Well here I am, two weeks into the ‘my 500 words a day’ challenge. I feel as if half of that time is missing. Has it really been 14 days?
I chose to do this because I’ve been writing regularly for over a year now and started my blog last July. I’ve been blogging, on and off, for over ten years but have always struggled to conjure up content and if I’m honest my blogs had never been compelling reading, just a collection of thoughts strung loosely together. Each blog had a discrete following, probably more out of politeness than from real enthusiasm for what I was blogging.
Of course I had a lot more distractions in those days. My children were growing up fast and my job was demanding.
Then four years ago I decided to take early retirement and shortly after, my wife and I decided to sell our house in Switzerland and come and live here in the UK. At the time, for me it was a return to the country I had left thirty-five years earlier, and for my wife, the start of an adventure that she wasn’t even entirely sure she could undertake.
I’ve just illustrated what can happen when you Free Write. My initial intention was to write about my writing and this challenge but as this piece is uncharted and doesn’t have a predetermined structure, it just flows where it wants to flow.
I would like it to flow smoothly and without pauses but it’s already totally different from the way I was writing before I started this challenge.
I’ve always been afraid of just writing. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to think hard and write little, attempting, for want of a better word, to craft my sentences one after the other. Searching for synonyms and for just the right words to describe what I was writing about in each story.
I also liked to have a clear idea of the beginning, middle and end to my stories before starting to write them and this meant that sometimes it could take a long time before I even commenced to write. Time that I should have used more profitably to just start to write them.
Of course sometimes I already had a structure in mind before starting to write, but thinking back now, if I had combined that structure with a free flow of writing I would most certainly have attained better results than by advancing sentence by sentence, word by word.
Having said that however, I have posted over three hundred articles over the year, and I’m lucky to have over three hundred followers to my blog. Thank you! I’m very grateful and your support motivates me every day.
Returning, once again, to the purpose of this article, let me tell you what I have learnt in addition to my first baby steps in Free Writing.
I have gained a new morning routine. I get up an hour earlier, dress and make myself a coffee and when I’m really disciplined I don’t even read my mail or check Facebook, I just open the app I use for writing and between swigs of coffee I just start to write.
I’m using IA Writer on my Mac which I use night mode, with a black window. For even fewer distractions, I put it into full screen mode.
All black with a blinking blue cursor.
That works for me.
The daily prompts have surprised me. I was expecting story or flash fiction challenges but each prompt has led me onto paths that I probably wouldn’t have walked otherwise.
I get the feeling that they are prompts centered on the writing process itself and are intended to hone useful writing skills but that also force me to reflect upon on the way and what I write.
One example was to write something to deceive or mislead the reader (in a kind way of course), and the other was to take a mundane incident or series of incidents and to make them appealing and compelling.
The last nugget I have extracted from this challenge so far is that you don’t have to write complete stories or even have to write to post or publish.
I’ve learnt to take as many notes whenever I have an idea and to keep everything I write safely somewhere, because I’m almost sure to use it in one way or the other in the future.
So the most important thing I’ve learnt is : just write!