Original image: Pexels from Pixabay. Graphics by author.

Exploring how time-limited challenges can be transformative

Yesterday I started a challenge to write thirty non-fiction blogs or articles in thirty days. A challenge I’m calling, for now, Blog Sprints. The aim is to get back into the habit of daily writing.

I think there’s a lot to be gained from small, time-limited challenges. We used them to great effect on recent MSc group work: short frequent bursts of activity to maintain momentum on a project and make insurmountable tasks seem manageable.

Here are the main things I think we can all get from 30 Day Challenges:

  • We can use them to improve in one small area or learn one particular skill. We don’t always have to aim for wholesale change.
  • 30 days is a realistic amount of time. Short enough to see the end (100 days can be too far away), but long enough to get you on the road to a new habit (advice traditionally said between three weeks and a calendar month to make a habit stick, but research now says an average of 66 days).
  • Aligned to a calendar month it’s easily trackable on a calendar or planner.
  • It allows you to test the limits of what is achievable in a small time frame. I never thought it would have been possible to write a novel in a month, but I’ve won NaNoWriMo three times. We aim to open our eyes to what can be achieved.
  • It has to be realistic, and we have to be honest with ourselves if something isn’t working out as planned. And there lies the beauty of the 30 day challenge: it’s easily dropped if our circumstances change or if its not giving us what we need.

So, I’m taking November to revive my writing and using NaNoWriMo as inspiration. I’m not alone in that, just as for Inktober last month, many thousands do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) each year, and a good proportion of them use it for something not quite exactly aligned with the original rules. Deviation is encouraged. It’s become something else, alive, no longer tethered by the original concept.

People write fiction in all genres, but also non-fiction of all types. Research, journalism and reviews. Graphic novels, comics and illustrated prose.

And that’s not to mention the more formal challenges at other times of the year. I’ve mentioned Inktober already, the drawing in ink challenge that happens every October, but there are several creative challenges. InCoWriMo in February for the letter writers. Haiku writing, also in February. Novel editing in March and poetry writing in April.

You name it, there’s probably a challenge for it somewhere on the internet, some month in the next 12. And if there isn’t, why not be the one that starts it?