The #500WED Writing Challenge Retrospective.

September 30, 2014, marks the last day of the #500WED (500 Words Every Day) community writing challenge in which I participated over the past month on lift.do. I decided to take the last day to look back and review the past month, in the hopes to extract some lessons from this experience. 

The goal, as defined by the organizers of the challenge:
“Fall in love with writing, by writing 500 words every day for a month”.

As a big fan of the Agile Methodology and Scrum approach to Agile, in particular, the last thing of the Scrum cycle is to conduct the Sprint Retrospective, which provides a chance to look back and ask two basic questions about the process. What went well? What did not go well and what improvements could be made in the next sprint? Here are the notes from such meetings held albeit with myself.

What went well?

The daily writing prompts, provided by the coach Cecily Kellogg, were spot on, and what actually got me writing. They were purposely crafted, open-ended, thought-provoking questions, focused on me, my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, and my experience. Writing about my self-made writing easy, because I am certainly an expert in my opinion, and “Me” is the subject all of us know a lot about. The prompts, offered structure, a daily assignment to complete. There was no need to think of the topic, it was simply handed out. While providing a topic, the prompts left room for interpretation in the hands of the writer. With that, I was able to experiment by writing fiction, writing for business, taking a stab at poetry, being humorous or serious, digging deep inside my feelings, or staying shallow and pretentious.

As the month progressed, the writing got easier; putting down 500 words on the page no longer seemed like a daunting task to the point that once reviewing my writing, Cecily commented that I was being too verbose.

I wrote for 24 out of 30 days, making up the missed days by doubling up on the weekends, in total writing over 15,000 words.

I created and launched this blog. This was something I wanted to do for a long time and could not figure out what to write about. I shared a few of the writings here and got some interesting comments.

Did I fall in love with writing? Love is too strong a word for me to use here. I’d have to say no I did not. I learned that I enjoy it tremendously, to the point of wanting to learn more, an experiment in writing, become better at it, and continuing to do it.

What did not go well? What could be improved?

I underestimated the amount of time it took to write. Folk in the challenge bragged about being done in 30 minutes, where at times I would spend several hours with no luck. There were days when I’d complete the writing in under an hour, but those were rare.

It took a while to set up a routine, a place to write, and how to get into the right mindset. I’d write late in the evenings when work is behind me and kids are sound asleep. Even then I’d succumb to distractions and interruptions, or stay up way too late and get too tired to focus, needing an extra serving of coffee the next morning. It took a while to figure out how to plan for the time needed and create an evening in which I could dedicate the time and attention, and even then it did not always work.

Halfway through, I accidentally discovered that reading something by one of my favorite writers before writing, made writing easier. Just 15-30 minutes of Bill Bryson, David Foster Wallace, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nabokov, Theodore Dreiser gave a sort of inspiration, helped find a voice. I am certain there are many tips like this, that I should have researched and learned ahead of time.

Missing a couple of days of writing at the end of week two turned out to be a blessing. All of a sudden I no longer had to write about the subject for that day, I had three topics to choose from. I could write about today’s prompt or makeup one of the ones I missed. This is something I wish I did from the start, intentionally got behind, and always had few days of prompts to choose from. The issue with one prompt a day is that a topic did not always match the mood and the kind of day I just had.

Bottom Line:

The writing challenge was a huge success. I am glad I did it and highly recommend it. In the meantime, stay tuned, as I will continue to share my writings on this blog, which you can get via my RSS feed or by subscribing to the email list. [mc4wp_form]

PS. You can find my thoughts on this at the beginning of the #500WED writing challenge here.

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