April 2018 is a big month for aspiring writers, poets, and other creatives. Currently, I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo by writing a short story collection. Most blog posts this month will be focused on my experiences with completing this project.
The last couple days of April are upon us. Writing challenges are wrapping up. Friends are sharing their last few prolific poems on social media. Creative projects are being moved on to the next phase. Many creatives are celebrating a very productive and successful month.
Or, if your April went similarly to mine, you’re left reflecting on how quickly real life can shatter your carefully-tailored plan towards project success.
Looking back, there were many signs that my approach and circumstances would work against me. Here are three important points of reflection and how I plan to adjust for them in future projects.
1. Sixty hours of writing was too much.
My daily writing goal was writing for a total of two hours each day, breaking it up into eight 15-minute writing sprints throughout the day. Altogether, I would hit my goal of writing for sixty hours in a month.
What proved to be difficult was remaining consistent with my writing time. Some days, I could meet my daily writing goal. However, it was far more common for me to only manage an hour a day. This could have been for a number of reasons for a given day, from competing commitments to losing focus and working on other projects.
Adjustment: Determine designated day(s) and time(s) to write. Saturday mornings were my ideal time to meet my daily goal with Sunday evenings a close second. I’ve noticed that these times were usually my “dead-space” time, meaning that I rarely had emergencies or other commitments happening during this time. Moving forward, these will be my designated writing sessions for future projects and I can set my goals accordingly.
2. Writing without a plan does not work (for me).
I had rarely written about subjects or stories without a plan before this project. This month’s project proved to me once and for all that I need a writing plan for my projects. I found myself spending more time trying to fit fragments of a story together than writing a cohesive story. In the end, I had plenty of ideas of where the short stories could go but no connecting thread.
Adjustment: Continue making outlines for future projects. It was fun writing without an outline but it did not yield more than disconnected scenes in a story. In the end, writing from an outline with the basics of a storyline works the best for me.
3. I had too many interfering commitments.
There were many things that were happening in my life this month. My temporary gig had ended at the beginning of the month, so I was pursuing new employment opportunities while also fulfilling requirements for unemployment insurance. Personal emergencies were vying for my immediate attention and energies to resolve. There wasn’t enough hours in the day and no amount of time management would’ve helped.
Adjustment: Set goals relative to present and potential commitments. When I made my writing goal for the month, I didn’t take into account my commitments and potential emergencies. I assumed that I would only need to consider job searching and made my goal accordingly. Now I know to anticipate any changes in obligations and set goals accordingly.
Despite these setbacks, it was worth starting a writing project after going so long without one. It had opened my eyes to the possibilities and I learned more about myself as a writer. Connecting with other creatives as we partook on this journey has been one of the more defining moments of my writing life.
How about you? Did you challenge yourself in your craft this month? What have you learned and what will you improve? Let me know in the comments below.