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.