It’s early. Before 7 and I’m the only one awake. The snow is coming down, trampling the earth in its splendor. There’s something magical about the first snowfall of the year isn’t there? I turned on all my Christmas lights so there’s that soft glow reflecting, making me thankful for my home and family.
It’s been a little while since I posted while I was busy checking off another Bucket List Item, by participating in NaNoWriMo, which stands for the National November Writing Month. The idea behind this program is to provide a support system while you crank out 50,000 words of a new novel in thirty days. I wanted to participate last year but I had just had that knee surgery and so it didn’t happen. This year I was determined to make it to the finish line. I had to prove it to myself that I could do it. Writing that fast is a totally different beast than what I’ve done before. It’s 1667 words a day if you write seven days a week. As I anticipated, there were some days though the month that I didn’t get to write, so I had to double up on other days. I tried to shoot for 2000 words a day. There was a point after I went on a trip that I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish, so I had a writing marathon with my writing group buddies and knocked out 6137 words in a day- my second personal highest! The first highest was 7146, the day before I found out I was pregnant with my little munchkin.
Anyway, what I want to share with you today is my takeaway from this experience, which is this:
In any given situation, there is both a way to make your goal happen and an excuse.
It’s your choice. You have to decide what you want to spend your free time doing. You can apply it to anything- family things, your job, working out, eating healthy, and all your hobbies. There’s that concept from Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, who says if you do anything for 10,000, you will become an expert. It is your prerogative- and your responsibility- to choose wisely.
On the days where it was hard to fit in the 2000 words, I had to decide what I wanted more- to write and hit my goal, or to do something else. It was a little easier with this particular goal because I knew it was for a finite amount of time and then I could do other things again. My husband and I had been finishing up the final season of Breaking Bad and had been watching late at night. But there were many nights last month were I didn’t have my word count finished and it was after 10pm. My poor husband had to wait to see what happened to Walt and Jesse on the most brilliantly crafted series ever, so that I could get my words in. Those of you that have seen the last season of the show will understand the kind of willpower that took.
All kidding aside, I had to get creative and think ahead so I made sure I could fit it in. It made me realize how much you can accomplish in 24 hours if you’re driven and focused. Some days the writing came really easily, and some days I was struggling to hit 500 words. Another thing I realized is that if I sat there and thought about it long enough, something would come to mind. Take that, writer’s block!
2000 words a day is the pace that Stephen King writes at 6 days a week when he’s crafting a new novel. He wrote one of the best writing books I’ve ever read, called “On Writing,” where he gives you some of his secrets. If you’re a writer of any kind and haven’t read that, pick it up.
I’m proud to say I hit 50K and even though the novel isn’t finished, I’m off to a great start. I had so much fun seeing where the characters would take me. I’m not an outliner when I write- I aspire to be, but I’m totally not. This year I did a Beat Sheet, which is basically a way of plotting out my story, a concept that comes from the brilliant screenwriter, Blake Snyder, in his book “Save the Cat.” So I thought I had a clever enough outline, but then as I was writing, my characters would take off and do things that I didn’t have planned. This is my favorite part of writing- when the characters are so real that they surprise me and take over the storyline. That may sound totally crazy, but I swear it happens! I’ll be writing and then suddenly it’s like I’m retelling a movie I’ve already seen, instead of making up the story. I remember one time in particular where a character did something totally unplanned and after I wrote it I sat there thinking…. I need to decide if I’m going to let her do that! And… if you’re wondering, I kept it.
Many schools have adopted the NaNoWriMo program to jumpstart young writers. They give different goals, like 3K or 10K for the students to hit during the month and they they have after school write-a-thons. My step-daughter participated this year and wrote 10,000 words! I’m so proud of her for committing and making it happen. Her novels is so clever and twisty! I love it!
So I’m back in cyberworld and more excited than ever about writing and getting my novelS published. Congrats to all my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers as well! An impressive 310,577 people around the world participated this year!
During this busy holiday season, take a few minutes to think about what’s important to you, what you want to spend your time on. Commit to making your goals happen.
See ya next week!