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How I Survived the "First Write" 24-hour Writing Marathon

I was exhausted, but I did it for the trees

I watched the ball drop at midnight, tooted my party horn, kissed my husband, and was off to my home office for my first attempt at a 24-hour writing marathon.


Here’s the thing: I hadn’t pulled an “all-nighter” for years and I was 63. Also, I had resolved to do FIRST WRITE™ without caffeine. So I donned a pair of yellow color therapy glasses to stay alert. Honestly, those glasses saved me from taking a long winter’s nap!


The challenge

The goal of FIRST WRITE™ is to write a new work on New Year’s Day after pledging a donation to a tree-planting organization. It’s a way to give back to the trees for all the resources we writers use to create our masterpieces.


Attempting a 24-hour writing marathon is much different than when I’ve participated in the month-long challenge that is National Novel Writing Month. You don’t have 30 full days to pace yourself — you have only one — so there’s no time for dilly-dallying. (Love that word.)


I began FIRST WRITE™ 2019 with a few writing warmup exercises from the FIRST WRITE™ handbook. To complement the winter theme (I like themes), I used The Snowflake Method of writing, created by Randy Ingermanson.


For me, it was important that I had the angels in my writing corner. I did a quick meditation with Lisa Beachy’s “Archangel Gabriel Meditation Clearing Creative Blocks to Conceive What You Desire” video.


My schedule

12AM-6AM ~ Write (with five-minute breaks every hour)

6AM-9AM ~ Nap

9AM-2PM ~ Write (with five-minute breaks every hour)

2PM-5PM ~ Nap

5PM-12AM ~ Write (with five-minute breaks every hour)


At 4:30AM, I took an hour-long nap and struggled to get up again. I had had a disturbing dream that I was still trying to shake off when one of our cats, Tim, mewed for his breakfast. I thought I had fed him, but I couldn’t remember.


I was free-writing up to this point but had to stop when my writing hand kept cramping. This time I went to the computer keyboard which felt amazing! Even though my brain hadn’t caught up, my fingers were flying, tap-tapping away to produce marks on my screen I wasn’t sure I was controlling.


During one of my breaks, I gave myself a facial (movement helps one to stay awake), but I was too bleary-eyed to notice any visible improvement.


I avoided editing anything I wrote, which is unlike me because I am one of those writers who wants a sentence to be perfect before I will proceed to the next. But FIRST WRITE™ is intended to be a challenge and if I could avoid cross-outs and going back over my words, I knew I would cross the finish line.


Shortly after I ended my Twitter chat at 1PM, I took another one-hour nap. As much as I wanted to rest, I soldiered on, determined to see the clock strike midnight again, marking the end of FIRST WRITE™ 2019.


Based upon the five steps in the FIRST WRITE™ handbook, here are my experiences:


Step One: Set your writing intentions

For my muse, I turned to the name I had selected for my website and publishing company — Writelighter. My FIRST WRITE™ project would be to write twelve thought-provoking blog posts (one for each month) to help raise the vibration of the Planet with Wellness, Peace, and Positivity. This seemed like a good goal as I had been lax at keeping up with blogging and resolved that 2019 would be different. As an added incentive, I submitted this same intention to be posted on the New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall in Times Square.


The Result: Initially, my plan was to write one blog post every hour, so I was amazed when I wrote the introductory paragraphs to each one in my second hour! But I wanted to write some fiction, too, which is why I wrote some new chapters for SEAGLASS CHRISTMAS: A Little Blessing Mystery. Because I had two accidents at home, sickness, and organizing Color Therapy Month, my heart wasn’t into polishing (nor publishing) my posts until May, after Camp NaNoWriMo.


Step Two: Determine your word count goal

Hmmm. Could I write twelve blog posts in twenty-four hours? I thought I would shoot for the moon with 12,000 words.


The Result: I surpassed my goal — yay for me!


Step Three: Announce your participation

This step was simple because as the organizer of FIRST WRITE™, I had been promoting the event on my website, social media, and newsletters since August 2018.


The Result: After I announced my participation, I soon realized that not everyone accomplished the entire 24 hours as I did, which was fine because the point was to write something new and to challenge yourself. Even one new page is a triumph, I think.


Step Four: Prepare your writing space

I waited until after Christmas to clean and reorganize my home office because I had been using it as a messy gift wrapping station.


In my office, I am surrounded by crystals and salt lamps, so I cleansed them with sound to ensure good chi. To the left of my computer (which I also cleaned), I set up an inspiration station with FIRST WRITE™ collage cards, carnelian (for creativity), citrine (self-confidence, concentration), and sodalite (communication). I also included special motivational flower essences from Green Hope Farms. To keep me alert and creating, I set up a color therapy lamp to surround me with orange and yellow.


The Result: My writing space was magical. I felt comfortable there, which was a good thing since I was going to spend many hours there!


Step Five: Plan your schedule

I had a feeling this step would be tricky. FIRST WRITE™ occurs on New Year’s Day and I didn’t want to neglect my poor husband on this first day of the year, even if I was involved in an important writeathon.


Since January is World Mindful Eating Month, I planned a FIRST WRITE™ menu that would be healthy and not filled with caffeine or sugar-laden snacks.


The Result: It turned out okay. When I finally had a moment to greet my hubby, he expressed his concern over my taking on too much. I couldn’t imagine why. Maybe he was counting the dark circles under my eyes?


Gearing up for 2022

I’m 66 now and looking forward to January 1, 2022. Even though FIRST WRITE™ occurs during the festive holiday season, I will get myself in good writing shape by first committing to a daily average of eight hours of sleep at least a week before the big event. Then, on New Year’s Day, I will increase the number of naps I take during FIRST WRITE™, or at least sleep longer than an hour at a time.


I find it challenging to take breaks because once my bottom is firmly planted in my chair, it doesn’t want to leave unless nature calls. So I’ve set my Howler timer to get up and stretch each hour, maybe do a little bit of dancing to old favorites like “Conga” by Miami Sound Machine or Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.”


I vow to exercise my fingers and wrist more often, maybe wear a brace if I need to. I will also gently remind myself that I am a senior now and have certain physical limitations. Yes, I’m still a writer but I am no spring chicken, either!


But aside from determining how to change from my mild-mannered alter ego to the kick-ass, planet-saving SuperWriter, I‘m fresh out of ideas. So I’ll be winging it and praying my words — and my body — don’t fizzle out.


The trees need me. And I need them.

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