Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Gimme 31 for Your Dreams: A Challenge and A Giveaway

Happy December, everyone! Crazy, isn’t it, how the time flies?

It seems like just yesterday, the writers of the world were starting on their NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) projects and the picture book people were jotting down the first idea for the PiBoIdMo challenge (a picture book idea per day).

And now, just when you thought you could finally take a break from all those crazy writing crusades, I’ve dreamed up another one for you.

This one applies to writers of any genre. More than that, it’s really for anyone who has a serious dream but has been frustrated by lack of time and energy, assaulted by procrastination, tortured by doubts into apathy.

No matter how young — or how old you are — no matter how big your dream (or how small, I suppose), my goal with this challenge is to get you back upon your feet, or get you started, or just let you give yourself a chance.


I have met so many people, bright, talented, powerful, amazing people, who let their dream just sit there, just out of their reach.

Once in a while, they’ll get serious, they’ll start that novel, finish another revision, write that query, write five… But when they come up against an obstacle or two, or a hundred, they feel as though they’re facing a wall, tall, giant, insurmountable. And they retreat behind it.

Days pass, quick and slippery as fish you try to catch with your bare hands. Months become years. Sometimes they write. Increasingly, they don’t bother. Home renovations, kids activities and illnesses, overloaded work schedules and holidays eat up the hours.

If those people just give up the dream, then, and move on to something else — maybe a new dream — or maybe just, I don’t know, contentment, if there is such a thing, I say, good for you, guys! Maybe you decide in the end to live for your child, or dedicate all your creativity to your home — your job — your family — a new career — a new adventure. Maybe you decide you’re a reader, not a writer. A volunteer, not a professional. And how cool is that? You have found your own truth. You have found your meaning.

But the thing is: many of these people don’t really let the dream go. They either tinker — writing some days, for example, starting books, signing up for workshops — only to give up, back to where they started. Or they go the someday route. They wait for better times to go for it.

What an energy suck, though! The unfulfilled potential, the sadness of what could be, the questions unanswered.


Ever since I remember dreaming, I’ve tried on many kinds of dreamhats. As a teenager, I have wanted to be a singer. An actress. I have tried to audition for a role or two, and had some pictures taken to send to modeling agencies. I once idly wished I could be a student president at my university. Run my own campus TV show. Become a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Win awards. Score a prestigious internship with MSNBC. Make a living freelancing for big papers and magazines.

A couple of these dreams came true for a time, others lingered for years, unfulfilled. Eventually, most of these fell away like dead leaves in autumn. And here is what I have discovered: it was good to let the dreams go, because some of them were nothing but borrowed hats.

But once you find your hat — your own — I think you’ll know. Your head will know. It will feel so good.

My advice to you is, once you find your hat, don’t take it off and put it on a shelf. Don’t stick it in a drawer. It’s December, and January will be here before we know it. It’s getting cold. Wear your hat!


With this challenge, I say, whoever you are, check your dream out. Take a month to decide if it is for you, and then either drop it or keep it. If you have something you’re always thought of doing, try it. If you’ve been waiting to finish this or that, before embarking on a project of your dreams, don’t wait, or it’ll never happen. Do it now.

And if you already know what you want, and you already know you want it, make a commitment to work toward it every single day for a month.

GIMME 312013 Dream Challenge 002

Ah, go ahead, take a month off after all those NaNoWriMo’s. Finalize the gift shopping. Enjoy your holidays, whatever it is you celebrate. But starting next month, I will run the Dream Challenge here on the Magic Mirror. If it takes off, I hope to continue doing this every January from now on. During those 31 days, I want each one of you busy dreamers to give me 31 minutes of your precious time. Pick the time of the day that works best for you. Think in advance about your dream. Put a timer on. Seriously, do it. Use a timer. And once it’s on, rush to the computer (or your studio, or whatever), and do the work. No breaks. Thirty-one minutes. Write. Paint. Meditate (if that’s your dream). Thirty-one measly minutes. Don’t be stingy with me. That’s not much, I’m asking.

Little kids? Demanding full-time jobs? I don’t care. If you have time to be reading this blog, you have 31 minutes to spare to your dream.

Once the 31 minutes runs out, stop working!  (Okay, so you can finish writing the sentence, if you like — or leave it unfinished, like Hemingway did  — I know I can’t do that, but to each his own…) If you need to write more, carve out some time later to do another 31. That’s totally optional. The first 31 is NOT though.

This isn’t just for people trying out a new dream, you know.

If you already know exactly what you want, do it with me too. Work on your current project. You can put in many hours. Just make sure you do that first 31 minutes though. If you’re in a roll after that, follow it with another 31. Before you know it, you’ll be finishing a chapter.

The reason I’m sticking with 31 minutes is because I found this amount of time to be optimal for making some real progress (half an hour, plus one minute to take a deep breath and get settled — or run to your desk once the timer is set). Fifteen minutes is too short to be taken seriously. And one hour can loom too large.

Thirty minutes though? Seems like a happy medium.

Just make sure you do it every single day, starting on January 1, New Year’s Day. Yes, despite the hangover. 🙂

If you’d like to be a part of it, send me an email at katiawrites@gmail.com or leave a comment here with a way for me to contact you.  Tell me what you’ll be working on and make a public committment to doing this with me, so I can cheer you on! I hope some of you will also consider writing guest posts for me about your dreams and your experiences, the challenges you’ve faced, and any advice you have to give to the others, as we go along. I would really appreciate those, because January will be quite busy for me, with my first Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA residency and all (squeal!)

At the end of the month, I will have my daughter randomly pick one participant’s name out of a hat.

The prize: A $31 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.

Yes, it will be my gift to you, just for giving your dreams a real chance.

What’s that? Why do I care? Great question! I am not quite sure, actually. But for some reason, I do, I really, really do. These people, some of them I know personally. And I know that they have something to give to the world. Something wonderful. I want them to be able to do that. Because I really think they can — or they could.

I am sorry I can’t offer more prizes right now. Check with me on that again when I’m a bit more rich and famous, though…But the biggest prize of all, I would think, will be a productive month and a great start to the New Year!

So… who is with me?

(Or if you’re not, can you spread the word and recruit some friends?)

timerLet’s get started! The clock is ticking!


December 3, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


  1. My dream is to start revising my next book. I mean a serious re-visioning not just wordsmithing! Great idea, Katia!

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | December 3, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks, Shannon! Re-invisioning sounds like some serious fun — and nothing like a little structure to keep you going. So, are you in? Pledging 30 — I mean, 31 — minutes a day, every day, working toward it in the month of January?

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 3, 2012 | Reply

  2. I’m in, Katia! My dream is to work on my third novel (not necessarily finish, because I just started it and I’m a slow writer). But I’d like to get a good chunk of it written. January seems as good a time as any! Nice of you to give us December to get all the holiday preparations out of the way.

    Comment by Joanne Fritz | December 3, 2012 | Reply

    • Yay, Joanne! Great! You’re in. Just put in your head that starting on Jan 1st, you’ll dedicate 31 minutes toward your third novel’s progress. I’ll be here for you!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 3, 2012 | Reply

      • I will do that, Katia! And I’ll try to spread the word.

        Comment by Joanne Fritz | December 5, 2012

  3. I really love this post! Hope it will be Freshly pressed because other people need to see it as well

    Comment by AH | December 4, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks so much, AH! I know that would be nice, wouldn’t it? “Freshly pressed” is when wordpress puts it into this little digest that so many more can see, right? Either way, a couple of people said they might blog about it this week. More participants would make it so much more fun and meaningful. Then again, it’ll be fun and meaningful with only just a few good people too. 🙂 Remember it’s not enough to just leave a comment in order to be a full-fledged participant and be eligible for the drawing for the prize. You’ve got to say the pledge here in the comments or just send me an email letting me know you’re in!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 4, 2012 | Reply

  4. I’m getting started today! Having sudden surgery and home for 6 weeks has given me the gift of time now which is so wonderfully mellow during the holiday madness. Plan: to finish editing my sequel by Jan 29th (the day we leave for Disney!) It’s interesting to see you had many dreams Katia under many hats. I only ever had one – to write books and it took many deadends to get to that, so I hope I can keep making the dream come true book after book. Good luck with your 31 minutes a day! What a wonderful idea 🙂

    Comment by donnagalanti | December 4, 2012 | Reply

    • Yay! Another participant! Thanks, Donna! Why put off till tomorrow… right? 🙂 If you have a nice chunk of hours for writing, like me, the idea of 31 minutes can still make a huge difference. To me, at least, the hours always loom. I start playing with my fingers, Facebook beckons… I need to go to the bathroom. Why not? I have time. Then, in the blink of an eye, the time has slipped away. When I started doing “31 minutes,” suddenly time became precious again. 31 minutes can be done over, and over, and over. Just make sure you schedule some breaks in between, if you’re going to go that route. I’ll do another post on that soon. Thanks again for taking up my challenge!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 4, 2012 | Reply

  5. Fantastic idea. I tend to be dead tired on weekdays or multi-tasking like crazy; i also do most of my writing on weekends. Thirty-one minutes a day sounds delightful.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | December 4, 2012 | Reply

    • So glad you like it, Medeia! This challenge is great for someone with a demanding f/t job. In fact, that’s what I did, when I was working for Patch, just carved out a set amount of time every day, and no matter what crazy news broke, it was something I stuck to. Should I count you in? 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 5, 2012 | Reply

      • I wish I could participate, but honestly I have days when I come home and take a nap straight away. I don’t know if I”ll be consistent.

        Comment by Medeia Sharif | December 6, 2012

      • Medeia: you know yourself best. If this spoke to you, you would have signed up already, so no pressure. I’m sure you’re already doing the best you can — you’re definitely no slacker 😉

        Comment by Katia Raina | December 7, 2012

  6. […] Right now, Katia is gathering participants for a new challenge for those who’d like to do better next year in sticking to their goals and making their dreams happen. To participate in the “31” challenge – and the giveaway – visit here and leave a comment telling me about your project and committing to working on it 31 minutes a day, every day in January. https://katiaraina.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/dreaming-up-a-new-challenge/ […]

    Pingback by Agents and Editors On Trends in YA and Kidlit « Writing and Illustrating | December 5, 2012 | Reply

  7. Good morning, Katia. I would like to be inspired and mentored by your challenge to complete my first children’s picture book. Please include me. : )

    Sincerely, Shiela Fuller
    PS: i also emailed you!

    Comment by shiela fuller | December 5, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Shiela, and welcome! You’re hereby officially included! Expect more posts later on this month and next month with tips, guidance and motivation to get you through. I am so thrilled for your decision to go for it, and so glad to have you join us!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 5, 2012 | Reply

  8. I am in! I will be working on my novel, 10 years in process 😉 Now is the time to finish this thing! Although I cannot promise it will be my best work since the bottles of Mulled Spice Wine I consume on New Year’s Eve may leave me with a nasty headache and in a cranky mood! But this is great! Thank you. Perfect New Year’ s resolution 🙂

    Comment by Debbie Clarke | December 6, 2012 | Reply

    • Lol, Debbie. I don’t care about the quality. And I don’t care how drunk you get on Dec. 31. Just gimme my 31, that’s all I want from you in the first month of 2013!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 6, 2012 | Reply

  9. Thank you for caring Katia; I definitely need this and will give it my all. I think I will start tomorrow. My two projects are writing and illustrating my first small child’s book and listing my knitted hats on Etsy.

    Comment by Patricia Halstead | December 6, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Patricia! If you’re ready to go, no need to wait! And two projects are definitely doable, I’ve done it. Just be mindful of the fact that if things are going well, at one point it’s going to start so intense that you’ll need to prioritize, maybe put one aside, or work on it less, and throw all your energies into the other. As for right now, my advice to you would be to just think about how you’re going to us the “31 minutes.” Will you split it in between the two? Or do 31 minutes for each? Best of luck, and I’m here for you!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 6, 2012 | Reply

  10. I’m committing to the challenge. My plan is to start writing at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, before the alcohol wears off. That way I’ll get to sleep in and forgo writing with a hangover. Thank you Katia for putting this together and also to all the other participants. This’ll be fun, challenging and is just the kick-in-the-pants I need!

    Comment by Dori Stone | December 6, 2012 | Reply

    • 12:01 a.m. on January 1 — brilliant! You know, according to an old Russian superstition, whatever you do on the night of the New Year is what you’ll end up doing all year long. I’ll be cheering for you, Dori!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 6, 2012 | Reply

  11. My former teacher, the awesome Kristi Holl will be joining us, too! http://institutechildrenslit.net/Writers-First-Aid-blog/2012/12/07/31-minutes-for-31-days-the-challenge/

    Comment by Katia Raina | December 7, 2012 | Reply

  12. I am in! I will be working on my third chapter book of the series, Penelope’s “Secret” Cooking Club. I’m currently averaging a chapter a week….can’t wait to see if I could possibly double this. Will keep my fingers crossed!

    Comment by Robin Hutchinson | December 7, 2012 | Reply

    • Great, Robin. Specific goals like that always help. You can do it! 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 7, 2012 | Reply

  13. Thank you, Katia, for the challenge that I learned about on Kristi Holl’s blog. Count me in. I want to write a picture book draft. I’ve committed to writing 12 drafts in 12 months, so 31 minutes a day is a perfect strategy for doing so.

    Comment by Anne | December 7, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Anne, and welcome. I’ll be cheering you on!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 7, 2012 | Reply

  14. Hi Katia, please add me to your very fine idea of the 31 minute challenge. I made a promise to myself to write everyday in December (and I have!) and I’m glad to have another way to add to my writing in January. I’m going to be finishing several short pieces (essays, poems, stories) that have lingered in files for too long. Specifically, I want to have one short children’s story completed for a contest entry by January 31st. There! I’ve committed!

    Comment by Maureen | December 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Maureen, good for you! All that finishing must feel so good. You’re definitely clear on your goals, too. You’re in! Please come back to Magic Mirror periodically during this month and the next for updates, if you have time. (But the writing comes first!) 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 10, 2012 | Reply

      • Who is Monica?

        Comment by Maureen | December 13, 2012

      • (P.S. So sorry, Maureen, about getting your name wrong — duh! — just fixed it. This is what happens when you try to do a million things at once! Thanks for telling me — so glad you spoke up.)

        Comment by Katia Raina | December 13, 2012

  15. I came across the challenge via Kristi Holl’s blog. Count me in! My e-mail is wildbike @ netzero.net. I plan to work on my picture book mss. Revise, write letters, print, and MAIL. A little of everything… Looking forward to the challenge. I’ll spend the rest of December working up a PLAN.

    Comment by Christie Wright Wild | December 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Christie. With everything you’ve got going on, a good plan is essential! Good luck with it all and thanks for joining us in this!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 10, 2012 | Reply

  16. I’m in. I will be working on a novel – my second book. I’ve been fits-and-starting this story on and off for past year. I look forward to some structure and some cheering. I plan to use 5:15-5:46am – we’ll see if that pans out…. – Emily

    Comment by hoofnhorn | December 11, 2012 | Reply

    • Great, Emily. Nothing like those early morning hours while the world still sleeps to get some writing done. Great to have you with us!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 11, 2012 | Reply

  17. Count me in! I had wanted to do NaNoWrMo for years but didn’t sign up until this year. I was only into my second week when my computer quit and I hadn’t saved one full day’s work so lost it It took me another week to get it started again. So, I failed at my first attempt, tho I did get nine chapters finished that weren’t lost. I kept wishing it was in January rather than November as Nov. and Dec. seem to be my busiest months of the year and I try to stay home more in Jan. when the days are so short and the weather so cold.
    I was thrilled to find this challenge. Now my next question is, how will I find your tips or notes of encouragment along the way (if you send those). I never found anything from NaNo until the last week, when my Writer’s Digest website had some of their work posted, so I printed out for the entire month, just didn’t have anything day by day.
    I’m retired so older and find technology much more difficult to master. Thanks for this offer. It’s a great idea. You sound like a highly intelligent and motivated young lady. I have a young Russian friend, from Vladimir, who now lives in Taiwan. I love her dearly. She has visited me in America twice but I haven’t been able to visit her at either country. I traveled for years, several times abroad, but health problems don’t allow it anymore.

    Comment by Barbara | December 13, 2012 | Reply

    • Dear Barbaba,
      Thank you so much for joining in my challenge, and for your nice words. I am so sorry to hear you lost so much of your work! Then again, most of the stuff we produce during NaNoWriMo isn’t exactly priceless, gleaming prose 😉 so hopefully, it was no big loss. Most importantly, you sound like someone who won’t let obstacles get in her way. That’s the stuff success is made of.

      To answer your question, the best way to not miss any tips/posts/info on the challenge during January is to simply subscribe to this blog, so you can receive every update by email. The button to subscribe is on the right side!

      Thanks again!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 13, 2012 | Reply

  18. I am in. I found this on Kristi’s Writers First Aid. I love this idea. I am a student at ICL and have wanted to write for many, many years. I now this will be a kick- start for me. Thank you.

    Comment by Mary Morrison | December 24, 2012 | Reply

    • Oop’s, editiing already. I know this will be a kick-start for me. lol

      Comment by Mary Morrison | December 24, 2012 | Reply

      • Mary, sorry for the late response, but welcome. I hope this proves to be just the kick-start you need!

        Comment by Katia Raina | December 24, 2012

      • Thank you. I am sure that it will be.

        Comment by Mary Morrison | December 25, 2012

  19. Hi Katia,

    First of all, thank you SO MUCH for writing this entry, for inspiring people, and for caring ❤ I am totally in! I declare it officially 🙂

    My dream has always been to write stories that can change the world for the better. Well, the idea is to alter people's perspectives about the world, which often actually does lead to the changing of a world or worlds. (I don't necessarily mean the entire Earth and its population of some-odd-billion people, but A world, as in a society, or something like that).

    Anyway. To do that, I first have to finish something. Like, say, a story. Not a short five-pager, but a meatier one. I need to finish my first novel. Even if it's terrible, because I'll just use it as a stepping stone, right? So that's what I'll work on for the 31 Challenge 🙂


    Comment by sarahcyh | December 25, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks Sarah! Yes, I’d say finishing a novel — terrible or not — is a great start. Of course you can’t expect to actually finish one by the end of January if you work NO MORE THAN 31 minutes a day, but it’s a great goal to be working toward, and even in these small increments it’s amazing how far you can get if you stay consistent. And this month, I’m here to cheer you on!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 25, 2012 | Reply

  20. Count me in. Although I have been writing for years, lately I have been having trouble getting myself going because of dealing with migraines. I have been planning on getting a fresh start on the first of the year and this will help me a great deal.

    Comment by Beverly Rearick | December 30, 2012 | Reply

    • Whoo-hoo! I know about migraines, Beverly, so I hear ya. Welcome to a great way to start the year!

      Comment by Katia Raina | December 30, 2012 | Reply

  21. Katia, I’m in, too! What a great suggestion and so timely! As I was walking my dog tonight and thinking about my writing, one word bubbled up in my head: “action!” I want to be much more consistent about my writing time so I can feel productive and start sending pieces out. And like you mentioned, give myself small, reasonable goals to achieve. Thirty-one minutes will be my ticket! Thank you!

    Comment by Maureen C. | January 2, 2013 | Reply

    • You’re heartily welcome, Maureen C. I replied to your email, too! 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | January 2, 2013 | Reply

  22. Thanks for this post. I read it in early December and though I didn’t want to officially commit to 31 minutes a day, the idea stuck. So instead of watching pointless tv after getting home from work the past four evenings, I’ve fired up my computer and continued working on a revision of a book I wrote in a burst of energy the summer before last.

    Comment by Jenla | January 5, 2013 | Reply

    • Jenla, thanks for telling me that. That is just so seriously gratifying to hear. Good luck with your revision!

      Comment by Katia Raina | January 5, 2013 | Reply

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