And that’s a wrap, folks.
Somewhat unbelievably, I did it. In spite of major personal challenges that offered me every reason in the world to quit—or simply not to start in the first place—I finished this year’s #1000wordsofsummer challenge.
On two days, my 1,000 were blog posts. On the other twelve, they were words I added to my novel-in-progress. Some days I barely topped 1,000 words; other days, I went a couple hundred words beyond, just because I wanted to—and then, I wrote my daily updates for this blog on top of those 1,000 words (in case you thought these posts were part of the challenge).
Last night, I talked with a friend who did the challenge for the first seven days before life interrupted, and she never got back on schedule. She isn’t giving up, though. She plans to start again with the intent of going for twenty-one days this time, because studies say that’s how long it takes for something to become a habit. I think that sounds like an excellent plan.
I don’t know whether I’ll keep going with the goal of adding 1,000 new words each day or if I’d rather stop and figure out what I actually have. This is a downside to writing in discrete chunks: sooner or later, everything needs to be woven together. I may continue with the story that’s developed over the past two weeks, or I may hit pause and figure out what already exists.
Either way, this challenge has been enormously fruitful. In some ways, the timing was awful, but in others, it couldn’t have been better, because it gave me a way to get out of my own world and into that of my characters at a time when I desperately needed a distraction. I wrote several days ago about how I’d written my way through a dear friend’s death. Turns out, writing is still my way of coping.
Many, many thanks to Jami Attenberg for inventing this challenge. If you’re reading this and thinking, “That sounds so great, but I could never do anything like it,” I encourage you to read Jami’s Craft Talk newsletter, and especially the links in the opening paragraph where she explains “the whole shebang” and reminds you that you can start any time. Today, for example.
I know 1,000 words can sound scary, especially if you haven’t written before. It may feel like an enormous stretch, and maybe it is. Remember, though, that it’s just a thousand words, not a thousand beautiful words or a thousand brilliant words or even a thousand highly-polished words. All you’re creating is a rough draft, and if you’re like me, rough drafts are really, really rough. (It’s not for nothing that in her classic on writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott refers to them as shitty first drafts.) Don’t worry about that. Your only job right now is to put words on a page. You’ll come back later to make them all clean and shiny. You may cut half of them, or you may find a nugget that you expand into an entirely different piece. When you’re putting down that thousand words, though, you don’t need to be thinking about your next steps. Stick with the step you’re on. The next steps will come in their time.
Good luck, and many thanks to all who have joined and supported me in this challenge!