So apparently November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, which comes across as something that Mork of Ork would use as the punch line for one of his jokes on Mork & Mindy. The idea is that from November 1 – 30 you write like a banshee in heat and . . . okay sorry about that, bad analogy, in fact it brings up a whole slew of questions that I really don’t even want to attempt to try to answer. The goal is to write a novel during the month of November, well, 50,000 words of a story anyway, and apparently this thing has been around since 1999.

I happened to first hear about NaNoWriMo a week before November 1 of this year, and regardless of the who, what, why, when, or where, I took the plunge and devoted this month to writing a novel. I even managed to get a Smirk or two out in the process; of course it also attributed me to miss a Smirk or two in the process as well. But as of 1:15PM (with 15 minutes left in my lunch hour to spare) I hit the 50,000 word mark, thus winning the self-satisfying goal of writing a novel during the month of November . . . without actually finishing the book. On a plus note I’m right near the climax of the story, so that, and the fact that I have no outline, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

The whole experience did get me thinking about goals though, and how simply rearranging how we choose to identify with that goal can make it attainable when you would otherwise swear it isn’t. When I first thought of writing a book in a month, I’ll admit, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I can do that.” Being that it was my first year, there was a certain amount of novice optimism on my part, which pushed me to start off like a super star, almost doubling the recommended word goal for the first day. (To hit 50,000 words I needed to write 1,667 words every day.) With that much of a lead I did something I knew I could get away with on day two, I slacked. Getting a whopping 200 words from two paragraphs written up, leaving me well behind my goal overall and for the day.

As the month progressed I discovered that there was a little something I had overlooked that might not be a willing to comply with my goal as I had planned. That something was family, friends, work, in short, life in general. Still I had my goal and I was committed to reaching it, which meant that on more than one occasion I stayed up until 5 or 6 AM on a weekend writing to catch up so that I could reach my goal.

In the end, there were a few things that I learned from the process, things that I’d like to pass one to anyone willing to read them.

  • First, when you set a goal give it a deadline. If it is a bigger goal, break it up in steps that you can assign week or month long deadlines to.
  • Get local support. Let those around you know about it. If you have a significant other, let them know about it from the very beginning. That way when they come into your office wanting to watch three hours’ worth of White Collar on Netflix they are much more understanding when you tell them you can’t.
  • Act, it’s that simple. A goal is something you work towards, you must act otherwise your goal is nothing more than an idea.
  • Don’t forget the people around you. Make time to connect with the people in your home and life. They are much more supportive if you take a break and watch one episode, or skip and entire day of writing to cook and enjoy and amazing day with your family. It also can recharge you, if you have days that nothing seems to go right.
  • Remember the goal and don’t get caught up in the idea of the goal. Fortunately, the goal was to write 50,000 words, which in my case equated to 158 pages. What I realized is that the words were the goal, not the novel. While a novel may seem like a large daunting task, words are small little things that we use every day, all day long. Words are the things that make up any and every novel. Focusing on the small pieces that make up the whole is how I met my personal goal and won the NaNoWriMo challenge for 2011.
  • Celebrate when you are done. When you meet your deadline and complete your goal, celebrate your accomplishment. You did what you said you were going to do and you deserve to acknowledge you achievement. Embrace that you succeeded. (Which is exactly what I’m going to be doing tonight!)

The accomplished does feel great, but the getting there was truly the best part. That is where our stories come from . . . and ultimately where, who we are today, come from. And, even though I may have failed to mention to all of you that I was going to be in the trawls of creative literary abandonment, I just wanted to say thanks for sticking around while I wrote like a banshee in heat (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Also, yes, I’ll be sure to let you all know when this new novel is finished.

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And Google Images, keywords: writing, and a world of thanks.

© Richard Timothy 2011