Well, after an unplanned hiatus, Tuesday 12 x 12 is back! Please welcome Marcie Atkins today, a girl after my own heart. One who lived for the summer reading program at the library, loves productivity apps, and is a challenge addict. Marcie amazes me with her dedication to her challenge results, and I suspect you’ll agree after you read this post. Welcome Marcie!
I was the kind of kid who loved the summer reading program at the library. You know the one where you got prizes for reading books? It was like rewarding me for eating candy.
That book ravenous kid turned into an adult who loves nothing more than a challenge to check off. And I’m the kind of writer who needs a good challenge to reward me for writing.
I’m a to-do list junkie. I used to make all of my lists on pencil and paper. Now, I’ve gotten high-tech and am geeking out on a To-Do List app that lets me sync between all of my tech devices.
In the past, some of my favorite writing challenges have included the Picture Book Marathon (write 26 picture books in 28 days during the month of February), PiBoIdMo (the picture book writer’s answer to NaNoWriMo hosted at Tara Lazar’s blog), and Laurie Halse Anderson’s WFMAD (Write Fifteen Minutes a Day during the month of August) and Kate Messner’s Teachers Write (a summer writing challengefor teachers).
Why do I do all of these challenges? Because I love to have accomplished something, then experience the insane joy of checking it off on my list. And quite frankly, I do better with the added pressure of a challenge. It holds me accountable. It makes me produce something instead of staring at a blank page.
I really wanted to participate in the Picture Book Marathon for a third time in 2012, but I was also working on two novels that needed major revisions. Since I work full-time and have two kids and a husband, writing a picture book draft a day would take all of my writing time for the whole month of February, something I just couldn’t afford to do this year.
Enter Julie Hedlund’s brilliant idea–12x12in12. I didn’t want to give up my picture book writing, so one draft a month seemed like a slow-and-steady pace I could pull off. I only ended up with three or four workable manuscripts out of the Picture Book Marathon anyway. So, if I wrote twelve, maybe I’d end up with three or four workable manuscripts this year too.
I thought it would be easy. Of course I could write a new picture book every month. THEN the novel revisions began to take over my writing life. They pulled on me. I wanted to be immersed in them. Picture book writing didn’t disappear, but it took a back seat to my novels.
I have checked off a picture book draft every month this year. But can I confess? Most of them (okay, almost all of them) are NO good. So far, I might (emphasis on MIGHT) have two salvageable manuscripts.
The New York Times bestselling novelist, Jodi Picoult, also wrote with young children underfoot. In Kelly Stone’s TIME TO WRITE, Picoult talks about that time in her life: “There were days I wrote garbage, but you can edit garbage.” So, even if my picture books aren’t publishable yet, at the end of 2012, I’ll have twelve more drafts than I had in December 2011. And I can always make them un-garbage-like.
Even if my two possibly-salvageable manuscripts never see the light of day, I will have practiced writing picture books. Malcolm Gladwell says in THE OUTLIERS that “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” I’m clocking in my time. Just call it another part of my to-do list.
My day job is a teacher. Today is my first day back to school, which means I will be juggling all sorts of other to-do lists. There will be nights that I won’t want to write when I come home. I will long for delivery pizza and mindless TV. Writing time will be precious. Having a goal already in place will keep me going. Even if all I get done in September is write my picture book draft for the month, then that’s a huge accomplishment.
And I don’t know about you, but come December, I’m hoping there is a new challenge for 2013. You see, I’ll need to have something to check off on my to-do list.
Marcie Flinchum Atkins is a teacher by day and a mom, wife, and children’s book writer by night. She holds an M.A. and an M.F.A. in children’s literature from Hollins University. She has freelanced for educational publishers and magazines. She spent her summer writing and revising picture books and doing a major revision on her current work-in-progress, a magical realism middle grade novel. You can follow her on Twitter.Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Children's Books, Goals, Guest Blogging, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: 12 x 12 in 2012, Goals, Guest Blogging, Julie Hedlund, Marcie Atkins, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Tuesday 12 x 12, Works in Progress, Writer, Writing