The 8-Week Challenge

If you want to develop your mastery of some particular skill you will have give yourself time to practice. This also goes for writing. That’s why I’ve long recommended that scholars periodically commit themselves to eight weeks of deliberate writing, whether their aim is to get their writing process under control or simply to improve their style. During the 8-week period, you should write for at least half an hour and at most three hours every day, five days a week. (Yes, do please take the weekends off.) That means you will be writing between 20 and 120 hours over the eight-week period.

I offer weekly coaching to support this process, but normally only recommend it if you’re committing at least 40 hours to the Challenge. After all, you’ll be meeting with me (in a group of up to ten people) one hour every week, which would be almost a third of the time your committing to this discipline if you’re only actually writing for another two and half hours any given week. It’s okay to try this by yourself at a lower intensity for a while and then join the group when you’re ready to make a bigger commitment.

The trick, in any case, is to  appreciate your finitude. During the 8 weeks you’ll have, say, 40 hours of writing to do. I suggest you divide them into 27-minute paragraphs, which means you can write 80 paragraphs. And that means that you’ll be making 80 claims and providing support for them; making a claim and providing support for it is what a paragraph does. That’s 80 opportunities to improve yourself in that art. My Challenge to you is very simply to give yourself those 80 opportunities.

I suggest dividing your semester into two 8-week periods of this kind, with a one-week break in middle. For each of those 8-week periods, decide how many hours you’ll commit to the challenge. Then keep your commitment. For 32 weeks out of the year, you’ll now be producing careful, deliberate paragraphs. And this will keep your prose in shape.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *