In February 2023, I challenged myself to craft one piece of Flash a day. For the sake of defining what that means, I consider Flash to be anything between 800 and 1,000 words, and it could be fiction or non-fiction. What I learned was invaluable for my writer brain, and I broke two of the three scant rules I had created before my challenge started: write every day, start from scratch, and don’t write distracted.
Writing Every Day Doesn’t Work for Me
Two weeks in, I figured out writing completely new and disconnected pieces every single day is damn hard on my brain. During the first week, I was getting up and writing as soon as I’d fed the dogs. As February trudged forward, I wrote later and later in the day. I’d write better on a deadline, I reasoned. The reality was, I flat out didn’t feel like it sometimes. I had spent the better part of 28 years writing on some sort of manufactured deadline, and it worked out okay. Why not for this?
Here’s why: when I’m on a deadline, I look for my safety nets. I had rarely written a press release from scratch during my career, and especially not in the last ten years. The result?
Starting from Scratch only Worked Half the Time
When I hit a wall creatively or energetically, I searched for files I had written in workshops. They were starting points. When I look back at my list of 28 posts, here’s how it breaks out:
- I wrote 14 fresh stories, and they took me an average of 2 hours each, start to finish
- I pulled 13 posts from work I started in other workshops – and on average they took me almost 3 hours each. I posted only a couple without extensive editing.
- I had 10 posts I started and scrapped (hence the 13 I went mining for and the extended daily time)
- My last post is 10 years old, and it is not flash. It’s a poem.
Writing Distracted Doesn’t Work
“Writing Distracted” is leaving iMessage, email, and phone notifications on. After twenty-plus years of living and dying by the incoming emails, I know now I must tune out everything except what I want my brain to create. The “Do Not Disturb” function is my new best writing friend.
I figured out a few other things.
- Writing on a platform I don’t own doesn’t build my audience. I become part of the sea of writers with no individuality.
- Even though I increased my followers by 162%, they aren’t looking for my website any more than my puppy is looking for me to drop broccoli on the floor.
- A plan would have benefited me enormously. I didn’t know what I was going to write from day to day.
- I didn’t expect people asking for more, and it happened with the very first post, Breaking Ben.
If you want to join me in doing this challenge in 2024 or just follow along in my exploits, sign up for my newsletter here or DM me on Instagram.