The writing challenge environment isn’t for everyone. Rough Trade is built on personal accountability—everything about the design of the challenge is focused on providing an environment where authors can stretch and challenge themselves. The basic rules stay the same from one challenge to another while the theme changes to give some variety and inspiration.
Early on, probably around 2012, I made the choice not to police the participants of the challenge. The rules provide structure, but it’s up to the participating authors to determine if they’ve met or failed the challenge. The fact is that a challenge environment like Rough Trade is stressful enough without me sitting on top of it, passing judgment on every single person who signs up for an event. And it would undoubtedly feel like judgment to anyone who got a ding for not meeting the challenge to my personal specifications.
What would that even look like? I can imagine that it would end up destroying the whole thing. The stress of doing that job would make it impossible for me to actually participate as an author which is crucial to me. Rough Trade is where I experiment and stretch myself as a writer. It’s actually pretty fucking inspirational on a regular basis for me, and I’m selfish enough that I don’t want to endanger that.
Recently, I was asked if it was fucked up that I have rules for the challenge that I don’t personally enforce. I said no. The rules and themes are in place to provide structure, and many authors thrive in the environment that Rough Trade creates as a result. Are there those who find it stressful? Of course, and I can’t say that isn’t the point. Not all stress is negative, and some perform best when they’re being pushed.
As I’ve said before, RT isn’t for everyone. It can’t be. Many authors find the idea of posting a rough draft in a timed challenge to be an absolute nightmare. The fact is that some writers cannot function in any sort of challenge environment, and they might not even know it until they actually try.
Rough Trade is a writer-centric site, but that doesn’t mean it can or should be a free-for-all. If you want to write (and post) without structure and rules, there are plenty of places you can do that.