I got an email from social writing platform WattPad celebrating my accomplishment in their recent 1-month writing challenge. “Congratulations! You wrote it!”
They ran an event for the month of August for their 2015 Wattys (their internal awards), using the slogan and hashtag #JustWriteIt. The goal? Write a story within a 30 day period, with at least 10,000 words.
“Just ten thousand,” I thought, “that’s it? NaNoWriMo was fifty thousand words, and I completed that. So ten thousand is nothing. Easy-peasy.”
A little further inspection of the email made it clear no one had actually checked whether I really did write that much.
Which is good…
…because I didn’t.
It was classic “the tortoise and the hare” stuff that brought me down. “So few words! I have all kinds of time. I can take a little break over here… the tortoise will never reach the finish line.” Days pass, then weeks. Then I see my word count isn’t where it needs to be, but busy schedules and competing priorities get in the way.
“I have maybe one day left… if I sit down tomorrow and pound out the last 3,000 words, I could finish the 10K.”
But it’s a 30 day challenge, not a one month challenge… so what started on August 15th ended September 13th, not the 15th.
The email arrived at 11:55 PM. The celebratory tone poured a little salt in the wound on my pride, and reminded me of the simple truth about writing or any other hobby we claim to take seriously.
They don’t just talk about writing, or talk about what they wrote in the past. They don’t just read about how to write better, or collect supplies and gimmicks and tips on cool, inspirational writing locations.
Being a writer involves intentional effort, effort that I failed to make.
So, what now?
Well, I’m enjoying the Echoes story I started, and plan to continue it. It’s a nice side project if I want something I can break into smaller chunks (compared to working on a novel).
And NaNoWriMo prep is in full-swing, with a little over a month before the kick-off. I’m going to be a Municipal Liaison this year, so I’m going to be encouraging others to accomplish the challenge while trying to complete my own.
I managed to finish last time, and sure enough, it was all because of disciplined effort instead of any supposed skill.
It took writing during almost every free moment. Beating a 1666 word goal each day before letting my hobbies distract me. Putting aside things I really enjoyed to focus on what I said I wanted. Avoiding the inclination to take a breather if some hard work over the weekend got me a bit ahead of the daily goal.
For example, my wife started playing the new expansion to World of Warcraft when it came out in the middle of the month. I listened with eagerness to her descriptions of all the added features… then I kept typing the next scene in my book.
I finished the 50K a couple days early and finished the first draft of the book just before the end of the month.
People balk at the idea of writing a book in a month. They hear the number of words and wonder if it’s possible. It’s both challenging and easy, in a way. You just sit down and write. Then keep writing. Then write some more. Then do it again the next day.
We make time for what’s truly important to us. We make excuses when it doesn’t matter enough. And when we know something is easy, we may fail to put in the effort.
It’s harsh, but it’s more true than the email celebrating my success.
After writing about hopes and dreams and possibilities, it strikes me that I don’t want a lingering memory of “what if I had?”
I want to look back with pride and joy, saying, “That’s what I did.”