Writer’s Challenge

Writer’s Challenge

As mentioned in my last blog, I’ve recently finished a MA in Development Studies, so anybody would be forgiven for thinking that I’m now intending to be at a loose end for the next couple of months.

Unfortunately, I managed to select the same masters program as somebody who was competitive as I was, and I’ve signed up for something which we’ve been calling the ‘writers challenge’.

Essentially the idea is that you commit to write a set amount of words each day. Such as 250 word, 500 words of 1000 words (depending on what you think is a stretch).

You can write whatever you like, and unless you happen to reside in an authoritarian state with a dictator who was once an English teacher, there is nobody likely to be forcing you to do it.

For me, and my good friend Blair, we’ve chosen to do 1000 words a day for the next month, which from what I can see suggests we’ll finish up on the 17th of July.

Luckily for anybody who has subscribed to either of our blogs, we won’t be posting everything we write on our blogs, both for the benefit of our subscribers, and as we are intending on developing some pieces which will be for later publication.

In any case, the intention will be for us to both have a lot more posting happening as we regularly churn out content.

Of course our intention is not to subject you all to crap.

 

The point

So for everyone who’s reading this and thinking ‘That’s stupid Giles, I’m going to punch you in the chops as soon as I see you next’. Calm down.

Firstly, you’ve got to do something about those violent ticks now that you’re on parole.

Secondly, there are a couple of good reasons for doing this.

 

Aim 1: Getting it on the page

One of the first major pieces of writing I did was my honours thesis, which was essentially 12,000 words of original research.

My problem was that I had a nasty habit of stressing over each paragraph.

Essentially I was trying to ensure that it was perfect before it even hit the page.

One consequence of this was a lot of sitting around in front of a computer screen and not a lot of writing.

The other consequence of this was that I managed to get alarmingly behind on my thesis.

Luckily, I managed to kick into gear and eventually smash the thing out.

Eventually I got it out, but unfortunately, as time was short it wasn’t to as high a standard as I was capable of, all because I had hesitated when putting words on a page.

Since then, I’ve on the whole got over this issue having written a lot since then.

The lesson I learnt which helped this is that when you first start writing. It doesn’t matter if its crap.

Just write something.

This is the first reason I’m doing this. To cement the lesson that being able to write something is much better than nothing.

 

Aim 2: Hone my creative bicep

Now anyone reading this can probably tell straight away that I don’t go to the gym based on that section title.

But I guess in some way that title says it all.

I would like to have more practice coming up with new ideas on the fly.

In the words of Macklemore

“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot”.

Obviously, this might not be the best quote in the world, but it’s what came to mind first (see Aim 1) and it pretty much sums up the second aim.

Creativity takes practice.

 

Aim 3: Become a better writer

This is kind of an obvious one isn’t it? I mean, I’m not writing for the purposes of getting better at swiping stationary from the office am I?

Well, this is both related to Aim 1 and 2, but is also about the structure of my writing.

One thing I’ve consistently found is that my ‘stream of consciousness’ style of writing (at least when I’m sober) is of a much higher standard (and is more ‘me’) than when I over think it.

This is one of the reasons I like writing about travel, as it’s very easy to recount an adventure and write naturally about it.

So this is the third aim of the challenge. To become a better and more natural writer.

 

Aim 4: Get over the word count thing

Obviously having just finished university you’d wonder why I would bother with this one. I mean, when do you still get requested word counts from people?

Well, believe it or not, I have had a surprising number of times where people have requested that a document I produce is of a specific size.

Obviously, this is ridiculous. If you can say something in two sentences, you should not stretch it out for four.

Unless you’re doing the writers challenge… *cough*

But, I’m not kidding you, I have had managers tell me they would like a document of ‘X size’.

Unfortunately, when I’ve been told this in the past I have had no idea about how to pursue such a goal organically.

I mean, as an econometrician (a data and maths guy) I don’t like to communicate with the rest of humanity unless it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s also in my opinion a waste of time and dishonestly aimed at making documents look more well-thought out than they actually are.

No reader wants to laboriously wade through your stream of consciousness articles.

Despite this, it’s a real request I get sometimes and I definitely can stand to get better at being able to write for the sake of writing.

So that’s the fourth aim.

Get over arbitrary word counts.

 

Conclusion

So that’s it guys, a pretty substantially padded out blog on why I’m writing more to try and become a better writer.

Obviously if you’ve managed to read this far I’ve done something right…

or maybe you’ve done something wrong to be choosing to read my blog as opposed to doing something more fulfilling?

For those of you who are interested in seeing my partner in literary crime’s blog (who is a much better writer than I) I’d suggest you head over here:

http://justblair.net/

If you’re interested in reading more about the idea behind the writers challenge, I’d suggest you go here:

http://inkygirl.com/1000-words-a-day-project/

 

Giles

I'm an economist, data geek and public speaker.

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