Learnings from a 30 Day Writing Bootcamp

Making time to write has been on my mind lately. I recently completed a 30-day writing bootcamp where motivational writing goals arrived each morning in my inbox. I found this to be effective on a number of levels, not least of all because I am quite literal and will usually respond to written instructions!

Below are some learnings after completing 30 days of writing ‘bootcamp style’.

  • Mix up the writing times to keep it interesting.
  • Any reluctance I had around the relevance of writing 10,000 words in 30 days (which was the bootcamp goal) when I’m not currently working on a novel were unfounded. By day 3 I’d notched up over 3,000 words on short stories that had been stagnating for months.
  • It became a fun challenge to see where I could fit in pockets of writing time, regardless of how small.
  • It has been a while since I felt this motivated to write.
  • I enjoyed the challenge of writing to different word counts at various times of the day. I thought I knew when I ‘could’ write, and it was really good to challenge this perception and find out just how effective writing in smaller timeframes could be.
  • It was also surprising to realise just how much I could write in a short period of time. All of those times when I was telling myself that I only had ten minutes and that it wouldn’t be worth making a start was just a fib. I can get stuff done in mere minutes.
  • I found myself more likely to be thinking and planning what I was going to write at the next opportunity, knowing that if I have something in mind before I start the words really do fly.
  • The goal was to add 10,000 words to an existing manuscript. My word count for the month was 16,616 which exceeded my expectations.
  • By challenging my perceptions about what and when I could write, it has opened up feelings of dynamic possibility regarding how I can regularly write in a variety of timeframes and locations.

The challenge then becomes where to from here? I thought about maintaining momentum by scheduling the prompts in my calendar on a five-week cycle, with a few days scattered in for editing as I found that I was generating lots of words but needed time to trim some of it up to be useful or to continue on in a coherent manner with larger projects.

But what I’ve done instead is created a document with the 30 days worth of prompts, plus a handful of editing and planning days, and popped them in a jar. I want to retain the sense of spontaneity that I so enjoyed during the bootcamp. Because better than before I started the bootcamp, I know what my writing self is like.

How do you maintain momentum in your writing life?

[Photo: bowl of writing goals]

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Feeling Retro?

There is something about this time of year that encourages reflection. It is normal to want to spend a moment or two reviewing the year that was and thinking about plans and hopes for the year ahead. This pocket of reflection allows for consideration of personal and professional goals, and it is good to be able to think about what has been accomplished. It is easy to get caught up in the doing sometimes.

Lately I have been enjoying various posts from some of my favourite bloggers about their blog and book highlights of 2017. At times it can feel that there is so much content out there that it is hard to simply stop and revisit those snippets of writing that really had an impact throughout the year, and the recaps of popular posts are a handy reminder. Some of my favourite book bloggers have posted about a year in first lines (including Whispering Gums and Lisa Hill) which makes me think about the year in reading.

But what of my own year in writing?

A couple of months back I sat down with a notebook and thought about how I was travelling with my writing. I took into account what I had written, what I considered finished and what I still wanted to write. It didn’t take long to assess where I was, or to plan out what I would like to write in the short to medium term, but I found it to be a worthwhile exercise. It can be easy to get caught up in the doing and to lose a sense of direction.

This quick check-in helped to refocus my attention on the areas that I wanted to work on. It is not a one-off event, nor should it be yearly. It is something that I need to do on a regular basis, especially when I feel that I am creating but not completing, or maybe not even creating and I need to revisit what I have already done to help cheer me on for the next phase.

How often do you check in with your creative goals?

[Photo: some of the many signs at Portland, NSW]

Looking Forward Looking Back*

With the end of the year approaching at speed, my mind tends to busy itself with thoughts about what I would like to work towards in the new year, as well as what was achieved in the past 12 months. It is too early for New Year resolutions, and I have learnt that having grand plans to change my life significantly as at 1 January tends to end in disappointment. What works better for me is to have a list of goals to work towards, with timeframes if appropriate, that I can refer to as needed. Although it is only early December, one of my friends was telling me recently of a raft of things that she has planned for 2017 which made me feel a bit remiss as I haven’t had or made the time to do so.

But first I wanted to outline a few of the significant changes that I’ve made in my life this year from a creativity perspective. Once changes are made it can be easy to overlook them as they become the norm, but creating change can be difficult and the effort required is worthy of acknowledgement. The top three changes I have made in terms of my creativity are:

  1. Honouring creative time: having rituals has helped this change. I write each morning before I head to work, and this alone reminds me that writing matters to me. I have also put time aside for writing and turned up at my desk. In a world of distractions and other demands, this is harder than it would seem but reminding myself that it is impossible to edit a blank page helps to get me writing.
  2. Making time to write. One of my best ideas this year was to take advantage of flexible working options in my job to book in a dozen days off, scattered throughout the year. These days have saved my sanity and contributed to greater creative output in various ways. I have also used these days to go on adventures which have in turn fed my creative output and my spirit. It has been a critical change and I have booked a stack of days for 2017 as it has been beneficial in so many ways.
  3. Blogging. I had wanted to blog for a long time before I took the plunge earlier this year. The main impetus was that I thought it would make me write more, and write consistently, and this has definitely been the case. The benefits to blogging are numerous and something that I will explore further in another post. Apart from the output – idea creation, writing, editing – there is also the feedback and interaction with other bloggers and readers which has been an absolute highlight of my year.

So with this creativity behind me, what will I be working towards in 2017? Again I will stick with three main thoughts. 

  1. Finishing the novel. I am in the edit phase at the moment and whilst there is work to do I am chipping away at it.
  2. Short stories. I want to continue writing short stories after polishing a few of them this year. There is an online course next year through the NSW Writers’ Centre which includes developing stories and critiquing to the point of submission. I have enrolled and am ready to take my stories to the next level.
  3. Keep having creative adventures. That might sound trite, but by making a conscious effort to pay more attention to what is happening around me, my creative output has significantly increased. This hasn’t just been blog based, although regular posting and the alphabetical adventures of I Spy have helped. I feel more engaged with what is happening, and more alert to creative opportunities.

Have you been reflecting on your creative output as the year end approaches? And do you have any creative plans for 2017?

*Taken from song title by Slim Dusty

[Photo: Newport Beach]