Hello and welcome to the 100 Day Writing Challenge, Day 8.
Sometimes I wonder if I should have branded it Tim Clare’s 100 Day Writing Challenge, you know, like Daley Thompson’s Olympic Challenge in the 80s. You know, just to forever marry my name with feats of literary endurance. But no. This is your journey, not mine.
So today I’m going to propose something which I suspect is likely to be the most contentious and controversial part of this entire one hundred day ultramarathon. Something which I think probably represents the hardest part of the whole process, something which I feel very strongly is where you also might make the most important gains. Something which I’m very conscious might look like an abnegation of responsibility on my part, but I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do, so it’s happening.
I’ve had a lot of feedback now from my Couch to 80k writing course – over a thousand people have done the whole thing and graduated, and it did a lot of stuff well. I don’t mind giving myself credit and acknowledging my successes but do you know where I think it failed? So many people have been in touch with me afterwards, and they enjoy the course, they get writing more than they ever have before, they really shock themselves that they’re not somehow creatively broken, that it’s there, in them, it was always there, they just needed some light guidance to get it out.
Then they finish. And there’s this palpable anxiety as they get into the final week. Will I be able to keep this us up once the course is over? Can I survive on my own?
And to be honest, sometimes people have kind of fallen off the wagon afterwards. They don’t keep it up. And that’s fine. It’s perfectly legitimate for creative writing to be something you pursue for a season in your life and then leave for greener pastures, as long as that’s a conscious empowered choice and not the product of fear and overwhelm and inertia.
I feel like I failed some people with my last course. There’s a real danger, over 8 weeks, and especially over a great voyage of 100 days. I mean heavens above that’s nearly a third of a year! There’s a genuine peril of not merely guiding you, but institutionalising you. If all I do is train you to respond to assignments, then that’s not true empowerment, it’s dependency.
Look, all education has an element of partnership, we all benefit from structure, there’s nothing wrong with me taking up some of the slack of what I’d consider the less important decisions of writing for you, temporarily. You know, I’m just laying out a grid, setting an agenda, doing kind of low level admin for you so you can save your energies for the actual writing. That’s fine. But there’s another component to creative writing, and if you’re going to not just enjoy this journey – and don’t get me wrong, if that’s all you do, that’s wonderful – but if you’d like to experience actual lasting artistic and personal growth, I feel very strongly we need to work a little bit on training you to be a self-starter.
So once in every ten day block – I should call them something a bit more inspiring than ‘blocks’, uh chapters, segments, acts – once in every ten day bit, I’ll be handing the decision of what to write over to you. Now it won’t always be the same day out of the ten each time. I’d like to keep you on your toes and also get you used to this idea that you are quite capable of being self-directed. It’s not just that you’ve got ol Timmy C working the controls for you.
So, for this ten minute segment today, you can work on whatever you want. It might be ten minutes on a work-in-progress you’ve already got sitting about. You might take the concept of list exercises we’ve been working on and come up with your own title for a list, maybe generating ideas in an area you’re particularly interested in. You might just spend the ten minutes doing a diary entry, writing down some personal reflections on the week. You might write a poem. You might write nonsense. You might start a story or jump into one halfway through or jot down notes for a story you’d like to write in future.
I don’t mind, and actually as our time together goes on I’ll be giving you even less guidance on how to pass this ‘magic ten’ as I’ve spontaneously decided to call it, because really part of the point is you deciding and exploring what you want to do with those six hundred seconds. Not long, is it? So it’s not a huge deal if you try something and it doesn’t quite bear fruit. But worth a dabble, I like to think.
I hope this is okay with you. I realise you might be feeling strangely wrongfooted right now. A little unnerved, even betrayed. Mugged off. I promise I’m not doing this out of laziness. It’s genuinely, I believe, an essential component of our time together. Of course you may also be delighted to be let off the leash for a day. Wherever you are right now, that’s fine. Tune into that. Notice it.
And if you could get ready to right, I’m just about to count you in. Ready? Your ten minutes, on whatever you like, starts… now.
And there we are.
Now today of all days I think it’s especially important to reflect on how you felt before, during and after writing. What were your expectations, what did you tell yourself, and how are you feeling now? Any different? Were your expectations met? How did it feel compared to some of the more specific tasks we’ve done on previous days?
Thanks very much for trusting me this far. I really hope, however it went, that it proves ultimately useful, and I’ll see you again for something slightly more structured, tomorrow.