I decided I’d copy Mr Sketchy and write here about some of the reasons behind the Monday Project — and more specifically why I personally am involved.
Before we started the MP blog a few years ago, Kate and I both spent an inordinate amount of time whinging to one another about how difficult it was to stay motivated to actually produce anything. It is difficult, to be sure, but there comes a point where whinging about its difficulty is just another form of procrastination.
I rarely find myself lacking ideas. Inspiration is everywhere. But I’m an impatient person; I want to do it all right now. Choice is not usually a good thing for me. If I have to choose, I’m likely to want to do everything, so I’ll spend huge amounts of time and energy trying to work out how I can do that, end up feeling frustrated or disheartened, and then do nothing at all. Not ideal.
Similarly, if I do manage to start something, I often find that about halfway through I come across another, completely different idea and am plunged into uncertainty about whatever it is that I’ve been working on all this time. Again, not exactly conducive to getting much done.
Hence the Monday Project. And its deadline.
Each time I’ve been at uni (I’m a sucker for punishment, and keep sending myself back there), I’ve found deadlines incredibly useful. With one looming, I have to actually make a choice about what I’m going to see through to completion, because I have to hand something in. And so I finish things (not always happily or well, but that’s another matter entirely). I have to admit that there’s additional pressure with the Monday Project, being one of the organisers. (That’s a good thing.)
A good friend of mine and I have recently re-started trying to do three creative writing exercises a week. Last time we did this (about six months ago), we also spent a lot of time talking about how difficult it was to let go of that fear that you’re producing something crappy, and just go ahead and do it anyway. She started using a typewriter so that it wasn’t as easy to delete something she deemed a mistake, and I tried to force myself to type up my handwritten notes faithfully. Funny thing was, we discovered that by producing writing of varying success levels we were able to highlight things in our writing that we needed or wanted to improve on. Equally, we were both pleasantly surprised to discover some skills we didn’t realise we had.
Avoiding doing something because you’re afraid you’ll be bad at it is really just missing out on an opportunity to develop your writing (or painting or drawing or playing or whatever) skills, as it turns out. My Dad told me recently that one can not call oneself an expert at anything with any less than 10 000 hours of experience or practice in that field. No skipping from novice to expert — which irritates me greatly, since patience is not one of my strong points, and you can’t hurry 10 000 hours.
I recently moved house and, among other things, I learnt that I’m much more a hare than a tortoise. I can get in and get lots of things done quickly and with lots of energy, but after a while I run out of steam. I lack the stamina of one of my old housemates, who worked tirelessly from 6am to 10pm each day of the move. To bring any kind of creative project to completion you need stamina. The Monday Project and its deadline have helped me work on that.
Which is not to say that something needs to be completely finished for you to post it here as a response to the monthly theme (I can assure you my pieces usually aren’t), but hopefully sharing it will encourage you to work on something you might otherwise give up on — and maybe even continue working on it after we’ve posted it here. Mr Sketchy also mentioned being encouraged to work on themes and ideas he might never have otherwise. Like my friend and I doing creative writing exercises, I’m hoping that the different themes and ideas will help me learn more about skills that I have already as a writer, as well as learning more about — and pushing — my limitation.
Of course, this month’s theme is Redux — the perfect opportunity to return to an older project and maybe inch it a little closer to completion.