I wrote 500 words a day for 31 days and so could you
Starting the My 500 words a day for 31 days Challenge was fortuitous. I discovered the website towards the end of July and August has 31 days so it all happened in the space of a month which is very neat and tidy.
I started writing when I created my blog over a year ago.
Now that I’m retired I have more time on my hands and I found that if you’re not careful, time tends to slip away unnoticed.
I often got asked, “What did you do yesterday?”
When I thought about it, I couldn’t say precisely what I had done. I felt busy, and there was always something to do, but I was doing rather than accomplishing.
Over the past year, I got into the routine of entering photo challenges and doing Flash Fiction writing stories of between 100 to 200 words in length and posting them to my blog.
At first, even writing 100 words was daunting, but over the space of several weeks, it seemed to get harder and harder to limit mine to 100 words. Then as I gained experience, and my word count increased, it became an excellent way to cut out the fluff and strip off the unessential to stay within the word limit. Some of my little stories are much better for having chopped and pruned them.
I got into the habit, of short-form writing, and of crafting each sentence word by word. I leant heavily on my dictionary of synonyms. It’s so easy to do on a computer or tablet, isn’t it.
I had scoured the web for longer challenges, and there are quite a few, but somehow 750 words or so sounded daunting, and I wasn’t ready to commit myself.
Free writing scared me, and my addiction to editing and searching for synonyms as I wrote, got me into a comfortable routine.
Luckily, I love a challenge, and for some reason writing 500 words a day for a month felt feasible.
I checked out the my500words website, and it felt vibrant. Lots of writers were making daily entries after hundreds of days, not just 31. There were also a lot of nervous newcomers that were receiving a lot of support from the my500words community.
I took a snap decision, and on the 31st of July, I committed myself publicly on my blog and took up the challenge.
Here I am on the 31st and final day of the challenge and looking at my word count; I’m only 66 words away from completing the challenge after passing this full stop.
This challenge, however, is not really about word counts and pages; there are multiple benefits.
I have a new routine, which is great because I thrive on routines. I get up an hour or so earlier, grab a coffee, open up my computer and just write for an hour or so. I sneak in before getting sidetracked by email, social media and all the usual diversions, and just write. I try to let the words flow through my fingers on the keyboard and onto the blank screen in front of me.
To have ideas of what to write, I’ve adopted Jeff Goins three bucket technique. I do carry a small notebook in my bag, but more often than not I will jot ideas on the notes app on my mobile phone during the day. I refer to these later if I’m short on ideas for my daily write. It’s a great exercise, and like a photographer, I observe and make notes on my observations and thoughts as they occur, like the snapshots taken with a camera.
I’ve found that sometimes just one idea can stretch to more than one story or article.
For the first few days I was stuck on the challenge of the day, but from the community, I learnt that it wasn’t the challenge but the writing that was important. Nevertheless, although some days I ended up writing about something else, the prompts were always useful, in one way or another.
I took the time to examine each challenge, and apart from establishing routines and enlarging horizons, they also have subtle intentions that have helped me to hone my skills as a writer.
I’ve cut the fluff, used different voices, written from the heart instead of the head, started from the end to get to the beginning and most of all I’ve finally understood what Free writing is all about.
I now write, not always, but most of the time, without looking at the screen but concentrate on my fingers dancing on the keyboard. I leave all the editing for later.
It’s amazing how several hundred words are often rich in possibilities, but you need that raw material on which to work on in the first place. It often surprises me to discover what I’ve written, and I often ask myself, “Where did that come from?”
At times the characters in my stories seem to have spoken by themselves and from time to time, adopting a new voice, has given me personal insights, and a better understanding of how and why other people react as they do.
There are many other benefits to the my500words challenge that I’m sure I’ll discover as I pursue my writing.
Over these 31 days, I’ve written over 24,000 words which, put together, are much greater than a short story, and nearer to being a Novella.
So I think if you read this, and it sparks your interest or answers any of your questions, you should do the challenge too.
Make the decision, take the plunge, just do it. Like me, you won’t regret it.
I’ll no longer hope to become a writer one day or call myself an aspiring writer again.
I am a Writer, and this is what I do.
My next goal is to become an author.