How to Not Write 500 Words

I joined a 500 words a day challenge to force myself to write every day. It has not been going well. I started off fired up. I woke up half an hour earlier every morning the first week to ‘get it in’ before tackling the responsibilities of motherhood, a full time job and the basic drudgery of adult life.

I do not write well in the mornings. I already knew this. Most of my best poems and prose have been written in the afternoon anywhere between 1 and 4pm. There is a quality to the light in late afternoon that just ignites my thoughts.

It feels like a quiet space between worlds where I am less mom and teacher and more a conduit for the whispers of genius that flit through my open window, into my mind and out through my pen onto the waiting page.

But, in the spirit of trying new things, I decided to go with the early morning scribble. So much garbled drivel; so difficult to focus. It cut into devotion time and before I knew it, every morning one of the children had woken and needed breakfast, RIGHT NOW.

It was a slippery slope, if I made breakfast then of course I had to do the dishes, then the laundry, maybe vacuum a little … then it was time to get to work. No time to write. By the end of week two I had already started to fall off.

Photo courtesy of Romain Vignes, Unsplashed

I read the prompts everyday and thought, “I’ll get to it later”. But some days, ‘later’ never came.  Sometimes, I just thought about writing and figured that was enough. Even the added accountability of the facebook group I joined was not enough to get me to do the daily challenges consistently.

It strikes me that with the depth of love I have for the written and spoken word, I ought not to have to force myself to write. The truth is I write constantly, on everything and anything; paper scraps, tissue, post it notes, old bills, letters, envelopes.

What am I writing? Fragments of stories I’m working on, the idea for a book I’ve been mulling over forever, lines of poems; grocery lists, reminders of tasks that need to get done, lesson plans, my name. Some days, that’s all the writing I ever get done.

Somehow, when it comes to writing the things that truly light me up, writing creatively, I just can’t. The ideas are in my head, I’m thinking about what I could be writing but those thoughts never seem to make it onto paper. They slip from my mind like sand though the fingers.

Why is that? Writing is important to me, why do I leave it for last? Why do other things, other tasks that I do for others always take precedence?

It’s almost as if I don’t feel I deserve to do something just for me. I’ll admit I’m a little obsessed with not being selfish. Sometimes, when I just want to curl up and read undisturbed for a whole day or just get lost in my writing like I could before I had a husband and family to take care of, I feel I am being selfish.

When I am secretly a little angry at my children for talking to me while I’m chasing a really good idea in my head, I feel really bad. If I even actually pause to scribble something, I am constantly distracted by social media.

Photo courtesy of William Iven, Unsplashed

It feels to me sometimes as if I am deliberately not writing or hiding from writing by reading about writing, doing courses about writing, subscribing to websites about writing…

There’s some light at the end of the funnel though. Through wrestling with this challenge, I figured out that even if it’s terrible and never sees the light of day, I still need to write.

Writing for me is exercising my creative muscles; the same way a body builder works out constantly to maintain muscle mass, writers must write consistently so the ‘writing muscle’ doesn’t atrophy. I still am not managing to do it every day, but I haven’t quit. I’m going to keep going. So here’s to writing, consistently. Practice leads to publishing.

How about you? Do you find challenges like the one I’m doing helpful? Do you set timers to keep you on task? How do you keep going when faced with distractions?  Share your tips and tricks in the comments.


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