I recently read The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. The book chronicles one woman’s attempt to increase her own happiness levels over a year. She uses a variety of research and techniques, which are all documented very nicely on her blog, happiness-project.com. Anyone interested in starting their own Happiness Project can use the tools she provides there.
I found the format of her project particularly intriguing, namely the dividing of her year into a series of what I call, mini-challenges. You may be familiar with the mini-challenge. If you have been reading my blog, you’ll know that I have engaged in one myself, writing a novel in a month (check out Nanowrimo). This was one of Gretchen’s mini-challenges. Some might call them resolutions. Others goals. But, mini-challenges are a bit different. They are small (or sometimes large), manageable (and sometimes daunting), accomplishments that people dedicate themselves to doing. They usually have a start and end date, and they usually involve some personal fulfillment or betterment.
In The Happiness Project, Rubin refers to her book as “stunt non-fiction.” A term she borrowers from a reviewer of her book. I like it. Because I like stunt non-fiction. Reading about how someone else had set themselves some fascinating goal, and then gone about accomplishing it. A.J. Jacobs comes to mind immediately, as does Eat, Pray, Love. Mini-challenges are a big part of stunt non-fiction. Whether it be the man who tried a new job every month for a year, or the one who devoted his year to volunteering, it seems everyone wants to challenge themselves.
The blogosphere is littered with mini-challenges. My own novel in a month is one. So is my participation in a weekly photo contest (MCP Action). Wordpress’s PostADay is one. More and more people are attempting a daily photo as well.
I would like to applaud the mini-challenge. It is fun. Engaging. And, I think, it works.
Here are a few of the writing mini-challenges that I have come across:
Post A Day: Self-explainatory WordPress Fun
Script Frenzy: Write a 100 page script in a month (April)
Story a Day: Write a story a day – in May
SmithMagazine’s Six-Word Memoir: Tell your story, in six words
Six Sentences: Write a story in six sentences
What’s your favourite mini-challenge? (Or maybe you hate mini-challenges. Think they are the scourge of society. I’d like to know about that, too).
I like the mini-challenge, and, as long as I’m enjoying them, I’ll keep trying new ones, as the spirit moves me. Maybe you want to join me?