It’s almost March. Time to get real and find out whether I’m up to this. and other Medium writers have given me “writer’s religion”
By the time March rolls around New Year’s resolutions are in the “nice try” trash heap. In northern climes, it’s still dead winter. The days are a bit longer, but the wind is still bitter. The snow lies in grey clumps, like an old porch in need of paint. Spring is nowhere on the horizon. It’s the doldrums, where time sort of stands still in an agonizing way.
What is needed is the jolt of a challenge. March 2019 is my Writer’s Challenge month.
A month is a rational choice. Twenty-one days seems too few, sixty days, too many.
I tend to have a short attention span to these self-imposed commitments. They are easy to break and even easier to fudge. My past is littered with unfulfilled diet goals, exercise regimens, self-care plans. Regardless, my Pollyanna self says this time will be different. I’ll make it through 31 (consecutive) days.
The secret goal, now not so secret, is to develop the habits and strengthen muscle memory. Or so I imagine that I have, as my nose is pressed up against the glass of aspiration.
The Inspirations, Expectations, and Goal
I’ve spent a good part of 2019 thus far in the careful study of other Medium writer’s best practices. I’ve joined Shaunta Grimes’ Ninja Writers, AND her 1000 Day MFA newsletter; I’ve followed Josh Spector ‘s excellent newsletter (For The Interested) and subscribed to Seth Godin’s blog. I’ve saved a good number of Shannon Ashley’s articles chronicling her growing success on Medium. It’s been quite a tutorial.
A couple of themes arise in this river of advice: consistency, authenticity, engagement with other writers and nurturing a following. The do’s and don’ts sometimes conflict: lock/don’t lock stories, create (or don’t create) an email list, publish every day/week or when you feel ready.
I know what works for me and what my expectations are in the longer term. I’m not looking to make this a full-time job, devoting 30+ hours per week. I’m retired and embarking on this as a new “career” but engaged in life on several levels. There is simply not the time (nor the desire) to pour all my energies into writing.
I’m not looking to support myself with writing. Of course, I do bask in the recognition of “claps” and the modest compensation they bring. I have a goal for earnings. It is well short of a sustainable income.
I’m not looking to be “discovered” by a publisher through writing on Medium. I could be surprised by this one, but it’s not a goal. Still….
I simply want to become better at what I really enjoy doing, and now have some time and bandwidth to devote to it. Now is my moment.
My Challenge is a Triad — Reading, Writing, and Ideation
In deciding that I need to knuckle down, I’ve chosen three best practices to focus on for at least the month of March. Hopefully longer if my plan kicks in.
Plus, I aim to create or begin to create more of a writer’s lifestyle. I want to instill in my life the habits of reading/writing/note taking daily. Every. Single. Day. Reading beyond scrolling social media, scanning the New York Times/Guardian/Atlantic/New Yorker.
The reason I don’t read for pleasure every day is two-fold.
Number one, I’m lazy. It’s not like I do anything else. I do fall into the black hole of Netflix, but beyond that, I’m not a big tv watcher. I don’t have anything beyond basic cable. I actually enjoy reading — a lot. But, lazy is lazy. And there is the siren call of Netflix.
Number two, I always considered it a guilty pleasure. When I was younger, with kids/job/time-sensitive obligations, pleasure reading got stuck “in-between”. I didn’t make it a priority. So it became a habit to wait til I had “time.”
Well, I have the time. I’m making the time. I’m seeing it as part of the job description as a (part-time) writer. Reading is what I do, to do the other thing that I do, which is writing. So there, I’ve given myself permission.
Now, I plan to engage in critical reading. Short stories, literary fiction, non-fiction, essays (which I consider my wheelhouse). To start, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (thanks, Shaunta Grimes, for that suggestion). David Brooks’ The Road to Character. I’m working my way through the wonderful Iain Pears’ Dream of Scipio on my Kindle. These count, in my “book” (sorry) and I’m jazzed by the variation. No excuses; there’s something for every mood. The reading goal is at least a half-hour per day. I know I’ll exceed it once I find the discipline to just sit down.
Another minimum of at least a half hour per day.
At present, I binge-write. I work on a piece for Medium, through all the steps. Note taking, researching, outlining, the “word vomit” of the first draft, refining, finally editing and working through Hemingway App. A single post can take days of time, but it’s not a concentrated, deep effort. I dart in and out.
Each piece is a one-off. There are no multiple, concurrent projects. No, each masterpiece is like a birthday cake created from scratch. Lovingly baked, carefully iced, presented with fingers crossed that it meets the approval of the “tasters ” (that would be you, dear reader).
The March Challenge will address these issues. Each day and I mean EVERY day, weekends included, I will write. I will move a piece, or maybe even more than one piece, one (tiny) step further along the path to conclusion.
Shaunta says that when things get tough writers should just do one paragraph, or one sentence, SOMETHING. In another advice about getting beyond being stuck, she said to write for ten minutes a day. Just ten minutes. I could set the kitchen timer and do that. Seems reasonable enough. She claims that if you just get started, the writing can flow from there. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. You’ve given it a shot for the moment. For me, the discipline to get started is the biggest thing. Therein lies the Challenge.
That’s where it all starts, right? Sure I’ve got Ideas. Tons. I just can’t remember them. And then, when I lose track (like in the morning when the first blush of sleep has wiped away a BRILLIANT idea) I think, “well, there will be another one”
And sure enough, there always is the next one. But how do I know that it’s as good as the one I forgot, or never massaged into being? Am I wasting my best ideas because I’m too damn lazy to jot them down? Not even a word prompt? Maybe there lists of ideas, or headlines, I want to explore (or at least remember). But they go up into the ether.
The third leg of the March Writing Challenge stool: ideation and note taking.
So it’s pretty simple. The ideas will focus on my audience the 65+ crowd. I’m convinced there’s an audience because:
a) Some of my best-preforming pieces clearly target the “Boomer” generation;
b) I’m not competing with a ton of other writers calling out to a younger audience;
c) Because of that, it’s always supply/demand. There’s not a lot of stuff out there, and the robust senior is gaining traction. Want to Combat Ageism? Look to Instagram’s Divas
I think ageism is a cultural illness. It’s not a personal illness.medium.comOpinion | In Defense of the Gerontocracy
Sure, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s youth (she’s 29) is crucial to the passion in her voice, the ambition of her ideas and…www.nytimes.com
d) It’s my jam, to put it in the jargon of the day.
Lately, I decided to up the ante, primarily because my ante has been upped with the occasion of my 70th birthday. It seemed right to start a series, This is What 70 Looks Like. It suits a podcast-like format, published in Episodes. Here are the first twoThis is what 70 looks like. Episode 1: Surviving Shingles
What’s the big deal?medium.comThis is What 70 Looks Like. Episode 2
It looks like leadership — of all kindsmedium.com
So as you can imagine this will be a focus during the challenge month, moving forward with the “70” series.
It may not work. It may be too focused, not wide enough to sustain an audience, or the audience may not be there. I don’t know, and I won’t know until I try. Every Day. For A Month.
And if that doesn’t work, something else will. Because as we roll into April, I’ll have new ideas. Writing every day will be routine, not a circle of Hell. Reading will be just what I do.
This will work.
Don't miss a single word. Get Publishous Magazine delivered directly to your inbox each week for FREE!
Please complete the form below and you will receive the next episode directly to the email address you provide.