The last entry, here, was about the first week of the 2021 1000 Words of Summer writing challenge. (To be fair, for some reason, calling it a challenge always seems a bit…not right. It is a challenge — you’re shooting for a daily word count. But it’s never felt like other challenges in the way it’s laid out by Jami Attenberg.)
I wrote about the first week, so…how did the second week go?
I couldn’t even tell you.
I just reached for the sheet I was tracking daily counts on, and it’s likely somewhere in a pile with the latest story for Not About Lumberjacks, my sound effects list for that episode, sheet music to a song I learned for the story, and other random notes needed to get the episode out.
So, the quick version of how the second week of the 1000 Words of Summer challenge went: It didn’t. (And I’m fine with that.)
I’ve mentioned that I’ve never done NaNoWriMo because I’m always working on something else at the time — and I’m not willing to set everything aside for a new project. (I know the online writing world is filled with memes about new ideas taking over things in progress, but I’ve always been good about finishing something before moving on to new stories.)
I took part in this year’s 1000 Words of Summer challenge because I wanted to kill some time while hoping to get permission to use a song I love to play on the mandolin (and a version of that song done by its composer) for Not About Lumberjacks, and figured the challenge would be a cool thing to do while waiting for an answer.
But when I saw the composer was busy teaching a handful of mandolin workshops in recent weeks, it became more likely I’d not hear from him, so…I knew I needed to learn a new tune and find someone who could play that tune better than I could. (Context: part of the latest episode of Not About Lumberjacks is about pursuing hobbies in spite of daily responsibilities, and the protagonist picks up a mandolin and gets better in time.)
The episode and all it entailed became more of a priority when I looked at my calendar and wanted to get the story out before my 29th anniversary on July 3rd…and the rush of the 4th of July weekend and week.
So…I set the 1000 Words of Summer challenge aside to work on Not About Lumberjacks.
It would be easy to say I failed the writing challenge because I didn’t write at least 14,000 words in two weeks. But I go into the 1000 Words of Summer challenge most years expecting to not hit the target.
It’s a thing to do during the hotter months when I’m usually not as productive. It keeps me a bit more focused and excited about the eventual return of autumn. (Which comes sometime in late October or early November in North Texas.)
If one’s goal is to meet the challenge, then yes: I failed the challenge. But I don’t feel that way because I released the second-longest episode of Not About Lumberjacks to date, and it’s done better than any other episode in its first days of being out there…again, if one sees writing as a game of measurement beyond the act of writing.
A Bigger Challenge
Last night I read the majority of what will likely be the next episode of Not About Lumberjacks. The story was [mostly] knocked out during the first week of the 1000 Words of Summer. I like what I wrote in that first week more than I remember. So, in that regard, I can’t call the challenge a failure.
And the latest episode is one of my favorites to date — if not the favorite. There will always be a word or two I wish I’d recorded again, or a sound I wish I put more effort into, but I’m proud of the episode. It was a thing that scared me a bit, because I had to learn a new song at the last minute. (When it comes to playing the mandolin, I’m a hobbyist at best, and while I’ve grown to have some confidence, a certain part of the tune my wife suggested I learn for the episode has some notes that usually throw me.)
But I rose to more challenges in getting the episode out.
I know, if I put my ass in a chair for an hour or so, I can produce 1000 words every day. But I had no idea if I’d be able to pull off some weird sound effects (the proverbial Tunnel of Light people see when they die, things disappearing in an instant, and recording myself playing the mandolin and putting it out there for anyone with an Internet connection to hear.)
So yes, I “failed” the 1000 Words of Summer challenge (and all but expected to before starting it), but did more for my writing in the last few weeks than hitting targets would have brought my way.
(Were I to look at all entries about previous years of the 1000 Words of Summer challenge, the common theme would likely be simply getting me off my lazy “I-hate-this-time-of-year” ass…and thinking what’s most important to work on!)
The Next Challenge(s)
So, with that all behind me, what comes next?
More of the same, because that’s what writers do.
- I have a behind-the-scenes episode to put together to complement the latest episode of Not About Lumberjacks.
- I have the next story for the show to finish writing, recording, and putting together.
- And there’s the next novel in a series to get back to.
When I give it a bit more thought, maybe I don’t take part in most writing challenges people suggest to me because, as long as you stay busy writing (even on days you may not write because other aspects of life take priority), every day is a challenge waiting to be met.