Every day for the past six months, you’ve kept to the same routine.
You’ve written a set number of blog posts every week (give or take). You’ve worked on the same kinds of stories in the same format featuring the same kinds of characters. You’ve stuck to your niche, gone to the same places, talked with the same people online.
You’re not bored, exactly. But you start to wonder … could I be doing more?
Could I be writing more? Publishing something on a different platform? Telling a story from a different perspective, even if it makes me uncomfortable?
Okay. Maybe you aren’t thinking this way.
But you could be.
Writing is its own form of exercise. You can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again at the same intensity level and expect to keep growing and thriving. Not the way you might if you pushed a little harder. Tried something new. Dared to create differently.
Even just once. Just to see what might happen.
Writers have to challenge themselves if they really want to grow.
But it’s a balancing act even still. You have to learn what your limits are, so that you don’t push past them so often and so forcefully that you hurt yourself.
How do you learn your true limits? You test them.
A terrifying thought. But you’re a writer. You can handle the truth.
I want you to try something. If you’re curious and able, that is.
I want you to pick one day — just one — in which your only goal is to push yourself beyond your perceived creative limits. To write more words in a day than you ever have before. To dedicate yourself to blocking out distractions with more effort than you thought you had in you. To write something you never thought you were capable of (in subject, format — up to you).
It doesn’t matter the goal, as long as it’s challenging.
And there’s only one other rule: this might be a one-time thing. You probably shouldn’t do it again.
Why am I suggesting it, then? Because too many of you out there are doubting yourselves. I’ve been there. I get it. But the only way you’re ever going to start believing that you’re better than you think is to prove to yourself that you can push past those invisible lines you thought you’d never cross.
If you do that once, looking back, everything else looks a whole lot easier.
Back in November of last year, I recorded over a dozen videos in a month. I did not need to do this. No more than a handful of people were going to watch them. They pretty much served no benefit to me other than the fact that making even one video — just the thought of it — was giving me anxiety. So much that I hadn’t made a video for almost a year.
So I thought, “Why don’t I just make a whole bunch. See if I can do it. See what happens.”
I did it. And now, in comparison, making a 5-minute video is easy. Fun, almost.
I know I’m kind of weird, and like to give myself unnecessary challenges just for the fun of it. Most people aren’t like that. I get it. I’m not saying you have to be.
But you can do so much more. I know you can. You just don’t yet.
You’re afraid to push yourself because, maybe, you don’t want to se the bar for yourself too high.
I get that. But look at it another way. For one day, let’s say, you’re setting the bar so high that you’ll never feel guilty for reaching even half that tomorrow.
You’re raising your personal minimum threshold. Maybe, then, doing your previous minimum will start to seem pointless. You’ll reach higher without even realizing it.
Can you just go on the way things are? Yeah. And maybe for you, right now, the current minimum is the best you can do, due to things outside your control. Fair.
But someday, maybe, you’ll get a chance to just see how far you can go.
At least, then, you’ll remember, “Oh yeah. I did that. Maybe I can work my way up to making that my normal one day.”
Or not. You didn’t tell me what kind of challenge you wanted (or if you were even looking for one). It’s something I tried at my day job this week. I thought maybe you’d like to try it, too.
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.