Do you participate in them?

You know—

  • NaNoWriMo
  • PAD
  • The Writing Cooperative: The 52-Week Writing Challenge
  • Young Writer’s Project Challenges
  • 100-Day Novel Writing Challenge
  • Book It!
  • Monthly Twitter Writing Challenge

Found Poetry Challenges. Short Story Challenges. Flash Fiction Challenges. Kid Lit. Picture Books. Romance. Horror. Fantasy. Share Your Story Challenges. Faith Stories. Share a Story. Double Blind Challenge.

There’s so many!!

If you participate i these challenges, why? What is it about the challenge itself that appeals to you? The community? Is it the motivation you need right now?

Humor me while I ramble.

What’s at the end?

I’ve gone through cycles of NaNo and never written a word while watching writing friends posting about their word counts. I confess. I feel guilty and a little ashamed of myself that my discipline is lacking. And yet, the one time I succeeded at NaNo, I didn’t write about it. I still haven’t finished writing what I started. I still haven’t collected my poems from PAD into a chapbook. I am burdened with a sheath of literary failure because I can’t seem to keep up with the writing community essentials.

Or are they?

I’m reading a book called Essentialism. It lays out plainly why I don’t particularly enjoy writing challenges. They really aren’t essential and I’m in a season of life where eliminating stuff is a priority.

The Process of Waiting

My focus for blogging is not on how to write better/faster/stronger. It’s on the progression of a writer’s heart and soul.

Not the publications. Not the perfections. Not the How-to’s.

Everyone and everyone has read and/or written on the writing tools, platform, voice, processes, tech advice: (GAH! Michael Hyatt has quit blogging and now his website is more like a magazine. Should we all switch from blogging to magazine format? What should the schools of guppies do?)

You know what we all do. We chew pencils and slurp tepid coffee and wait to see what all the other successful bloggers/writers do. Then we do it too. Right?

We watch and wait. The same thing we do every day and night. (Right, Pinky?) We wait for daily activities and long-term events. Some we look forward to and some we want to smash into oblivion.

Today I’m waiting for the cute and scary trick-or-treaters to arrive. I’m grotesquely waiting for my mother to move into heaven. (She has Alzheimer’s. A slow hellish suffering.) I’m waiting for the resolution of a court case. I’m waiting for my headache to dissipate. I’m waiting for a medical condition to resolve or else I’m waiting to learn how to quit fighting and accept it. I’m even waiting to decide some things or waiting for other people to decide some things for me.

I’m waiting for beginnings. I’m waiting for endings.

I’m waiting for opportunity. Even though we have all heard that we must grasp opportunity when it comes our way, do you really know that that one thing is THE thing you SHOULD grasp onto?

No. You don’t. It may be the wrong thing. Opportunity is often hidden in the mundane. We overlook the shallows and depths because our minds trick us into believing we need more, another idea, a better idea, another conference, another workshop, another read through of our favorite writing book.

And we chase the school of fish churning in the fresh waters and turning in tandem without a focus. Exasperating our energy supplies. (No dinner tonight, kids! Mommy’s got three hundred words to write and edit and . . . Stop eating right out of the peanut butter jar. Well, at least wash your hands after you lick your fingers.)

Not More. Less.

The stillness of less and embracing the waiting has freed me up to . . . daydream, ponder, wonder, and wander.

So, my point is—if you’re feeling guilty for not spending your life chasing each and every writing challenge or contest, don’t. Don’t grasp onto all these writing challenges as the means to success when in fact, they may just be the burden you do not need to carry right now.

Chuck Wendig said, “Stories are like wine; they need time. So take the time. This isn’t a hot dog eating contest. You’re not being judged on how much you write but rather, how well you do it. Sure, there’s a balance — you have to be generative, have to be swimming forward lest you sink like a stone and find remora fish mating inside your rectum. But generation and creativity should not come at the cost of quality. Give your stories and your career the time and patience it needs.”

Take a moment to read the wisdom from Ecclesiastes

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

(Yes, it’s a Byrd’s song, but they stole the lyrics.)

The challenge of a writing challenge is knowing when your life is ready for a challenge. It shouldn’t be a beast you tackle. It shouldn’t be a burden you endure. It should feel like a blessing.

Wait for the right one at the right time.

As for me, I will be participating in PAD this November. If I finish, great! I’ll feel satisfaction. If I don’t, I’m not going to allow myself the burden of guilt or feeling less than for not finishing.