One Story a Day: Reflections on the “Like the Prose” Challenge

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My Like the Prose challenge "certificate."

In June 2020, I signed up for The Literal Challenge’s Like the Prose, where I was expected to write a piece of prose every day based on daily briefs sent to my email address. There was plenty of flexibility allowed in the project: one could have chosen a timed route, where they had to send in a new piece of prose every day; or a creative route, where one got a prompt every day, but they could send as few or as many works as they pleased. I chose the former, and I completed it, but it was not an easy task. Although I’m not able to tell if anything I’d written is valuable, I did learn a few things about my own writing process.

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June 1st

Write something on the theme of a blank page. Fitting for a start. It can’t be that hard, right? If all briefs are as specific yet open as this one, then it should be quite fun to do this.

June 9th

Expected to write a prosimetrum, the pale fire of my motivation turned sour at first—then I ended up having the most fun I’d had since starting the challenge. Shakespearian sonnets, meets feeble attempts at keeping a relationship afloat, meets history repeating itself; meets a breakup haiku via e-mail. It was truly enjoyable to write this, and it made up for all the negative energy I might have begun to transmit.

June 12th

It’s the second day of writing a trilogy; my very first.

I noticed that I have a tendency to fear-freeze before ever typing the first word of anything, so I’ve decided to change my approach: whether I have an idea or not, I write and write and never stop until I’m at an end. The story can suck, as long as I have something to work on after the challenge.

Who knows, maybe adding the motif of a pork pie hat on a whim might reap its own benefits?

June 15th

I’m so done with this. I never want to write anything ever again. This is terrible and I want to quit.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t made enough research for my sob story of smile similes to be anything more than fan fiction; not that I’m a big fan of Mona Lisa, but that was the inspiration for today.

June 17th

I finally get it. For the past few days, I’ve been trying to focus so much on plot – I had too little time to focus on the characters and my joy of depth, and wanted to get it over with, so I concentrated solely on the surface-level what’s going on – that I dropped my strength.

Every writer approaches things differently, and I, at my best (am I at a level where I can refer to “my best,” though?), move from the inward world of the character out to the story, and that damned plot. If I try to start at the latter, things feel stale and I don’t enjoy the writing as much.

I am learning something about myself here, after all.

June 28th

They’re going easy on us, possibly as a reward for sticking through it. Today, we’re supposed to pick our favourite story from the challenge (or the longest one) and shorten it by half. I guess they’re trying to make us learn to kill our darlings, which is most certainly not my strong suit.

June 30th

I’m done. I wrote the last piece in the form of a letter to a loved one, since I was still feeling restless after a certain falling out with them the other day. Life begets art; maybe art will beget life back—or a connection, at least? Not that I’m great at human interaction as it is, and maybe that’s why I prefer to write stories.

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I don’t regret taking part in this challenge, though I’m not sure if I’d do it again. If there’s anything I’ve learned from it, it’s that I should trust my process, my intuition, my starting points, my timing. If I prefer to focus on 90% insufferable streams of consciousness and only 10% on plot, maybe there is a market for that somewhere?

The second thing I’ve learned is something that, in the consumerist, showy, entrepreneurial world we live in, is becoming harder to maintain: quality over quantity. Having written thirty whole pieces of prose, I can say with certainty that I’d rather write one truly great work than many mediocrities.

Nonetheless, I do not regret it. If anything, it was an exercise in perseverance and self-trust. Now that it’s over, and I have nothing tangible to force me to write, I can return to my chronic sense of guilt for not writing and doing enough.

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