by Kamilah Cummings
It’s that time of year again when we wave goodbye to summer’s sun-kissed bliss and turn toward autumn’s falling leaves. Autumn is when we begin to retreat inward – sometimes both literally and figuratively. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, many of us find ourselves between four walls sipping warm drinks and getting lost in a good book. However, instead of reading a good book this October, DePaul students, faculty, staff, and alumni can spend the month writing one as part of the Month of Writing Challenge (MOW). As a two-time MOW participant, I look forward to the annual challenge whether I write the next New York Times bestseller or not.
The fourth annual Month of Writing Challenge offers participants the opportunity to experience the power and promise of writing. It was inspired by the National Day on Writing, which was designated by the Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) as October 20. According to the NCTE, the day was created to, “draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in, and to help writers from all walks of life recognize how important writing is to their lives” (National Council of Teachers of English). Adding an additional 30 days, the MOW not only reminds us of the myriad types of writing that we do, it also offers opportunity to set writing goals and learn about ourselves in the process.
Having participated in the last two MOW Challenges, I can attest that I have learned as much about myself as I have about my writing during the 31-day challenge. I participated in my first MOW challenge during an extremely difficult period in my life. Needless to say, I failed to meet the lofty word goal that I set for myself. However, in trying to meet it I learned things about myself that I continue to apply in my personal and professional lives. Additionally, creating a time and space to write amid personal tumult was therapeutic. It was the first time in a long time that I allowed myself to write whatever I wanted. My writings could be as silly or serious as I wanted. The point was that I was writing. Participating in the MOW reignited my love for journaling, which I had not done in many years due to “not having enough time” for it. Now, I journal regularly as I had many moons before “life kicked in.” Multiple studies have shown the health benefits of a regular writing regimen. I experienced this firsthand as my MOW writings allowed me to take time for myself; to be introspective; and to be mindfully attuned to my emotional and physical well-being.
Armed with the knowledge from my first MOW experience, I set a more realistic goal that I met the second year – barely. I must admit that I really wanted to meet my goal in my second year of the challenge. As with any goal, there is an intrinsic motivation to achieve it once you set it. I found that setting a writing goal was especially helpful when working on longer or less attractive writing projects.
I had already made writing a part of my regular mindfulness practice, so my focus the second time around shifted from personal writing to professional writing. In addition to writing for work, I also decided to work on some writing projects that had been collecting digital dust. Setting aside time during the MOW for work-related writing projects helped me to stay on track and meet deadlines. However, I also started some new writing projects that I planned to finish after the MOW ended. That did not happen.
Therefore, the important takeaway from my second MOW experience was the importance of continuing the writing regimen that I practiced during the month. The first year, it was easy to do this because it fit nicely into a personal healing journey that I had embarked on during that time. However, the second time around after I met the deadlines that I needed to meet during the month, I abandoned my regimen leaving my projects unfinished.
So, as the start of the MOW 2015 looms, I’m not quite sure what I plan to write. I might mix professional and personal writing projects in addition to whatever else might arise during the month. I know that I have learned a lot from my last two MOW’s that I can apply this time. Regardless what I write, I know I will be dedicating time to writing and reaping the many benefits of it. At the end of the day, for me that is what counts.
For more information on the 2015 Month of Writing or to register visit https://depaul.digication.com/MOW2015/Welcome_Letter/
National Council of Teachers of English. About the National Day on Writing. n.d. web. 29 September 2015.