And it applies to everything in life
In the past, I was too intimidated to try National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) because writing 50,000 words in 30 days seemed like an insane idea. I just didn’t think I could do it. Then this year, I organically started writing a nonfiction book, and after being inspired by my 13-year-old nephew, I set my goal to finish the first draft by the end of November.
I didn’t make this decision until mid-month, though. I set a rigorous schedule to make the deadline, and I stuck with it. Each day, I sat down to write for NaNoWriMo, looked at my existing word count, and calculated how many words I’d have to write to reach my goal by the end of the month. The weekend before Thanksgiving, I buckled down and finished early!
In the moment that I’d typed the 50,042nd word and completed my draft, I had essentially fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing a book. I mean, it technically wasn’t an actual book at that point since it needed massive amounts of editing and reorganizing. It was simply a book-length document, but it was bookish — and more than I’d ever accomplished before.
Despite that glamor of fulfilling my dream, I felt a mix of emotions. What stuck with me, though, was that the process itself taught me a life-changing lesson about accomplishing any kind of goal:
I’ve probably heard this advice a million times, but it never registered before NaNoWriMo even though it makes sense. If you’re training for a marathon, trying to lose weight, building a business, or whatever else, you have to do it little by little, but you won’t necessarily see benefits of eating well or networking for your business right away. If you go for a jog or choose healthy food, you won’t necessarily see a lower number on the scale tomorrow.
But when you’re trying to reach a word count, you see the fruits of your labor immediately. Every word counts, and those pages get literally filled up. Experiencing the tangible, measurable results of NaNoWriMo has changed the way I see everything I want to accomplish.
And sure, NaNoWriMo is about the first draft and doesn’t include editing or anything like that, so the rest of the work is yet to come. But some may argue that the hardest part — getting started and finishing the story — is done. Now all that’s left is editing, reorganizing, and maybe some rewriting, but that’s ok.
Because NaNoWriMo helped me experience for myself how daily effort develops into the final result — which is fully applicable to the rest of the process for the book. And most every goal in life.
I used to want to rush to the finish line for everything. I wanted to just know how to speak Japanese; I wanted to be out of debt; I wanted to just be healthy; I wanted to be done with the book already. I still want all of these things, but NaNoWriMo helped me realize that the process itself is something to be celebrated as both effective and possibly just as enjoyable as the end result. In fact, NaNoWriMo legit changed my life.
This process also helped me realize how much I was short-changing myself by focusing so much on the end results. I’ve always been much more about setting intentions rather than goals, but writing a book-length work in less than a month helped me discover a whole other layer of how effective and important a daily practice is in achieving goals.
The point is that you have to start somewhere. Take that first step, write that first word. Don’t question whether or not you can.
And don’t stop till you’re done, whatever that means to you.