Lessons from a 31-Day Article Challenge

This year, I decided to work on a different goal or habit each month.

Working on a new goal for one month at a time seemed less intimidating than trying commit to something for an entire year — and it allows me some flexibility to try out and learn a variety of new skills.

My list for the year includes both personal and professional goals… anything from reading part of a book every day, to keeping a food journal, to writing articles.

For January, I decided to try writing an article per day.

Lessons from a 31-Day Article ChallengeThere’s a reason why I chose as my first goal of the year — I’ve been getting more projects from clients recently.

In the past, when I was first starting out, I could spend a few weeks perfecting that $100 article before I submitted it to an editor…

But now, in order to earn a living… to actually accept and finish all the projects I’ve been offered…

I need to work a lot more efficiently, while maintaining a good quality of writing.

This means I need to come up with new ideas fast…

However, sometimes staring at a ‘blank page’ can be intimidating…

So, I hoped my “Article-a-Day” Challenge would help to change my mindset, to get me in the habit of sitting down to work without overthinking it.

Plus, it would give me a surplus supply of blog posts for my own website, as well as articles I could submit to editors. (I successfully sold one of them before the end of January!)

Here’s what I learned during my 31-Day Article Challenge:

  • Resistance can be tamed

Even though I love to write (in addition to my paid work, I write plenty of things I’ll never be paid for, just for fun), sometimes I find myself really dragging my feet when it comes time to start certain projects. Or, sometimes, I’ll get off to a good start, but then freeze up somewhere in the middle…

If you’ve ever read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, then you know exactly what I’m talking about… it’s that subconscious resistance that any writer (and many other artists, for that matter) can face while they work.

Resistance leads to procrastination… and sometimes to giving up before we even get started.

It has many different causes — so I tried to figure out what was happening whenever I found myself procrastinating or taking too long on a project…

Sometimes the problem was me being a perfectionist — I didn’t want to start an article unless I already had a really good idea of what the end product would look like…

Sometimes, I’ll admit, it was pure laziness — I may have been tired from working on another project all day, and didn’t feel like doing anything but watching a movie… or, an article required too much research, and I just didn’t feel like doing it!

Sometimes, there were legitimate reasons, like fighting off the flu (more on this later)…

And sometimes, I wasn’t sure of the reason… but I think it may have been the intimidation of the ‘blank page’ — the pressure to create ‘something’ out of ‘nothing’…

However, after enough days of making myself write, even when I didn’t feel like it… writing became a habit.

By the end of the month, my willpower had grown stronger.

  • I got into the habit of writing immediately rather than just ‘planning to write’

I remember exactly when I noticed this change…

Toward the end of January, I was sitting on a plane, and an idea for an article came to me…

And I thought to myself, “When I get to the hotel, I’m going to type up this article.”

This might not sound like a big revelation… but for me, it was.

Usually, I would just write down my article ideas on a scrap of paper… but I wouldn’t necessarily write the actual article for days, or sometimes for weeks or months after the idea occurred to me…

But here I was, planning to write the article that same day the idea occurred to me.

It was an unexpected shift in my habits, and so far, it looks like this shift is going to help me work much more efficiently.

  • I accepted the fact that I missed 3 days…

Sometimes… life happens.

There’s been a nasty flu going around this season. And, although I managed to avoid getting fully ill, I did have a few days when I was definitely not at my best — very low on energy, and with a bad headache.

On those days, I decided to skip my Article Challenge because I was uncomfortable sitting at my desk for too long.

I believe that was the right decision — had I forced myself to continue working, then I might have ended up with a full-blown case of the flu that would have set me even further behind on my work.

However, slowing down and taking care of myself helped me stay at my best.

Initially, I was disappointed I missed three days…

However, once I remembered that I still had 28 new articles, it seemed silly to focus on the three days I had missed.

So, I also practiced the art of ‘acceptance’…

Even though I had really wanted to fully complete the Challenge and have all 31 articles, I was still happy with the end result.

  • I got faster at finishing that first draft — even if I wasn’t happy with the work

It’s difficult for me to start writing if I don’t feel like I have a really good idea at the beginning…

However, after forcing myself to write a full-length article, even when I didn’t have a fully formed idea…

I learned that new ideas come to me as I write…

Taking the action of putting pen to paper… or fingers to keyboard… somehow, that action stimulates my brain to come up with more ideas.

Some days, the ideas still weren’t fully formed, even after my first draft, and that was okay, too…

Because when I came back to look at my first draft in the next day or two, it was easier to find that ‘kernel’ of an idea that was there all along… and I knew what changes I had to make. Even if the first draft was bad… it was just the first step, and I could go in the next day and fix it.

So, now if I’m ever stuck for an idea, experiencing a bit of writer’s block…

I know to just start writing, and that more ideas will come to me… the act of getting started is a powerful tool to help us create new ideas.

I don’t plan to continue my “Article-a-Day” Challenge for an entire year… but if I ever find myself getting stuck, I might take it up again.

It’s an exercise that could be very valuable to any writer… but especially for writers who are just starting out.

I hope you’ll consider taking up the 31-Day Article Challenge yourself… One month is a short time commitment, and you might just be surprised at the great work you create!

2 Responses to “Lessons from a 31-Day Article Challenge”

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  1. Joanne Bausman says:

    This is a great idea. I am starting my 31 day challenge tomorrow- May 1- I’m feeling more motivated already. It really is easy to let life drag one down and stand in the way. But…. Nothing changes if nothing changes!
    Thank for the article.

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