52 Weeks and Counting

This is my first time participating in a writing challenge. I’ve been writing for a long time — journaling for over 25 years, writing responsibilities at work for almost as long, and blogging since 2010. But this is different; I have never committed myself in this way. Yet, when I saw the Writing Cooperative’s 52-Week Writing Challenge, I felt compelled to rise up to the challenge. As I enter into week 5, I wanted to share a few thoughts on this challenge.

Aim for better than average. In 9th grade, my high school science teacher told me that I would do well in life if I could be better than average. His philosophy was that most people do just enough to get by, which made them average. He said that I didn’t have to be perfect, just above average. This was his way of releasing me from my strive for perspective.

To be better than average is a good approach to this writing challenge. You see, I come with baggage. When it comes to my blog, it takes me a long time to write each blog post. Did I mention that I only post monthly? I spend a lot of time fussing over words in almost every way imagined. I keep working on it until it feels just right. This would have to change. There was no way to keep my full-time job (and my sanity) and meet this challenge. When I find myself stuck in the mire of perfection, I often ask myself, Is this better than average? This approach hasn’t failed me yet.

Request help from others through feedback. As part of this writing challenge, we have the opportunity to request feedback and edits through the Writing Cooperative’s Slack channel. It’s helpful to have other eyes to take a look at my work and provide their feedback — especially from people committed to the same writing challenge. I’ve been impressed with the quality of the feedback that I’ve received, having visited many writing groups in the past. Even if I don’t use their suggestions, I always consider them. I realize that sometimes the story that I want to tell is more complete in my head than what’s down on paper. Requesting the help of others, through feedback, is an opportunity to see my work differently.

Creativity, inspiration and talent are lovely…but you have to work. Creativity is the ability to produce something original or new, or to at least present something familiar in a different way. Inspiration is that initial desire that we have. Talent is one’s natural ability. Creativity, inspiration and talent are lovely concepts. However, none of this matters if we don’t have the ability to do the work. There has to be a product that demonstrates that we are creative, inspired or talented.

Both of my brothers are professional musicians. People often gush over their talent which can’t be denied. However, when I consider their musical ability, I think of how much they practice. They’ve been practicing since childhood and still continue to practice. They began playing instruments in the third grade which means that both of my brothers have been practicing for at least 40 years. People rightfully applaud their performances which is the culmination of many years of hard work. Inspiration, creativity and talent cannot replace consistent work towards a clear goal. It’s important to view writing in this same way. This writing challenge is a commitment to the work of writing.

These are some of the things that have helped me in this challenge. Of course, I am concerned that I won’t be able to complete a 52 week challenge. But, I only have to think about this one week at a time. It began with a commitment and now I have to write.