Last Summer, I embarked on a challenge set up by Shaunta Grimes and her Ninja writers. It basically consisted of writing a book in four months.
July was for planning: we had to come up with 31 ideas for blog posts or short stories related to a single topic. In August, we published one post/story each day online (I published them on Medium, by the way). In September, we revised, and in October we formatted and printed all the posts into a book.
It was a lot of fun. I merged two passions of mine (storytelling and music) into a collection of 31 short stories titled like famous songs, and I’m quite proud of the result: a collection of stories I called The Playlist. The challenge gave me consistency and helped me get through the huge amount of commuting time I went through last year.
I was planning to repeat it this summer with stories related to another huge passion of mine (i.e. games, both digital and tabletop), but as the month of July approached I decided to sit back. It’s not an easy decision to make, but there are a few things I considered in taking it.
First of all, “We Gotta Get Out“. I’ve just finished the editing after the second round of beta reading, and it is now time to begin to think about cover design and promotion for it while it undergoes the third round of betas and professional copy editing.
Second reason: free time. Even if my day job occupies the same hours it did last year, this year I’m fully remote. This means that I don’t have to spend 4 hours per day commuting: sometimes I feel like using that free time for writing, sometimes I feel like splitting it between writing and doing something else. Things normal human beings do, like going for a walk, spending time with my girlfriend, taking pictures, playing games, etc.
This leads me to the third reason why I’m sitting back: the challenge itself. I’m not a very consistent person on a daily basis, and it shows in how sparse my blog posts are. But when I embark on a challenge, I put all myself into it. I barely think about anything else, because I’m all focused on finishing it. And I win the challenge, but at the price of leaving everything else behind (except for my girlfriend, but only because she’s capable of calling me back on Earth from time to time).
I don’t want to exhaust myself into something that, as much as I enjoy it, leaves no room for anything else. Writing fiction requires inspiration, and my way of getting inspiration is going out there. Observe life first-hand as it happens in front of my eyes.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think those challenges are funny and teach us a lot about the craft, the practice, and about ourselves. Last month I completed a week-long challenge requiring me to write 1000 words per day. I aced it, and put some sound foundation for the “We Gotta Get Out” sequel (I wasn’t sure it could go anywhere before trying it), but guess what? I left behind almost everything else.
Of course, now I’ve got four full months to decide whether I want to commit to the NaNoWriMo as I planned to do last year. Who will win? Stay tuned to find out.
PS. Before I forget. In case you want to take a look, you can find The Playlist in the Books section. Please let me know if there was a story you enjoyed in particular.