Friday, January 21, 2011

Setting your own challenges

In November, I was a writing retreat at the Oregon Coast, and one evening at circle, a would-be novelist was lamenting her ability to stay focused and be productive. One of the poets spoke up and offered her a challenge: If she could complete 10 chapters in 60 days, the poet would give her $100. Today the novelist collected the money. She had written 15 chapters in the 60 days.

Now, not every challenge is such a directly lucrative one, but having a distinct, measurable goal is often helpful whether it's weight loss, saving money, or producing art. The poet did as much for her friend by stating the required production and the deadline as by offering the money, maybe more. This can be especially helpful for big projects. Breaking them down into measurable pieces makes it concrete, makes it seem real. Saying I'm going to work on my novel for a few hours this week is less motivating for me than saying I'm going to rework two chapters and draft a new chapter.

What challenges would you like to embark on this year in your writing? What would be feasible and still a good stretch? What would help you step more fully into your writing life?

Here are my writing dreams for 2011:

Write 100 poems
Write 100 fictional prompts
Finish the novel I just drafted
Go on 4 writing retreats
Enter 3 writing contests
Teach at our local writing conference
Start my third novel

Ambitious? You bet. Why not? If I get even half of that done, I'll be thrilled. What's on your dream list?

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