Creative Challenges are great for shaking up the routine, forcing you to be creative every day or every week, and flexing those imagination muscles.
What is a creative challenge?
National Novel Writer’s Month is probably the most ambitious and famous creative challenge: write a novel in a month (November). The idea is to challenge yourself to create something and to silence the inner critic by putting a time-limit on the project. NaNoWriMo is fantastically popular for such an ambitious project (some authors have even turned their ‘crappy first drafts’ into published novels). But extreme novel-writing isn’t for everyone.
Other creative challenge stipulate that you create every day for a year, or on a certain day of the week or the month. Maybe you share it, maybe it’s private. It might involve public accountability (posting online) or it could work on the honour system. Sometimes there are forums, sometimes events, and sometimes it’s just something you commit to.
Tips for Taking Part
- Decide on your own version of the rules before you start – if you miss a day of a monthly challenge, can you forgive yourself? Do you have to make it up? Do you quit?
- Revise your rules as you go along – these challenges are meant to help you foster creativity, not become a chore. If, half way through, you realise it’s not working, or you’ve already got what you need, you can change your rules or drop out. If you need to be more strict, make more strict rules.
- Do connect with other people taking part – they can inspire you, keep you honest, and cure some of the isolation artists often feel
- Don’t get sucked into too much online chatter – the point of this creative challenge is to free you to create more, not find another place you can waste time
- Make it a priority – most of these challenges take commitment for a small amount of time. (NaNoWriMo takes up a lot of time but only for a month. Project 365 commits you to a daily creative act for a year, but it can be as little as a few seconds a day.) Make the most of the challenge by making it a priority. You might have to drop something else during the challenge. (That’s why it’s called a challenge). If you have to skip your daily Simpsons rerun to free up half and hour for creativity, is that too high a price?
Here are a few creative challenges, but please comment with details of others you have heard about.
Hosted in a livejournal community, this is a group of writers who are aiming for 100×100 words stories this summer. Yes, each! Even if you miss the official start, I’m sure you can join in late.
Hosted by Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer. Every day Brewer posts a prompt at his site. Poets post their poetic response in the comments. Fascinating reading, even if you aren’t a poet.
Hosted by yours truly, this turned into a wonderful community of writers who helped each other through the Herculean task of writing A Story A Day. It’ll be an annual event, so sign up now for the newsletter!
One of my first and favourite creative challenge sites. Write 100 words a day for a month. No more, no less. It is surprisingly challenging, doesn’t take up great wodges of time, and still keeps you on the look out for inspiration every day.
The big daddy of writing challenges: write a 50,000 words novel in November. Why November? Because the originators thought it was a good idea to do this in a month with a long weekend built in. (I might have voted for one with a holiday that didn’t have lots of social obligations – Memorial Day, perhaps, or President’s Day – but I guess they were young and unmarried at the time).
Like NaNoWriMo, this challenges writers. This time it’s a blog post a day. You can join the network at ning.com or just post in your own blog. Each month has a theme and you can email the creator to be added to each month’s blog roll. I found some good blog friends by browsing the blogroll one month.
Write 100 pages of scripted material during April. This one has sponsors and prizes.
Write a short story on a given topic in 24 hrs. This contest has a $5 (US) entry fee and takes place every quarter. First prize is $300. Limited to 500 participants and it usually fills up. The next one is April 24, 2010.
For Visual Artists
This was probably the first creative challenge I was aware of online, and I’d guess it has been running for at least a decade. They provide a weekly word/theme, you illustrate and send them a thumbnail and a link to your illustration. There are forums and interviews and lots of great art to look at.
Take a picture every day. Photography site Photojojo has this article to help.
This one is actually a mailing list and a blog, with a picture chosen by the editors every day, but you can submit yours and keep your fingers crossed.
Inspired by NaNoWriMo, Leah Piken Kolidas decided to declare November Art Every Day month for artists. She has a nice Rules (That Were Made To Be Broken) section, which appeals to me. Join her!
(Write and) record an album of original music in February. 10 tracks or 35 minutes of music. The creators say (and I agree) “Don’t wait for inspiration – taking action puts you in a position to get inspired… February will come and go whether you’ve joined in or not, but do you really want to be left out? ”
Choose your creative outlet, use (or ignore) the monthly theme, browse the work of other participants, listed in the sidebar. From the site: “This is a low pressure challenge, with the idea of bringing more creativity into our lives. I will not be the creativity police. I hope that we can all find ways, simple and grand to express our creative selves. Have fun with it!”