Last year, I coordinated and participated in a daily random word challenge. Each day, myself and other participants wrote a post, using a word that had been randomly selected by the computer.
Having finished (survived) a daily challenge, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to get consistency, get into the habit of writing, and train the muse to show up when needed. At the end of it, you have a body of work.
My first posts were mostly a definition of the word and a picture, with maybe a paragraph as to why I picked that picture. Slowly I began writing better content to where the posts meant something to me and were something I wanted to share to encourage others, amuse them, or point out beauty.
I got really discouraged in early July because I had so much I wanted to share but the random words restricted my choices so badly. I realized that I had to be more creative in using the words while posting the topics I wanted.
By the end of 2011, my posts had quality and quantity. There were very few topics left in my journal jar as I’d managed in someway to get them all out.
Here were some of my tricks when I got stuck:
- Look up the meaning of the word in Wiktionary.
- Use Wikipedia to get some background information.
- Look up quotes that use the word. I might use the quote in my story, sometimes it was just a tool to get my ideas flowing. My favorite quote place is Brainy Quote, but you can find all kinds of quotes by using Google.
- Look up the word with Google and just see what happens.
- Look through my journals for something I may have written with a theme similar to the word (i.e., in my backspace posting, I looked for things I’d expressed regrets about).
- Brainstorm with my husband. He has a good sense of humor and is usually up to making suggestions. I may not like his ideas, but he’s a good resource to get my brain unstuck.
- And sometimes I just sat at the table and looked out the window to see if the backyard had answers for me :)
Once I got my ideas flowing, I developed them into a story with a beginning and end, as well as an explanation of why it was important to me and what I’d like for my family and friends to remember. I used the writer’s favorite five W’s – who, what, when, where, and why. They’re a reliable tool and give good structure to any story.
I hung in there every day, even when I didn’t feel like doing the word of the day, even when I didn’t know HOW I was going to use the word of the day, even when I didn’t want to spend more time at the computer after being at work all day. It was worth it to share my thoughts, get the feedback, hear from my friends (old and new), and bring joy to those around me.
Each time I thought of skipping a day, I’d think a) the other participants will be posting and I have to keep up; b) my Mom will miss it; c) my girlfriend’s daughter will be looking for more dog pictures; d) it greatly amuses everyone to see how I use today’s word and e) if I want to write, I need to write. And so I wrote.
It’s hard to pick several favorite posts from 2011. I did a lot of good work in the challenge. Several particularly noteworthy posts include Culture Norms Are A Pile of Moose Muffins (about my cousin who had Down’s syndrome), Phase of the Summer (about fleeting days), and Moo Cards Explain Me (who I am, using the word of the day “moo”).
So do a daily Challenge! Some days will be easy, others will not. You’ll have good posts and mediocre ones. That’s okay – the game is to show up each day and do it. With practice, you’ll get better and so will your creativity.
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