Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Can You Do in a Month?


Yesterday was the last day of National Poetry Month and I'm missing it already.

To close out the month I wrote a new poem, made a tiny origami kimono, and sprayed fixative on one more mixed-media illustration (above) for "30 Days of Kimono." I'm far from finished with this particular project, but right now it's Happy May Day and a brand new month of writing, this time back to my screenplay for 31 days. No rest for the writer!

I like working on month-by-month projects. I think it all started with my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month. Ever since then (gosh, what's it been? 8 years?) I've found that dedicating an entire month to a solid project is a serious way to get things done, mainly because:
  1. I can focus. For one month, nothing else is quite as important as the work I've chosen to concentrate on. This doesn't mean I abandon my other writing and art projects; they just don't take center stage for a few weeks.
  2. I don't have to think too hard about the month's structure or schedule--usually someone else has decided for me what the month will entail. A good example is my current decision to go with screenwriting this month. I saw a notice for a Facebook group planning to write screenplays in May. It sounded too good to pass up.
  3. Even allowing for spontaneity, like finding this FB screenplay group only a couple of days ago, I can still plan out my year in advance. Working with a calendar helps to accomplish my yearly goals.
  4. And I do get A LOT accomplished!
  5. Signing up for a month of writing is the perfect reason to say "no" to potentially time-wasting activities and energy drains.
  6. Month-size chunks of creativity make big projects do-able.
  7. They are also great motivators (e.g. "Just five more days until I don't have to work on this horrible manuscript ever again . . .")
  8. It's a good excuse to give yourself a special present or reward when the month is finished (no cheating allowed!).
  9. You can use the month to complete a single project . . .
  10. Or you can  take several months for the different aspects and stages of a longer project, e.g., a month for a first draft, a month for extra research, a month for editing, etc.
  11. If you stick to a month-by-month plan, you will actually get where you want to go!
  12. And you'll never wake up in the morning wondering what on earth you will tackle or write about that day.
Don't think you have to restrict yourself to "just writing" either. How about giving yourself  a month to explore a new art technique? Or to take photographs of a favorite subject? Or perhaps you want to set aside some time to plan out your creative life with a month-long vision quest and accompanying goal map.

One of my favorite parts of working on projects-by-the-month is that they're often group-oriented. Whether it's just a small bunch of Facebook friends, or an undertaking as huge as NaNoWriMo, everybody gets the chance to be part of a movement much bigger and friendlier than hours of writing alone. The support and inspiration from working alongside other writers is invaluable and highly recommended.

So what are your plans for the month? Leave a comment and let me know--maybe it's something we can work on together.

Tip of the Day: Make a chart listing the current and next 6 months of the year. Assign either an established project to each month, such as NaNoWriMo in November, or create your own, e.g. "July is Edit My Novel Month. August is Market to Magazines Month." See what fits you and your writing and then stick to your given plan.

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