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April 2017

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Many words, or few

It's NaNoWriMo, the month when thousands of people try to write a draft of a book in 30 days. While they are focusing on getting words to come out--some 1700 words a day--I'm toying with an idea on the other end of the spectrum.

A few years ago, I saw an article in National Geographic about a nature photographer who was feeling jaded and uninspired. He decided to try an experiment. For 90 days, he would take one photograph a day. Only one photograph a day.

Some days he knew exactly what his picture would be; he waited for the right light and took it. Some days he got the shot he wanted right away. Some days, he wandered a long time, changed his mind, and didn't get his picture until late. Photographers are used to taking many shots and weeding heavily for their final pictures. But this photographer found that having only one shot per day made him more selective, more observant, more careful. And he started having fun again, because of the challenge.

I thought: what if a writer who was daunted by the word counts of NaNoWriMo, or wasn't in the right frame of mind to draft a novel, went in the other direction and did a sort of writerly equivalent of the photographer's challenge? What if a writer set a goal of a single 100-word piece a day (or 50 words, or 500, depending on whatever feels compact yet manageable) for a month?  100 words could be a poem, or a piece of flash fiction. A writer could go even shorter and try one haiku a day. With only one short piece a day to focus on, the writer would exercise different creative muscles than the ones that are exercised by NaNoWriMo. So I'm just throwing the idea out there into the world, in case anyone cares to try it.

By the way, I see via internet search that many people have done versions of the one-photo-a-day challenge. But the one I saw first, the one I referred to at the top of this post, was Chased by the Light: A 90-Day Journey, by Jim Brandenburg.


I, personally, never felt the draw to NaNo. I do get it--works the writerly muscles, makes you write, gives you a goal. Still--meh. Without sounding dismissive, I can't really explain it.
Works for some, not for others. Whatever makes your sparkles shine!

I love this idea. I like to see stories as glittery details and layers, to sort through ideas and find something which excites me. Rushing has never worked for me.

Actually, this makes me feel better. Right now, I've got to focus on a synopsis for a future story which means my current WIP is suffering. The idea of challenging myself to explore a couple of paragraphs of my WIP a day with a photographer's eyes is very appealing.
Yes, I was thinking: challenges don't have to be about producing a lot of words. There are many aspects of writing on which we could challenge ourselves.