Monday, January 02, 2012


Though we all know it doesn't do any good, many of you have probably resolved to be more disciplined about your writing this year. Resolutions don't work, but discipline does. So let's, once again, begin the year by issuing the 16-Week Challenge.

First, some basic math. There are eight weeks from the second week of February until the Easter break (in Denmark many of us take the week between Palm Sunday and Easter off; some also take week 7 off because it's a school holiday. If you do this as well, you can recover that week by starting a week earlier, right at the end of January). There are then another eight weeks until the end of May. 16 weeks of 5 working days each is 80 days. If you imagine writing for three hours a day, that gives you 240 hours. Let that be the maximum limit. Try to appreciate the finitude of the problem.

Now, look into your calendar from February 6 to May 31. Block out the Easter and May holidays (in Denmark there are quite a few statutory holidays; adjust the challenge to your local conditions; in fact, Easter may not be especially relevant for your purposes). Resolve to write every remaining weekday for at least 30 minutes and at most 3 hours. (Never write for a whole day.) Book these sessions into your calendar. In an ideal world you would book 80 three-hour sessions from, say, 9:00 to noon. But you'll probably have to settle for about 70 sessions, many of which will only last 30 minutes. It all depends on your time and, to an extent, on your resolve.

How many hours of writing time does that give you? How much do you realistically think you can accomplish in that time? Set some writing goals on that basis. Then break those goals up into smaller tasks ("things to do") and assign those tasks time in your calendar. Be as a specific as possible about what you will be writing on a particular day. Try to be realistic. If you need time for "free writing" or "thought writing" (writing to find out what you think) book that into your calendar as well, but the important part of the challenge is to find time to write down what you already know needs to be written. If you don't yet know what you're going to say this semester, then your challenge is, in part, to figure that out. But you should still find at least 30 minutes a day to write down something you know you want to say. Keep in mind that we are only talking about sixteen weeks in the very near future. Surely you know something about what you have to get down on paper.

Assuming that you do have something say, then, here's the challenge: write always and only when (and what) your calendar tells you to. Don't write when "inspired" to do so (unless this happens to coincide with your writing schedule) and do everything possible to keep your appointments with yourself (the writer). Make a plan and resolve (if you must) to stick to it.

Happy New Year!

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