Do you feel like you’ve been stuck in the same place for too long? Like you’ve been writing the same three things over and over — even though you’re not quite sure what kind of “push” you need to branch out and do something different?
There’s a writing strategy you’re likely aware of, but aren’t using. Yet. But you should be.
It’s likely you’re not challenging yourself enough. And that might be slowing you down.
Many people aren’t naturally wired to seek out and conquer challenges. There’s nothing “wrong” with you if you’re not automatically inclined to think this way. But I think every writer can learn to do so, if they so choose. Yes — even you.
Challenges are pretty much just goals, but much more terrifying.
A goal is typically something you’re looking forward to. Something you know will redeem a reward for doing a thing you usually already know you can accomplish (for the most part).
A challenge is, well, hard. Right out of the gate, you know you’re merely attempting to accomplish something you know for a fact you might not be able to do. You know you’re going to have to achieve milestone after milestone to even come close to hitting the mark.
You already know you are likely to fail. Unlike a goal, the point of a challenge actually even isn’t to succeed. It’s to see how far you can go, how hard you can try. What you can learn and how you can grow along the way.
Here are a few quick tips for setting up a challenge for your aspirational self.
Do something you’ve never done. Example: writing and submitting a short story to a contest or magazine. If you’ve never actually submitted a story to a publication before — which requires following strict guidelines and a high probability of rejection — it’s going to be a challenge for you. You might not succeed. But you will probably learn a lot. And who knows — after doing it once, you might have a much easier time doing it again another time.
Make sure it’s uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to do it, or that you should do something that doesn’t make you feel excited. But whatever you’re writing or creating isn’t really a challenge if it doesn’t launch you straight out of your comfort zone. You might think you hate the rush of anxiety these kinds of things trigger within you, but it’s much more thrilling once you realize how fulfilled doing it — or trying, at least — is going to make you feel.
Tell no one. It’s a challenge within itself to keep a new, hard-to-achieve project all to yourself. But there is no better way to practice self-motivation than to try accomplishing something all on your own without having to worry about anyone judging you — or expecting anyone to check up on you. Plus, it’s kind of fun to have a harmless secret that might turn into a big deal someday. You never know.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.