Lessons learned from the 5am Writer’s Club Challenge
Despite the agony of getting up early, and working through my birthday weekend, I managed to complete the 5amwritersclub challenge.
I thought this challenge would shake some of the cobwebs out of my writing process, but I had no idea how much it would change my perspective.
Here are the three main things I learned:
Lesson 1 - A solid writing schedule produces solid results.
If you've read my posts before, you know I have a deep fascination with writing schedules and how they drive a writer's work. But I have been creating, ditching, and recreating my own writing schedules for years with minimum success. With life decisions and new clients and interesting gigs coming my way, I always had a ready excuse for not sticking to that week's writing schedule.
On the Monday before I started the challenge, I had a scheduled morning writing session, and an evening writing session, and 20-10 or 45-15 writing sessions planned throughout the day. Yet the only creative storytelling I did that day was finding excuses to miss those appointments.
The challenge reduced my writing schedule from three hours a day to one hour a day. But it made the writing process something that I had to do. And I got more writing done on day one of the challenge than I had in the past week.
Lesson 2 - Your subconscious will fight an uncomfortable change, so you can't give it room to fight.
In 2019, one of my favorite YouTubers, Lefie, outlined her technique for creating amazing changes in her life while still sticking to her minimalist philosophy. "Self discipline begins with giving yourself no other option."
Anyone who has ever studied addiction, toxic patterns, or just tried to do something better with their lives, knows how hard it is to get your brain used to a new pattern.
But this challenge had super simple rules, with very little wiggle room, and it was something that seemed relatively easy to accomplish.
I could wine, complain, and pout about the whole process - and did! - but there was no way I could get out of the challenge without outright quitting.
I gave myself no options, other than success or giving up. So I succeeded.
Lesson 3 - You can't wait for the muse to visit you, you have to extend them an invitation.
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I prefer writing when I'm inspired over writing on a set schedule. Doesn't everyone?
Inspired writing is fun! Exciting! It's like a whirlwind romance that you never want to end. Plus the output is amazing! Passionate! Electric!
Who would want to set a writing schedule? That's like a married couple scheduling date nights. Dull. Predictable. A sign that you've failed.
Except it isn't.
In 'On Writing', Stephen King pointed out that scheduling daily writing times and goals was crucial to his process. That was how he created a space for his muse, who he envisioned as a crotchety, cigar-chomping, used car salesman, to drop by.
And during this challenge, I saw exactly what I meant.
Go back and look at the time stamps in each of the challenges. There was always a 10 to 15 minute time gap when I was cranky and fussing and determined to hate every minute. But then I got a flash of inspiration, and huge chucks of time would quickly fly past.
During the last day of the challenge, it took less than a minute to start writing and about 40 minutes before I hit my first wall of the day. Contrast that with my first day when I was lucky to get 40 minutes of writing time total, in between my bitching and moaning.
Scheduling writing time is like a married couple scheduling date nights and sex nights. It's a seemingly dorky trick that seems cringey and ridiculous. But it actually works. And more people should be doing it.
I'm looking for my next writing challenge, and I'd like to hear from you: which challenge would you like to see me take on next? What writing challenge would you never do again? And what writing quotes inspire you?