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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Psychology of the Challenge

If you've been following my blog at all this month, you're probably aware that I signed on for a writing challenge: 30,000 Words in February.  Today's the last day and I'm a couple thousand words short so I'll be jumping from here to my WIP.  But first I want to look at challenges.

As this challenge is coming to a close, members of the sponsoring group are already e-mailing their desire/need for another challenge.  This group is ceratinly not unique.  Everywhere we turn there are writing challenges and blogging name it, someone is holding a challenge for it.


What is the attraction?  We supposedly write because we love to write.  Because we can't not write.  Because we have this great driving need to write.  So why do we need a "challenge" to write?  Isn't writing enough of a challenge in itself?  If not, we also have the challenge of the query, the pitch, the unreasonable editing demands, the changing publishing world, etc.

Or maybe that is the attraction.  I can't make an agent love my book.  I can't even make an agent read my book. But I can decide to write 30,000 words in a given month.  A challenge that's within my control.

Or is it the peer support?  The "we're all in this together", "come on, you can do it", "stick with it, don't give up" support that comes with a common goal.

I don't know.  I know I've written more consistantly this month (obsessively checking my word count as I go) than I have in a long time.  I've measured my count every night against the graph that shows where I need to be to make goal and used that to spur myself on.  I'm even considering taking on another challenge.  But why does it work for me?  I couldn't tell you.

Maybe, as an unpublished, it's as close as I can get to an editor's deadline. 

What do you think?  Do you like challenges?  Do they work for you?  Do you know why?

Got to go now.  I've got a lot of words to write before midnight.  Got to meet that challenge.

My current word count: 27,054

I'm currently enjoying: Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters

Groaner of the day: Mother Lion and Father Lion had gone off hunting, and had told their two children not to wander away. However, a couple of small wildebeests wandered by, and the baby lions could not resist the temptation to try out their own hunting skills. They ran out, chased after the animals, killed them, and started eating them.

Just as the baby lions were reaching the end of their meal, the parents appeared in the distance. One of the baby lions turned to the other, and said: "That is the end of the gnus. Here again are the head lions."


Robert Guthrie said...

For me, challenges are great. A chapter a week. That keeps me going.

Dru said...

Challenges among myself is okay, but among others is not my thing since I'm not competitive.

Took me awhile, but I got the groaner.

GOod luck in reaching your word count goal. You can do it!

Stacy McKitrick said...

I don't do challenges, for the reason you say - I can't NOT write. I love to write. Maybe too much.

But I do set myself goals. Not sure if I really need them, but I like keeping track. Maybe I'm just preparing myself when I actually have deadlines (and I can only hope that day arrives soon!).

Good luck on reaching your goal. With less than 3000 words, I have faith you will make it.

Maria Zannini said...

I'm afraid I don't care for challenges. Writing has never been an issue. And as pleasant and supportive as the other challengers are, the constant interaction would eat too much of my time.

I'm better going at it alone.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Robert - Do you decide ahead of time how long your chapters will be or just write until you reach the logical ending?

Linda Leszczuk said...

Dru - I think I'm quasi competitive. I don't feel the need to beat anyone else's totals but once I say I'm going to reach a certain number, I really hate coming up short.

Sometimes I have to read the groaner aloud a couple times before I get it.

As I write this it's 6:45 and I've got to go babysit the grandkids for a couple hours. My word count is 29,076. Got to squeeze out that last thousand when I get back. I'll be recording Castle to watch after midnight.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Stacy - I love writing but I'm too easily distracted. I think having a declared target helps me keep my focus.

See my comment to Dru for the latest progress report.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Maria - To be honest, I ignore most of the interaction part. As you said, it takes up too much time. But this challenge came with a spreadsheet to log my running totals, complete with a graph showing where I should be each day. I got absolutely crazy over that graph. God forbid I should fall below the line.

I might just adapt the spreadsheet for March and start again on another 30,000.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I don’t do challenges. The pressure of thinking I have to do something most likely means, I won’t.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Jane - Ah, I'm just the opposite. I'm of the "if it wasn't for deadlines, I'd never get anything done" school. Chronic procrastinator. This may stand me in good stead if I'm ever lucky enough to have editor deadlines, but for now I think the occasional challenge may do the trick.