Posts Tagged ‘focus’

More Than Words On A Page: My NaNoWriMo Experience

11/12/2018

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It was the last week in November and there I was… Hovering somewhere at about 49,100 words. Just 900 words left and soon I would achieve the unthinkable. I was about to “win” NaNoWriMo. For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo (the shortened way of saying ‘National Novel Writing Month’) is an annual challenge where writers around the world dedicate the month of November to working on a novel and reaching a 50,000-word count. For years, I stood looking over the fence at all of these dedicated writers and always thought, “One year I’ll do that…” Finally, after years of lurking, not only did I find myself in the company of these dedicated writers, I was also one of the those who celebrated when my word count crossed over 50K words.

I think one key factor in reaching that goal was my ability to let go of perfection and my inner critic. I let go the idea of doing this whole thing “right” which makes sense since there’s really no right way to write – you only need to sit down and just write. I approached this month of writing with a goal of simply allowing myself to enjoy the writing and creative process, something that I’m practicing more in general. Along with returning to the pure joy of the creative process, I discovered a few other other benefits of participating in NaNoWriMo beyond getting words on the page:

  • I learned how to stop worrying and love the writing process. As a result of letting go of perfection, I also found myself detaching from any other perceived outcomes such as getting published. A few people asked me about this to which I answered with what I’ve already said here. In removing such pressure, I gave myself space and permission to enjoy a creative activity while learning a thing or two about the writing process, like that it can be fun. Who knew?
  • Yours in the struggle. I had a college professor who used to sign off his emails with ‘Yours in the Struggle.’ I thought of him and that signature as I connected with other writers who were right there with me. These “wrimos” who encouraged me to keep pushing forward, one word at a time, really exemplified the spirit of community. As an example, I spent quite a bit of time with @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter where a Sprint Leader would provide writing prompts and we would “sprint” (that is, just write however much you can in a specified timeframe – a fantastic way to run past that pesky inner editor). There was more than one occasion where I thought, “I’ll just pop in for a half hour of sprinting” then several hours later I’d still be exchanging virtual high fives and words of encouragement to other writers. When you’re trying to write, having a little company feels good and this month reminded me of that.
  • Learning to focus on one idea at a time. As someone who can become easily fascinated by new subjects, hobbies, or ideas, I often find myself dreaming up new projects and exploring new interests, which isn’t a terrible trait but it can also be a challenge to manage! Committing to the one story allowed me to really hone in and focus my energy on this one project. Not to say other ideas didn’t still pop up during the month, but I found that taking note of these thoughts would not only help me remember and at the same time, felt like a practice in mindfulness.
  • Speaking of mindfulness… Now that NaNoWriMo is over and I’ve put away my novel for a short break, I find myself continuing to wonder about my main character, her friends, family, and the story itself. Each day, I’m keeping all of my senses alert and open to any detail that might become a thread, however small, in the story that I am trying to create. Sounds a bit like mindfulness, don’t you think?
  • Writing became a habit. I’ve always wanted to be able to call myself a writer but up until this year, I’ve had a hard time doing so. I couldn’t truthfully call myself a writer if I didn’t write often, much less every day. But this month supported me in fostering a habit and need to write. If I don’t at least write a few pages each day – whether professionally or personally – I start to feel itchy.

If you ever dreamt of writing a book or simply need a boost or support to get you started, I do recommend joining the NaNoWriMo community. Visit www.nanowrimo.org to learn more and get inspired! Perhaps even tap me as a writing buddy if you decide to craft your own story in 2019…

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Performing goal maintenance

30/05/2012

Here we are. Standing on June’s doorstep. The midpoint of the year when we all start (or continue) to wonder where the year has escaped to. Recently I’ve been reflecting on the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the year. While I’m going well with some of these intentions, like maintaining a steady yoga and meditation practice, and carving out more time for journal writing, there are other goals that I have not progressed as far with. This is due in part to external factors but it is fair to say that the drive and fired up attitude I possessed in January has slowly faded.

I don’t think this is an uncommon issue for many people. However, how many of us actually take the time to reflect on and evaluate the progress we have made on goals? For some, it might be easy enough to resign to the lost motivation. But if you’re like me, you have a hard time throwing in the towel, especially when deep down you know that you have not yet used all of your effort or resources. Now is the perfect opportunity to perform a little maintenance. Whilst I am certainly not a self-help guru I have put together a few ways that can help reignite the passion and drive:

1) Reading past journal entries: Returning to the pages that were penned during a time when you felt particularly inspired and motivated can be a great boost in reminding yourself that you indeed possess drive and are well capable of getting back on track. Don’t write in a journal? Start one! If anything, just use it to jot down your key goals and actions. Record your progress.

2) Enlisting your partner / friends / significant people in your life to do the same: I firmly believe we feed on the attitudes and actions of those that surround us. If you notice that your spouse or friend has lost a bit of passion in working toward their goals, have a chat with them and see if you can get back on track together.

3) Celebrate your achievements, big or small: This is important. On the road to success, you need to celebrate any achievements made along the way. Each one of these milestones are a stepping stone to the bigger vision, so celebrate.

4) Be compassionate: Just because you have set yourself a goal, actions and a time frame doesn’t mean it will happen exactly the way you had imagined. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes goals needs to be adjusted to become attainable. No matter what happens, it is the journey and if you fall a little short, show yourself a bit of compassion.

As stated before, I am not any kind of specialist in this area. I’m a regular person who is striving for a fulfilling life, doing what I love. For further reading, there are resources abound on this topic. One book I recommend is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Not so much about goal setting but is a very easy, practical read that will help you think about how you approach life, which I believe is the foundation for anybody who is chasing their dreams. The second book, a bit more applicable to this topic, is The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick. In this book Hardwick describes his own experiences when he lost direction and how he managed to turn it around by redirecting the focus he once devoted to beating video game villains into something much more meaningful. The redirected focus turned into an empire including a highly rated comedy podcast, YouTube channel, blog and television show on BBC.

All of us have experienced feeling unsure, lost and uninspired. It is also quite likely this uncertainty will resurface several times throughout our lives. This is only natural but the key is to ensure those feelings don’t end up trumping your dreams.