Who’s Up for the One Hour a Day Challenge?

I’ve learned this lesson sooooo many times: if I want to be seriously productive with my writing, I’ve got to do it regularly. Like daily.

If I write daily—even just a little bit daily—the story constantly percolates in my head. I can jump right in to the latest section and add anything from a few lines to several pages at a gallop. Bits of dialogue pop into my head as I’m doing dishes. Plot holes resolve themselves in those groggy moments when I’m first waking up in the morning. I dash for the keyboard. Word counts grow.

But if I miss a day or two….or three….or (sigh!) a week….I lose the thread. The story grinds to a halt. If I want to start again, I have to re-read the existing parts of the story to catch the thread again, and that can take hours and hours and hours, sometimes days. And then scraping out a few new sentences feels like chiseling rock. With a plastic spoon.

It’s momentum, Newton’s first law: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.”

Now, I’ve been through this cycle enough times to know that I can build my momentum back up. If I slog through, if I don’t give up, if I keep my butt in the chair and fight through the “Damn, whoever thought I knew how to write anyway?” blues, I’ll find my mojo. The words will start flowing again.

But I’m tiiiiiiiired of the whole cycle.

I have a crazy day job (teaching), a long commute, two young-ish kids who need a lot of attention, and a chaotic, pet-filled house. Those aspects of my life aren’t going to change anytime soon.

 For a long while now, I’ve marveled at people who do “100 words a day” challenges (Patti Macdonald, I’m looking at you!!)

 I love the “keep the bar low, but get your BICHOK today” aspect of that. But I do a lot of editing and revising, and I’m not sure I can add new words absolutely every day.

So here’s what I’m going to try: a “One Hour a Day No Matter What” challenge, for one month. Even in the crazy-busy opening weeks of school. No excuses.

It’s going to mean getting up and writing from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., but I’m going to make that commitment. No internet during that hour. Hands stay on keyboard. Writing gets done.

 Anybody care to join me?

I’ll be checking back in on October 3 to let you know if I made it or not. If I make it, I’ll be giving away a $25 gift card on the blog…so think good thoughts for me!

 How about you? If an hour a day doesn’t work for you, how do you keep on track in the midst of a busy life?

41 responses to “Who’s Up for the One Hour a Day Challenge?”

  1. Vivi Andrews says:

    Go Elisa! You can do it! I am in awe of your dedication that you are still making time for writing every day while juggling such a full life.

    Personally, I’m a binge writer. I’ll set aside blocks of time to throw myself into a story and then when I come up for air I take care of all the life stuff I’ve been neglecting. At least that is my habit as long as my lifestyle allows – if I had kids and a day job, I’d have to change it up drastically. Congrats on finding a way. Good luck this month!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I’ve done the “binge” model for far too long….cranking out huge word counts in the summer, when I’m not teaching, or doing marathons on weekend mornings or during NaNo and the Winter Writing Festival.

      But it’s getting clearer and clearer to me that I’m not going to produce enough to actually make a career of this unless I find some daily approach. Even just a little bit every day will let me move forward so much faster.

      But it’s tough….my little guy kept me up until midnight last night, and I’m up at 6 a.m. now with a stack of papers still to grade before school and all the animals crying to me for their breakfast….

      I’m determined, though!

  2. June Love says:

    Elisa, I “know” this is what I need to do, but doing it is a whole different story. I know it works for me, because I’ve seen the results. Yet, I’ve let too many distractions keep me from writing some each day. I am constantly amazed by how you and other young moms with day jobs churn out the words.

    I will accept your challenge. At least an hour a day, I will devote to revisions/rewrites. Beginning today! Thanks for the motivation.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yay, June!!

      We can do it.

      It’s just like anything else: if you prioritize it, you do it. If you wait until the decks are cleared of everything else….you don’t.

  3. Lynda Bailey says:

    Count me in, my incredible, Unsinkable sis! And yes, we ARE Unsinkable – we can do this!!! One hour a day – 60 minutes – doesn’t sound like much, but no doubt it will pay HUGE dividends. And while the goal is one hour, if only 30-45 minutes happen, that’s still something which is a whole lot better than nothing… 😉

    Should we email each other at the end of each day with our progress?

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Ooh!!! I love it, Lynda!

      I can start a little email loop for the duration!

      Those who are joining in, let me know if you do or don’t want to be part of the loop. I promise, it will just be a once-a-day accountability check-in!

  4. Lovely reminder, Elisa!
    I like to set a timer for 3 hours and stop and start it every time I get up from the keyboard. If I can write at least 3 hours a day I can stay ahead of my deadlines. Otherwise I get way behind. And I surely don’t make it everyday. But I will try to get in at least an hour.
    Good luck with your challenge! Sending positive vibes! Heather

  5. Well, you *KNOW* I’m up for this!

    Doing the massive chunks of writing we did this summer wore me out. But I’m all for keeping the momentum going, but on a more reasonable schedule. (I am, in fact, BICHOK, this morning!) Like you, if I let myself go too long without writing at all, it takes a Herculean effort to get back into the groove. And approaching writing as a glom-fest that I do every few months just isn’t a good approach for the way my brain works.

    To paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll never go glomming again!”

    I’m totally on board for, at minimum, an hour a day.

  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    Best of luck with this, Elisa. I write first thing in the morning, before I go to work. It’s awesome to sit down at my desk knowing I’ve already written!

  7. YES. And thank you.

    Finished revisions on BRANDED last week and it NEARLY KILLED ME. Because I am a champion procrastinator and even though they only gave me two weeks, I still managed to NOT write every day. So YES YES YES, I’m IN IN IN. Gotta start on Book #4 and stay out of the corner I love to back myself into. (Pardon the dangler there, darlings.)

  8. Yay, Elisa! I love that you’re challenging yourself this way.

    I’ve played with different ways of challenging myself until I could find what was most productive and different things worked better at different stages of my life. When the kids were infants, committing to a time block (even just 15 minutes) was all I could handle. At other times, like now, when I have deadlines, I find having a daily word count helps me. If I don’t make the goal within the time I set aside that day, I’ll have to give up sleep at some point to make up for it. Right now, I have a big deadline on 9/15 and am in the most difficult part of my editing process (fixing the damn story and adding about 15k words). I’ve got a calendar with my deadline on it and the number of words I need to edit each day to make it to “the end” by deadline. Yesterday’s goal was to get to the 17k editing mark (not new words). Today, I’m supposed to get to 24k because I know this section won’t need as much editing as future sections. Some days, 5k will be all I can handle.

    Good luck to you and everyone else! I’ll be chugging along with you!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I love people who can break things down into manageable chunks! You probably have a 5-year plan for yourself. (And an organized fridge? If you do, I will bow down and worship.)

      I’m a total mess about everything organizational. But once I get the hour-a-day minimum thing down, I’ll start looking for other ways to set actual concrete goals.

      • I’ll admit I’m pretty “type A” when it comes to organization. But I do share the house with 4 other people and 3 cats, most of whom don’t care a whit about organization, so, sadly, I’ve had to learn to let an organized fridge (and other such things) go. 😉

  9. Nikki McIntosh says:


    I have the exact same problem .. I need to make this a daily habit.

    I’m up for 30 minutes a day rather than 60 … but I’m in !!!

    We can do it!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Awesome! 30 minutes a day will still produce a lot!
      (And I suspect I’ll have some days where I wish I’d committed to that rather than an hour….I have SOOOO much grading to do tonight!)

  10. I’m in.

    I’m traveling the whole month, and I have let myself grind to a halt on my current WIP. So I’m going to take this pledge to keep the story spinning in my head, even as I travel across the globe.

    Thanks so much for posting this. I love accountability. 🙂

  11. Gabrielle says:

    Me! Count me in for 90 minutes–from 5:00 – 6:30AM every day 🙂

  12. All you said is so true. I’m much more productive if I open my manuscript everyday, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Seriously….one writer in my chapter said her commitment to herself is to open her manuscript every day, even if it’s just to look at it and say, “AAAGH!”

  13. Yes. Sign me up. I credit the Winter Writing Festival for helping me establish a regular routine and I don’t think I’d be published today without it.

    I get cranky if I don’t get my words down. This year my challenge has been balancing the promo side of writing and the new book is taking longer than before I was published.

    An hour a day sounds good. I’m going to plan mine for the evenings, that way I can keep going if I get on a really good roll.

  14. I desperately need this. Count me in! I have way too much writing to do and I am allowing my soul-sucking job from hell with the boss trained at ASSHOLES R US to get in the way.

    An hour a day will get me in the habit. I’m counting on all of you to keep me honest and kick my butt!

  15. Gwyn says:

    Time. Always the nemesis. I have an issue working on more than one manuscript at a time–I get confused which can make for some interesting rewrites–and I have some serious edits/reworking to do on the Sci-fi, but I’m going to give this a go. Like you, time away tends to extend and extend because going back in can require so much prep, especially when the world are so different. Still, ain’t nothin’ gettin’ done ’til I do it. No promises. My life doesn’t allow for them right now, but I’m going to pull a Yoda: There is no try, only do or do not.

  16. Carla says:

    Believe it or not, I’m feeling confident I can do this. I’m less than 3 months from my first marathon and I make time for training. This isn’t any different. It’s an appointment with myself to work on making my dreams a reality.

    Now to keep from dripping sweat on the keyboard… 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration, Elisa!

  17. Heather Ashby says:

    Great blog, Elisa. (I LOVE carving the mountain with a plastic spoon!) I have been using the timer thingy – but setting my phone for the number of hours I need to write on any particular day. I HAVE to hit PAUSE each time I go off-writing-task. Boy, that REALLY keeps me focused on my work! And I get it done. But you are so right about VISITING that book every, single day or you lose the thread and have to dig to find it. Write On!

  18. Elisa Beatty says:


    I had a crazy busy day full of marathon speed-grading, three different classes to teach, a long union meeting, dinner-making, and kid-wrangling, but I DID get my hour in before bedtime.

    Tomorrow I should be able to snatch a bit of time to grab a list of everyone who said they want to participate…I’ll get a Facebook group or something going ASAP so we can check in daily for the month.

  19. Holly Mortimer says:

    I loved this post. I started my first novel during this year’s writing festival and promised myself that by Sept 1 it would be done and ready for editing. Just came in under the wire but had I stuck to my 500 words per day goal, I would have had it done ages ago. I credit this blog for my daily motivation and drive to succeed and thanks to you and all the contributors who are helping my dream become a reality. I too have a full time job and 2 kids and a dog etc etc but writing every day keeps that dream dangling right there in front of me and motivates me to carry on. Thanks Elisa for the challenge! Good luck!

  20. Elisa Beatty says:

    Okay–I’ve started a temporary Facebook Group for those who want to take part…just to quickly check in daily and report on whether you made your goal!

    If you didn’t get a message about it, please contact me on Facebook: Elisa Beatty.


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