Welcome challengers: Kim, Sandy, Tammy, Leah, Angi, Risa, Kate, Blake, Pam, Ashley and Suzanne! We are an even dozen. That’s 12 people aimed at success. Now we need a name. How about the “Dedicated Dozen?” Anyone got anything better?
How did you do today, day two? I got off to a rough start with a 4 a.m. search and rescue call-out. Didn’t get home until almost noon and then I really needed a nap. Technically I’ve met my goal–finished the chapter I was reading in QUICKSAND and wrote about a page, but I plan to write for another hour or so and then go to bed and read until I can’t keep my eyes open (which will probably be about 2 minutes, lol).
The challenge will be judged on the honor system. You aren’t required to show up here daily and post successes (there won’t be anything but successes, will there? Don’t make me come knock on your door…) but I do hope you’ll stop by periodically. If you trip up, don’t worry about it. Show up, let us know and I’ll restart your counter. It ain’t over till it’s over, baby, and you’ve got all year if you need it.
So why is it so danged important to write, or do whatever your challenge activity is, every single day? Everyone deserves a day off, right?
Right. But not yet.
Let’s get that habit firmly established first. That should take…oh…about 100 days. 🙂
In the original challenge post I touched on two reasons to perform your activity every day. First, because it builds the habit, and we are all creatures of habit. Second, because it keeps that activity in the forefront of our minds. I believe our subconscious mind is working all the time. The question is, what is it working on?
In order to write, even only a single sentence, you have to think about your story. You have to remember where you were, what your characters were doing, what happens next. Thinking about your story moves it to the brain’s equivalent of the cache on your computer. If you’re not a techie, don’t worry about the analogy. Just save to say that it puts the story in the part of your brain that makes it easiest to access. So when your subconscious goes looking for something to work on…there it is. Your subconsious will work on your story long after you close the file. Then when you sit down to write more than a sentence, your mind will already have worked out the next part of the story. You just have to type it.
If you don’t think about your story for a day, three days, three weeks, then your brain shuffles it aside to a remote storage area where your subconscious is less likely to find it and work on it. Don’t let your dreams be shuffled aside!
This line of thought works for other challenge activities as well. For example, Kate is working on acknowledging her kids’ good behavior. Complimenting the kid once caches the activity. Then her subconscious will be on the lookout for more opportunities and remember to acknowledge them.
Tammy is thinking about starting a new business. By doing just one thing every day to move toward that goal, like browsing websites for similar business to get ideas, starting her business plan, or doddling ideas for business cards, she can keep her mind problem-solving all the challenges ahead.
There are two more reasons we should work on our challenge activity every day. I’ll touch on one today and one tomorrow or the day after.
Today’s reason: Because getting started is the scariest part. We all have fears–fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, etc. That fear that niggles at us when we’re occupied with other things suddenly can become a roaring monster with claws and teeth and green slime dripping from its nose when we actually get ready to try our activity. For a writer, opening the manuscript file can be the toughest part of the day. For a reader, maybe we think our spouses or family won’t be happy that we’re taking 15 minutes to spend quietly with a book when there is so much else to do: clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills. Or maybe we think people will think it’s silly that we love romance novels or weird science fiction. Maybe we fear that a teenager will shrug off our attempts at affection (the dreaded, “Moooooooo-ooooom!”).
I train search and rescue dogs. Sometimes those dogs have to scary things, like climb and 8-foot ladder. Sound impossible to train a dog to climb a scary ladder? It’s really not that hard, because we use a process of desensitizing them to the ladder. We start with a ladder horizontal and sitting on bricks so that it’s just about 1 foot off the ground. We put a plank across it so they are really just walking across a board at first. As they get used to that, we start moving the plank off so that they have to walk across a few of the rungs, being careful where they place their feet so they don’t slip through. As they have successes at that, We tilt one end of the ladder up a few feet so they have to climb. We gradually increase the angle until finally, they are climbing an 8-foot aluminum (slippery for dog paws!) ladder at a steep angle up to a 6-foot high platform. All along the dogs get plenty of praise, plenty of reward.
Our challenge activities are not that different. We just have to start easy and desensitize ourselves to the fear. That’s why it’s fine to write just one sentence. If we start out saying we’re going to sit down and write for 10 straight hours and we need to crank out 30 pages…that’s just too scary. We’re like the puppies on the ground, looking up at that ladder that must look like a skyscraper to them. Start easy. Reward yourself. Build on success.
Soon you’ll be opening up those manuscript files and diving into your stories like this (just the first 20 seconds or so):
Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to show off my boy Boogie. I know, this isn’t an 8-foot ladder and he’s not climbing to a height of six feet, but it’s the only ladder video I had, and he was just learning. He’d only been climbing ladders for a few days!
Hopefully you’ve all made it to day two. Tomorrow things will probably get tougher for some of you as the holiday ends and a work week begins. Don’t let it throw you.
Open up those files and write on, challengers!