Joel's note: this is a guest post from Emily Wenstrom.


I recently did my first Continuous Creation Challenge and I was determined to do it right.

And by “right” I mean all out.

My husband was going to be out of town for a week, and I was going to make the most of it with a media blackout to fully focus on my creative projects.

There was just one problem: I completely ruined my Continuous Creation Challenge (CCC).

How is this even possible? After all, the whole point of a CCC is that you set your own rules. Yet I wrecked my CCC in not just one, but in three (three!) big ways.

But this doesn't have to happen to you. Save yourself—avoid these three major pitfalls waiting to trip you up:

1. I OD'd On My To-Do List

I had an entire week to myself and nothing to disrupt me. Sure, my main goal was to knock out the first section of my novel's next draft … but with a full five days, I thought I could sneak in a few extra things like:

  1. Drafting a month of posts for my blog
  2. Selecting the next few short stories for my lit-zine
  3. Meditating every day
  4. Trying a few new recipes

And thus the to-do monster was brought forth.

Turns out there are still only twenty-four hours in a day, even when you do a CCC. (Who knew?) By the time I was done with work, dinner, walking my dog, and hitting the gym, I only had an hour or two for creative work before hitting the sheets.

Unfortunately, I didn't make as much progress on my creations with that precious time split between so many different priorities.

Note to self (and you): Focus on a single goal or project for your CCC and forget about the rest of your to-do list. Don't worry, it'll still be there waiting for you when you're done.

2. I Marathoned It

Running a Continuous Creation Challange

I set out to make my first CCC last the entire quiet week. What's five days anyway, right?

My cocky pre-CCC self was sure it was nothing. It's only when you're at the end of a long Wednesday at the office – drained of energy and stuck in the middle – that you realize it's actually the mental equivalent of running a marathon without doing the training. My brain muscles hurt.

I never realized how much mental energy my creative work extracts. And that drained feeling makes it hard to be creatively productive.

Note to self (and you): Start small for your first CCC – perhaps even just one day – to avoid burnout.

3. All Work and No Play Make Me Very Dull Indeed

Another way to really drain yourself is to apply too many self-limitations.

I didn't stop at piling myself up with creative to-dos and trying to push myself for a full five days … I also cut out all entertainment media (e.g., no TV, movies, or books).

All. Of. It..

That's a real hit for a media junkie who's Netflixing through Buffy the Vampire Slayer and flat-out addicted to her books. I had the best of intentions: clear out all distractions so I could focus on my creative output. What I didn't realize was that I was depriving my brain of the down time it needed to do good creative work later.

Note to self (and you): Don't think in terms of minimizing distraction when determining your CCC rules. Instead, think about maximizing creativity.

Why You Will Do Better

I got off to a good start with my CCC—I took a transition day where I cleared my mind of clutter, prepared to create, and got psyched to start. But because of these three big mistakes, I was worn down and creatively sapped by day three. So much so that I actually caved and called it off early.

There are even more lessons I could share, but the main takeaway is this:

Learn from my mistakes and you can have a great (and completed) CCC the first time through.

Because what makes the CCC special and useful is that you can make it fit you. Take advantage of its flexibility. By knowing your own needs and limits, you can use it to focus and do some great work.

Lit addict, movie geek, writer. Emily Wenstrom is a public relations professional who blogs about creativity in art and work at Creative Juicer and runs the short story zine wordhaus. In her alleged free time, she writes fantasy fiction.

Photo Credit: Adam Levine, davidd