The title of this blog post is ‘Finishing things’ and not ‘Winning Nano’ for a really good reason. I DID win at NaNoWriMo, my first official one ever and I’m over the moon about it of course. The reason I’m personally so excited though – is because I finished.
Traditionally, I’m not so good with that. I start stuff, I’m practically a genius at taking up new things and exploring fresh ideas but I’m really not so good with the whole ‘buckle down’ and ‘stick with stuff’ aspect.
I’m not proud of this by the way. It’s been the source of endless personal frustration over the years and I’m sure it’s driven other people nuts too. I just never thought it was something I could change. Maybe this is just who I was, I thought, a big picture, B-type personality, destined to flit from flower to flower and never follow through.
Then I joined an exercise program in my neighbourhood. Physical exercise – being the bookish geek I am, this is also something I’ve never stuck with over the years, so it was incredibly optimistic of me to join an eight week fitness challenge. In this particular program, there was a high degree of accountability however – weigh-ins every week and sign-ins for every class you attended. Also, the instructors were incredibly supportive and truly believed you could succeed, even when you flat out didn’t. That didn’t mean they coddled us. They always smiled and stayed understanding but they expected you to at least try everything as well as do a little better at every class. It’s kindness with a big dollop of cruel. If you read this article about a guy who invited a Navy Seal to live with his family, you’ll get an idea of the principles we were being taught.
At first I hated it. Seriously, I much rather be on the couch watching Netflix and eating ice cream. Then slowly, every so slowly, I started seeing progress. Hey, I thought, this does seem to be getting a little easier. Look, I completed those 10 sit ups without crumpling into a sobbing heap. I started looking forward to workouts because they made me feel in control and like I had really accomplished something with each one I completed.
It was a light bulb moment for me right there. I suddenly realised what I had been missing.
I don’t even like that word, it hurts my ears but I suddenly realised I had vilified the whole concept of discipline because it’s not something I had ever been introduced to growing up. Why? Because my parents were too busy trying to keep me alive and comfortable to even think about introducing discipline. I came into the world with so many physical deformities: a club foot, scoliosis, a missing piece of jaw bone – that at 2 months old I had my first surgery and had another every year till I was 17. When your kid is constantly in hospital, all you’re thinking about is helping them cope with trauma and keeping them wrapped in cotton-wool as safe and happy as you can make them.
So now decades later, I was having to re-parent myself, teach myself a skill-set that I never been given as a kid because – reasons. So I finished the eight-week program. I stuck with it to the end and I felt fantastic! I was proud of myself, I felt a sense of accomplishment, it gave me confidence. This whole discipline thing, seemed to have some great pay-offs.
It also had a knock-on effect. If I could do something so far out of my comfort zone, like a physical challenge, why not something closer to my heart and mind. So I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Write a novel in a month? Why not! Before I would have thought I was nuts to even try (to be honest, I still did) but now I believed I also stood a chance of finishing. Which I did! I finished.
For a lot of people it might seems basic or arbitrary but that’s the things about challenges, they’re very personal. What is a great accomplishment to some, may be completely ho-hum for others. The trick is to respect your own achievements and try as much as possible not to compare your journey to others. Comparison really is the thief of joy. Yes, I’m a 37-year old wife and mother who is overjoyed at the fact that she completed a no rewards, no-consequences writing challenge. Hey, you know what, I’ll take the win and I’ll be super happy about it.
A huge thank you to everyone, especially the Dragon Writers who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging over the last month. It was a great honour to cross the finish line alongside many of you. We can do anything guys, with a little discipline and determination.