Happy Monday and Happy December! This morning felt like the beginning of the month to me. I guess starting a new month on a Friday just didn’t sit right. Anyway, I sat down and wrote out my December goals, which felt quite refreshing after what seemed like a writing marathon November.
Last month I participated in a writing challenge called NaNoWriMo. That stands for National Novel Writing Month and is the brainchild of a non-profit organization also called NaNoWriMo (duh) and has been around for about 25 years now. The challenge is to write 50K words of a novel in the month of November. Special shoutout to friend, follower and fellow writer, Tess, who introduced me to this idea.
If you’ve followed me for at least a few months, you know my writing project is not a novel. My book is a non-fiction book exploring the connections between happiness and goals. But lucky for me, all genres are welcome in the challenge. So, I threw my name in the hat and got ready to write.
It was an interesting month to say the least. I wrote a lot, thought a lot, read a lot and learned a lot. Below are my top three takeaways from the month. They are valuable lessons I’m carrying forward with me and I hope at least one of them speaks to you as well.
1. Don’t overthink it.
This is often a big one for me because I tend to get bogged down in details that are nice to know, but not necessary to keep me moving forward. Perfect example of this was a brief moment of panic when someone asked me what the outline for my book looked like. I didn’t have an outline. Did I need an outline? Maybe I should have already had an outline! Maybe I should make one now! Nope. Full stop. I do not need to have a book completed by the end of the month. All I need is 50 thousand words. An average of 1,667 per day. Everything else can wait. I firmly believe if I would have allowed myself to get carried away with overthinking this challenge, I would not have completed it.
2. Perfection is overrated.
I spent most of my life caring more about never making mistakes than I did about making progress. This month allowed me to let go of that for the simple reason. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” My 50K words could be perfect or they could be done. I chose done, with no regrets. There were days when this was very trying because I pride myself on my spelling and grammar. But guess what? That’s what the editing process is for – cleaning up all the things I missed when I was in the flow and typing furiously before I lost my train of thought.
Saving and closing that word document seeing the little red squiggly lines, not going back and fixing all of them, reading and rereading until everything was perfect went counter to the person I thought I was up to this point. Love that person, but she’s the same person who wanted to be a writer for 30 years but didn’t write because she was afraid she’d get it wrong.
3. Consistency is king, but it’s not everything.
For the record, I’m a big fan of consistency unless you use it as a big stick to beat yourself up with. Part of the NaNoWriMo experience was an online dashboard where I logged my word count each day. There were all kinds of charts and graphs with statistics about my progress. And there were badges for hitting certain milestones. On Sunday November 12th, I sat down to write and saw that I hadn’t logged (or written) any words for November 11th. So, although I had gotten my “7 Days in a Row” badge, I wouldn’t be getting a badge for 14 days, 21 days or all 30 days.
For a brief moment I considered writing something and adding the word count to the 11th so I would have a perfect record. Almost immediately I dismissed the idea. It’s just a badge. I didn’t actually write anything that day and that’s OK. Gaming the system to look better (to who?) was absurd. I ended up writing 27 out of 30 days and I’m prouder of sharing that statistic than I would have been sharing that I wrote all 30 days.
The Finish Line
I crossed the 50K word mark on November 30th and logged my word count. I felt accomplished, yet calm, which was surprising. At the beginning of the month, I imagined the excitement of hitting that huge milestone and what that might feel like. But I just felt calm. Good, but calm. And I think that has a lot to do with my subject matter and the lessons I learned along the way.
I enjoyed the process. I didn’t overcomplicate things. I allowed myself to be perfectly imperfect and follow my energy. There were days when I wrote more than 1,667 words and days when I wrote fewer. And it all worked out. As things do when we find happiness in the pursuit.
Betsy is a certified life coach and blogger who helps midlife women find satisfaction where they are now and inspiration to go after their big goals.
To learn more about working with Betsy, click here.