I should preface this writing by placing the blame (or credit, depending on how you look at it) squarely where it belongs: on the shoulders of Dean Wesley Smith. After all, it was he who first gave me the idea of using a challenge as a tool to drive myself toward improvement.
It’s Dean who showed me how darn much fun these challenges can be, too. And finally, it was also Dean who (as far as I know) first came up with the crazy, dumb, ridiculous, and insanely fun idea of writing ten books in one hundred days. As of this writing, he hasn’t done the challenge set, but he will be later in 2019.
That said, taking his challenge and ramping it up another notch is entirely my own fault. There’s a very old Chinese saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s a terrific proverb, with deep wisdom which is both obvious to a child yet still holds great value all through our lives. The journey I’m embarking upon isn’t a thousand miles. According to my Apple Watch, it takes about two thousand steps for me to walk a mile, so I’ll only be walking five hundred miles. But that voyage also begins with just one step.
I’ve done challenges before. I find them to be a good tool to help me stretch my perception of what it’s possible for me to achieve. Pushing myself is good for my growth. setting goals which match only my abilities doesn’t encourage growth or excellence. But goals which match my potential do both.
I talked about trying the ‘ten books in one hundred days’ challenge back at 20Books Vegas 2018. It sounded a little nuts. Michael Anderle and I went over the idea some and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth the headaches.
What changed my mind? I’ve gotten better at writing. Faster. More organized. I still have much to learn (thank goodness), but I feel more able than ever to take on a serious challenge and win through to success. Why add the million steps to an already difficult challenge? That’s a great question.
It was the idea of adding the new element which finally made me decide to go for this, actually. One of the biggest challenges writers face is the sedentary nature of our work. We sit – usually inside – while we write. Getting in high word counts and also exercising can be a real problem for many writers, myself included. I’m still in pretty good shape for 46, but I could see my fitness deteriorate over time.
Stepping up my fitness game was an obvious priority. I’d been trying on and off through the years to work with dictation software for my writing, generally without much success. But I recalled Kevin Anderson blogging years ago about how he wrote books by taking long walks through the hills speaking his story into a recorder.
Nervous that it wouldn’t work well in noisy downtown Boston, I figured I would give it a shot anyway. I bought a new cardioid microphone for my iPhone and gave it a try. The results weren’t perfect, but they were good enough that I grew really excited about the challenge idea!
I was writing more slowly than I was used to, but much of that felt like my fault instead of tech problems. What if I could couple high speed writing and walking for fitness? The challenge was born: 100 days, 10 books, and 1,000,000 steps. That meant averaging at least ten thousand step and six thousand words a day. Partnering my goals together in this manner just feels right.
So we’re off and running! Or walking. Day 1 was May 9th. The final day will be August 16th. The first day went well, with about 4500 words and 19,198 steps. A little ahead on one target and behind on the other, but I am already seeing improvements in my dictation speed, so I anticipate more gains in word court as I go along.
Thank you for reading! I will continue posting regular updates, and you’re welcome to follow along as I try to do this crazy, fun, game-changing challenge!