So, I meant to write up and post these thoughts last year. Really. I did. I have longhand notes and everything. Then, well?
I may be a year late, but I think what I learned still stands the test of twelve months. I hope you think so too.
In November 2019, I conceived of the idea of posting a story a week for an entire year. With the upcoming presidential election in the US, I knew it would be rough going. I wanted to do something kind; I wanted a distraction; I wanted something to focus on other than the news. I even called the challenge The (Love) Stories for 2020 to remind me of my aim for love, compassion, and kindness.
Then, of course, 2020 actually happened. Oh, my sweet summer child—you had no idea, did you?
I’m not the sort of writer who could write and post a short story a week for an entire year. That’s not how I’m wired. (If you’re wired that way, more power to you; I am brimming with envy.)
That being said, I thought I’d share the things that helped me get through this challenge. I offer them up in hopes they might be useful.
Party like it’s 1999: Focus on what you love and what’s fun, what you’d do even if you never got any recognition or payment. This is essentially the dance like no one’s watching advice. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for me.
Plan like it’s 2020: If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that things happen. Things will continue to happen. They may be external things well beyond our control, like elections and pandemics. They may be other things, like graduations and weddings, all the joyful things in life. Peer into your crystal ball as far as you can and plan accordingly, which brings me to…
Scheduling is your new best friend: I blog on WordPress, but I imagine most platforms have a draft and scheduling function. Scheduling posts several weeks in advance gave me breathing room. It allowed me to work on new and not-quite-there-yet stories.
Inventory on hand: Related to scheduling is having a fair amount of inventory on hand. Again, I’m not a fast writer. I might be able to write a story a week, but I’m not sure I could write a story a week that’s ready for prime time, so to speak. Also? In April 2020, I got Covid. Between inventory on hand and scheduling, I continued the challenge until my body and brain were back online.
It will take more time than you think it will: Always. Trust me on this one.
A challenge like this is a way to create and/or preserve a body of work. The content is evergreen and can have more than one use. When you own the rights to your work, you can do any number of things with it.
There are those external rewards, such as blog traffic, SEO, comments, and finding new readers. But for me, the results went far beyond the external.
I loved discovering what resonated with readers. Some of my “just for me” stories resonated so strongly with others that it helped me trust my inner voice a bit more, which spilled over into Season Four of Coffee and Ghosts. I’m not sure I would’ve written that without completing this challenge first.
I loved spending time with my own voice, rediscovering patterns and themes in my own writing.
In a world that’s always so loud, both online and off, it’s easy to miss what’s surprising and unique about your own voice. My 2020 challenge helped me reconnect with that.
So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and concoct your own challenge. But remember:
Always plan like it’s 2020 (or 2021).
But party like it’s 1999.