And just like that, welcome to the final month of 2017.
You know those months where you count down the days, square by square on that calendar, until it’s over? Well that was me with the month of November, but not because of how much I love the Christmas season (though I really do).
You see, November is what a lot of people know to be National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s an idea, one that started with just a few people and now reaches worldwide to creative writers up for the task: write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Does that sound daunting to you? Because it did to me.
These past few months have had a whole lot going on, from my work life and my personal life to my educational life and my sleep life. Trust me, these are all different things— I’ve gotten good at procrastinating on each and every one of them.
This month, I needed something good, even if it was just in one aspect of my life I could control. So I made a commitment to the one thing I care about solely for myself and unfortunately, the one thing I’ve a hard time finding my voice in for a while now.
On November 1st, I set a bookmark in the novel I’ve been working on since January of last year and I wrote below it “Start here.”
Single word by single word, I did my best to keep up with that challenge every day. But I’m sure we all know, commitments can be hard to keep.
By day 5 I was supposed to be at 8,333 words, by day 10, 16,667. Both times, I was stuck on 5,568— I couldn’t find the energy, the motivation, to do what I wanted to do. Everyday I watched that number get farther and farther away from me, like sand through my fingers— there was no way to stop it.
Days went on, passing over the keyboard while my fingers neglected to, and before I knew it, Thanksgiving break was here; I was at 25,000 when I needed to be at 35,000.
I wanted to give up, to forget the goal of reaching what I wanted and accept that maybe I wasn’t cut out for a commitment like that. It was too hard to keep up.
Yet there was this voice in my head, not the nagging insecure one telling me to let it go already, but the one that always keeps me going. It told me to try just a little bit harder. For as I’ve quoted before, not only regarding writing but everything it means to be human:
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
So I didn’t give up.
I spent the entirety of that break hoping to see friends, do some homework, spend time with family, and try to catch up with the word count. Yet by Friday, I still had 10,000 words to go to be on track. It was now or never.
Picture this, Nick and I are driving back to SLO on Saturday morning with a friend and once Nick and I switched off driving, I started writing. Then… I fell asleep. I woke up here in San Luis Obispo, still 9,532 words behind that goal.
So I wrote and I wrote until the day was done, unlike my homework, finally down to 4,658 to catch up (add another 1,666 for the next day to get me to 41,667).
The goal seemed so far away, I was tired of constantly running behind that line. But I was catching up, slowly. So I decided it was my job to make it happen.
On Sunday, I got up and went straight to my computer. I was ready to knock that line out. First I hit 37,000; then 39,000; there was no way I could stop there. After a club meeting and a food break, I returned for the home stretch. Finally I hit 41,693 words on day 25— I caught up.
Over the past week of being back, during prep-week before finals and the last days of class, I kept up with that line, always staying ahead, until yesterday. For yesterday, I hit 50,494 words at 11:36pm.
I made it to 50,000 with 24 minutes to spare.
It was an incredible feeling to hit that number— I had managed to double my word count and get so much closer to finishing my book, all in 30 days. Because I committed to it.
Despite how many times I wanted to quit or how hard it was to keep up, I still made it.
So as we head into this last month of the year, I want you to think about everything I just told you; it’s not about how close you are to where you want to be, its whether or not you keep trying anyway.
This year has been hard, for everyone that I know, it’s been a long time coming. But today is another day and we made it; congratulations, because no matter what, you are still going. Be proud of yourself for that. In this holiday season, among the job stress or finals weeks, remember that it’s okay to want to quit, to want to open your hands and let the sand slip through. As long as you hold on to the people by your side and your own reasons to keep going, all I ask is you try for just a little bit longer.
Soon enough, the tide will turn for you.