Tall Guy short stories

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Lessons from NaNoWriMo 2018

What NaNoWriMo 2018 has taught me about myself.

The first lesson I’ve learned up front is that sometimes goals seem easier to accomplish than they are.

You know the ones that I’m talking about. You might not call them goals,  do New Year’s Resolutions ring a bell? How about losing weight, or quitting smoking? What about changing a part of who you are as a person?

All these are those goals that we think are little, when in fact they are monumental. Any time you want to change something that is a part of your core, aka who you are, you’re asking a lot of yourself. This isn’t something you can do over the weekend like shopping for clothes or getting a makeover. While getting a makeover is great fun, it’s only temporary because it only changes the outside appearance. A true makeover is one that changes your core for the better.

NaNoWriMo is the hardest writing challenge I’ve ever done. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it begins on November 1st and goes through the month with the goal of writing a novel in that time frame. Easy, right? That’s what I thought. But the reality is that when you have a daily goal to hit of 1,667 words, that’s a lot of story to come up with every day.

The same can be applied to our lives. What have you committed to in the past that requires your full attention every day? More than likely, you’ll say weight loss. I’ve been on that boat before and it is hard. I’m going to tell you how I lost my weight, but know that it was a tough road of diligence, consistency, and self-control.

The piece of advice that I will leave you with is this; whether you’re trying to lose weight, write a novel, or change your life, do it in steps and stages. I begin all my stories with the beginning and work through the middle, and finally progress to the end. If you are losing weight, don’t use a scale to measure yourself, use a tape measure. More times than not, the first bit of weight to leave will be water weight. That’s the simple stuff. That is like the first week of NaNoWriMo, the simple stuff. Make a beginning to your story, create some characters and throw in some action. Anyone can do that. The second week is where it gets tough. Now what do you do with those characters, plot, and action? What are you trying to achieve?

Oh, and let’s throw in some doubt while we’re at it and call this the second lesson. Doubt is something that can breed in any environment. Whether you’re quitting smoking, writing a book, or just trying to survive in your situation, doubt will creep in and set up camp without you even knowing it.

So what does that look like?

Doubt is sometimes hard to spot. It takes on the form of questions, generally. If you are asking yourself, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’, ‘What did I get myself into?’, ‘There’s no way I can do this.’ Those are the words of doubt and you need to point the pistol of self-confidence at it and pull the trigger. Why did you want to change or achieve the goal in the first place? That is the ammunition in your gun. You want something to change, now it is up to you to see it through.

Is it hard? Yes! Yes, it is. Trying writing 50,000 words in thirty days hard. But I can’t write them all in one day, that is impossible. Why? Because even if I did write 50,000 words on the first day, they probably wouldn’t make sense and therefore be a waste of time. That is the same with making life changes. You need to make changes to your life that make sense so that you will stick with them. What good does it do to have 50,000 words that make no sense? No one will want to read them!

Another lesson I’ve learned is consistency. Man, this one will kick you in the butt if you don’t do it. Let me throw some numbers at you, but don’t freak out, there’s not a test later.

For the month, 1,667 is my daily word goal, achievable. But, let’s say I have a bad day -which I’ve had several- and miss my counts. Let’s say that day 1, I write only half my words, 833. Now for day 2, I need to write 2,500 to get caught up. I’m having to do 1.5X the effort to get the same result. This is where consistency plays its cards.

Consistency has always been one of my biggest weaknesses. I don’t do things the same twice, which means that having a writing schedule setup to achieve my writing goals doesn’t exist. I get the words when I can and this has led to me getting behind for over half the month. However, I did get caught back up and learned my lesson and now I will try to get a few extra words in a day to add up over time.

This is something that can be applied to finances. Man, I just dropped the F-Bomb. Finances is one of those things in life that can destroy you and yet we play with it like it’s a harmless kitten. But even kittens have razor sharp claws of I’m-not-letting-go-of-you. Your finances are something that can work for, or against you. Just like being consistent with my word counts this month has been. I got behind in my payment of words and the debt keeps stacking up as I struggle to catch up. It is the equivalent to swimming in water over you head. There are things in the financial world that can act as a life preserve, but how uncool is it to wear a life-jacket in the pool when you look so good in your bikini? You’re there to have a good time, not worry about drowning.

How many children drown in pools?

How many adults act as children with their finances and drown in debt?

Learn to swim and keep your head above water.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve come across is that not everyone knows about your struggles. I am so fortunate to have a loving, compassionate wife that allows me the freedom to pursue my love of writing. She has been my support since day 1. She knew that this would be a daunting task to accomplish, yet she has been there through it all and I couldn’t be more blessed.

You have to take care of yourself mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I can’t stress this enough. If you are unhealthy in your mental state, it will affect your relationships with friends and family. If you are emotionally unstable, it will show and people will suggest getting some meds that tend to do more harm than good. Likewise, your spiritual state also important. I could spend an entire article telling you just some of the things God has done for me. It is impossible for me to achieve this without Him.

If my wife and I didn’t have the concrete relationship we do, this NaNoWriMo challenge would have already ended in failure. But, we don’t let challenges go by without a fight. We support one another in what we do. I give her pep-talks and advice with her visual arts. And frankly, I feel terrible afterwards because it seems to me that I’m being really harsh with the truth. But the truth is what spurs her on to push through the muck and mire of her hurdles. She has challenges and goals that she is doing as well, you just don’t see them.

This is what goes hand-in-hand with staying healthy. No one else sees the challenges you are going through. It’s just like fasting. No one knows your doing it unless you are shouting about it in the streets, and even then it has become useless to you because you no longer are benefiting from it the way God would have you.

Your struggles are real, tangible things. Doubt, worry, and stress all carry real weight with them that will weigh you down over time. Drop them off. You don’t need them anyway.

I want to encourage you to take care of yourself. You are the only one there is in the world and even if you have a twin, they are still a different person with their own wants and needs. I hope that you’ve gotten something out of this article. I’ve been wanting to write it for several days now, but I’ve been focusing of getting caught up on my word counts, so I put my focus to that.

As always, I want to thank you for reading. It means a lot to me. I don’t speak a lot in person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts and feelings, I’m just different.

This has been a glimpse into the real me. Thanks for being here.

*By the way, this post was only 1,546 words long, still not enough to hit the quota for NaNoWriMo, but that is something I’ll tackle today. See ya next time.

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