As you may know I’m a huge fan of National Novel Writing Month (November is NaNoWriMo to those in the know!). What I only recently discovered is that April has similar contests for two other genres: April Poem-a-Day Challenge and Script Frenzy . While I am not participating in either of those this year I have decided to play along with the 100 Articles in 100 Days Marathon that runs through the end of June. The bulk of my writing lately has been dissertation related so doing the hundred articles will be a nice daily break before diving back into my dissertation.
One of the reasons I love these sorts of events is that they provide that bump in the form of external motivation that some of us use to gain momentum. I also love that it allows that daily habit to be built up. It has been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Since most of these contests are a month long even if you drag your feet the first few days you can still get that habit built within the month.
The other aspect of these contests that I love is that it is also a support system. The combination of community, accountability, and collective hive-mind gives multiple aspects of support that are each important.
Community: By bringing together other like minded people we have a chance to embrace our more-or-less anti-social behavior in a way that shows we are not alone. There is also the "power" (for lack of a better word) that comes from knowing other people are working along side you and pushing just as hard as you are even if you can’t see them. It’s one main reason I go to the gym rather than throw kettlebells at home.
Accountability: The other reason I go to the gym is that I have to look the trainer in the eye and have some response when they push me beyond my comfort zone and help me do things I never knew were possible. However I choose to respond I have the other person there to encourage or call B.S. on me. That is how I use accountability. The other reason for accountability is to keep track of what you have or have not done. For a great script check out Donna Fox’s post on accountability in 5 minutes a day (it leverages emotion better than any other plan I’ve seen). If you feel your life is too random for such scheduled daily check-ins and you’re more interested in periods of intense productivity then check out Stever Robbins’s "Action Day " model.
Hive-Mind: Pooling resources in these contests creates a new entity in the form of a mailing list, a forum, a wiki, or whatever technology is chosen. Napoleon Hill might call this a "mastermind". Others might call it a "collective". I just call it cool. When I picutre the hive-mind I see beyond any neophytes leeching off of veterans. The veterans get the joy of sharing their experiences and expertise. Everyone benefits from the new perspectives. There is also the clarity of thought that comes from the process of asking or answering questions. Last, but not least, there is the facility that comes from "focusing on the basics" — which all skill levels will do well to be reminded.
No matter what your "genre" I suggest getting involved with an event like these. And if you can’t find one create one yourself! All it takes is a decisive declaration and a bit of publicity to recruit more people. I’m sure that’s how they started 48 hour film projects.
Which event sounds best to you? Which of the benefits?
What are you using to gain momentum?