— Jenny Neill

My November Challenge: One Post per Day

November is upon us, the month of NaNoWriMo and many other writing challenges. I have tried my hand at churning out 50,000 words in one 30-day period a couple of times over the years. And, oh, how spectacularly I failed. One of my characters seemed to have multiple personalities. I could only manage to write another while she was in the most depressing of circumstances. And that plot kept taking more and more complicating twists into a jumbled mess of dead ends.

Beauty of November 2

Photo courtesy of Susy Morris of Chiot’s Run.

I have a love-hate relationship with these self-selected contests against my inner critic. Last year I adapted the practice of writing morning pages, one of Julie Cameron’s tactics for recovering creativity. Instead of scribbling out three pages long-hand in a notebook, I set the goal of typing out stream-of-consciousness phrases and sentences for 30 minutes every day. I missed that mark many times during my three-month commitment.

I consider these targets to be just that, arbitrary goals I assign myself in an attempt to overcome a block or to produce more work. That there is no basis for the deadline or the word count is an almost automatic set-up for failure. And yet, here I am, once again setting myself a goal without something in particular planned. Why then, if I know I’ll probably fall short of the goal, do I do this?

I am a perfectionist. According to a recent feature in the Wall Street Journal, learning to let go of small mistakes is healthy for people like me. It is rare in life or in work to be able to finish a project without having to rethink it along the way. Signing myself up for these writing exercises is good training for the real event, being a professional writer.

Fail at Writing

Photo courtesy of Lennixx.

What I learned from NaNoWriMo 2011 is that I’m not quite ready to scratch writing a novel off of my bucket list. And from my failed attempt to do morning pages every day? Through that, I found new ways to stare down the blank screen and use free writing to develop ideas for other work.

I’m at it again, then. This time, my aim is to publish one blog post per day for the entire month. No topic is off-limits. The only other constraint is that these missives should be relatively brief, 250-500 words. What I hope to gain this time is the ability to produce tight pieces quickly and to get better at sharing unfinished (because it’s never really finished) work with the world.