In the Spirit of NaNoWriMo

Every year, the National Novel Writing Month takes place in November. For those of you who have never heard of this contest before, let me introduce you to the basics:

  • write a novel or part of a novel of 50,000 words
  • write these 50,000 words within the course of 31 days
  • Quantity v.s. Quality = QUANTITY WINS!

Sounds pretty crazy, I know. And impossible. But guess what? After 3 years of attempting to reach this crazy, impossible goal, I finally won NaNoWriMo during November 2008. Literally minutes before the deadline. I am living proof that writing a novel of 50,000 words in one month is, in fact, possible.

And I’m not the only one. There are several people (see http://www.nanowrimo.org/) who have successfully written novels by surviving through this contest and have gone even farther to publishing their NaNo novels and becoming real authors.

I’m not here to persuade you to participate in NaNoWriMo. (Not yet.) It’s way too early for that…it’s only February, after all! But last night my father found my NaNoWriMo novel on Amazon.com and bought a copy. That sparked my idea for this blog entry. Let me introduce you to my NaNoWriMo 2008 Winner Novel:
Click to Buy “Sophie” and Read More!

When I saw my own book up for sale on Amazon.com, it really made me feel nostalgic as I thought about the entire process that it had taken me to complete it. All 124 pages of it. The click clack of my keyboard as I fervishly wrote all I could day in and day out during November, that drunken feeling of staying up sinfully late at night as I try to squeeze in just 1,000 more words, the crunch, crunch of Chewy granola bars, the only thing that was capable of keeping me going hour after hour of writing nonstop.

The addicting swell of my chest and the swift pumping of my heart as I closed yet another finished chapter of my slowly-progressing novel. The priceless exhilaration that I felt as I finally validated my online NaNoWriMo word count so that it read 50,000 and watched the words flash before my eyes: Congratulations! You won NaNoWriMo 2008! on my computer screen. Thinking, “I did it! I wrote a 50,000-word novel in one month! I DID IT!!”

You get the point. It was awesome. There’s something about the feeling of accomplishment that makes us feel like we’re on top of the world. It makes our pride and self-esteem go up about 120% and we go smiling for days on end. It’s an emotion we don’t often get to experience because either we are too busy to accomplish something that big and bad, we don’t think about accomplishing something that big and bad, or we’re scared.

Reasons Those Excuses Suck:

1) Busy. You have that huge biology mid-term coming up, two weekly baby-sitting jobs, sixty pages of history to read every week, and weekly calculus quizzes. You have two babies to tend to, your position as Vice President of the local Parents-Teachers Association to maintain, and a job that your family is depended on for food and shelter. However busy and burdened you may be, there is a time when you need to STOP and just rest. Take a few moments to admire that red cardinal singing harmoniously outside; it’s never too late to appreciate life’s little things, the things that make it beautiful and worth living. Then, finally, squeeze some time right before bed or while you drinking your morning coffee (or when your babies just happen to be snoozing for their afternoon naps) to outline some realistic dreams you have. Choose the one you want to achieve the most and make a plan to spend a little time each day towards that dream. Being so busy, you’ll WANT something to help you get away from life’s little chores. It’ll make you happy. =)

2) Routine Thinking. For many people, each day is a routine. You wake up, go to work or school, come home and do homework or outline your next work project, eat a snack, play Spider Solitaire, make and eat dinner, go to bed. In between one of those activities, stop and think about what would really make you happy. What is it that you would love to accomplish and would make you feel successful and like you’re living in the moment? Whether it be creating a beautiful painting for your mother’s birthday, mapping out your dream home (I did that a few weeks ago and it made me really excited and truly stretched my imagination), or writing a 50-000 word novel, choose a goal and stick to it using a plan. You’ll be surprised by how amazing you feel once you actually complete it. And it’s a great way to open your mind to new possibilities of how to break from your calendar routine and, instead, make life interesting and truly enjoyable.

3) Fear. In worst case scenario, you don’t accomplish your goal. Is that what you’re afraid of? Failure? Pshh. Well, actually…I have a confession to make. That’s my fear too. Fortunately, there is a saying that’s very true: “I try 99 times, and the 100th time I succeed.” That definitely hit the money when it came to NaNoWriMo; losing that contest 3 times was awful, but I built up the courage to try again each year, and I finally won the 4th time. Another great quote that I absolutely live by is: “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.” It’s true. Throughout NaNoWriMo 2008, all I kept thinking to myself was…You are your only enemy in this one. And it’s the same thing with you. The only person stopping you from accomplishing your goal is you. You are the only one who can control your own actions, thoughts, and decisions. And even if you totally blow it the first time, that failure is all the greater reason and motivation for trying again. And again. Each time you fail, you build up another degree of happiness that you receive when you do finally succeed.

Accomplishment is bliss. It’s like our happy drug, only it doesn’t kill you (usually). NaNoWriMo is my drug. What’s yours?

~TRA

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