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What is the February writing challenge?

I have a theory that, despite appearing on a superficial level to have fewer days, February is being deceptive and is actually the longest month. So (a) we were amused by the idea of testing a 28-day challenge to see if it actually felt longer than a 30-day challenge in another month, but (b) more seriously, it feels grueling because February is pretty grueling—and also, we have seen a recent uptick in use of the word “shame,” and this is our effort at finding an antidote while also encouraging productivity. So this is the anti-shame productivity challenge.

Here’s what you do:

FIRST STEP: Decide you’re going to do it (see below). Then (a) tell someone and (b) create a supporting framework.

If you’re a Studio Scholar, we’ve got this set up for you: tell us you’re doing it, and we’ll add you to our fancy February writing challenge channel, where we’ll have more info, instruction, tips, and community.

If you’re NOT a Studio Scholar and want to join in, try these substitute frameworks:

  • For company/community: pair up with a buddy or form a writing group who’ll do it with you, or draft someone to be responsible for nagging you about it supporting you regularly throughout the month.
    • (Try messaging us via Facebook or Twitter, or email us. If we get a critical mass of interest on any of these channels, we’ll try to hook you up with a supporting structure.)
  • For tracking and recording your thoughts: a way to list/check off that you did a thing each day + a space to record your thoughts.
    • Crack open a new notebook, or a new doc or folder or whatever you like. OR …
    • We’ll be posting daily on Twitter and Facebook. Reply, react, or hashtag #AWS28Days.
    • However you handle it, pick a format that makes you feel good, not like you’re doing another chore.
  • For other supporting framework: find an object or mini-ritual you can mentally attach to this process that’s pleasurable for you, that makes you feel happy or comforted or decadent. Candles are super simple and effective. Or use a fancy journal and pen for your tracking. Or anything you like.

SECOND STEP: choose your initial approach

Approach A (the classic): Pick A Thing you intend to do and sustain it for the month (which, you’ll recall, is “only” 28 days). It can be whatever you think will be a good challenge for you. Some ideas:

  • writing for X minutes a day or writing X words or pages;
  • or doing it not every day, but X times per week;
  • or making sure you hit a total of X days over the course of the month.

I encourage you to set a relatively low bar, try to exceed it, and be thrilled if you do, rather than setting a higher bar and being disappointed. (Don’t forget that although February is technically brief, it can pack a lot of things like snow days and winter illnesses.)

If you can do this, you are amazing! Truly!

Honestly, I can’t think of any good practice that I’m 100% sure I’ve accomplished for 28 consecutive days.

Approach B (the alternative): Practice sustained commitment to yourself and your scholarship—yourself as scholar—every day, for a month.

In addition to being long AF, February distinguishes itself by having Valentine’s Day. Tell yourself you’re going to give your research some love every day. Doing that also means treating yourself with both encouragement (or pressure!) and compassion. It might mean embracing Plan B.

What does it mean to practice sustained commitment, or to give your research some love every day? How does that play out in terms of your thoughts and actions?

That’s the fundamental question. That’s what we’re really here to find out.
(And don’t worry; we’ll talk more about this.)

(Oh! Also, there’s Approach C: Start out doing approach A, run out of steam or have something come up, and then—instead of throwing in the towel—switch to approach B. We’ll be here for you. 🙂 )