camaraderie of being in it together.
So, how can we use this challenge-oriented mindset to set and achieve bigger and harder goals in our writing careers? You probably won’t be surprised to hear a writer say the first thing to do is to write it all down. Set up a plan for the next year or quarter or month. Set some goals, including some tough ones. Challenge yourself to go a little farther and dig a little deeper. And then come up with the path you’ll need to take to accomplish those goals.
Not sure where to start? Then this blog is the right place for you. Over the next several weeks, I’m going to discuss how I’ve set up my 2-year strategic plan, parsed it down to a tactical approach, and computed weekly and monthly word-count goals that will help me reach my insane goal of writing more 450k words in 15 months. Did I mention I love a good, hard, nigh on impossible challenge? In the next couple of weeks, take some time to think about some writing goals, short-term and long-term. Share them here in the comments. Then meet us back here in a few weeks to discuss how to set up your own challenges and develop your own plan to meet them.
What writing challenges have you set for yourself lately? Have you successfully reached a goal or overcome an obstacle? And the really important question: Who wants to train for a triathlon with me? Anyone? Anyone?