What do Thomas Edison, Sir Edmund Hillary, and I have in common?
Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. Sir Edmund Hillary climbed to the top of Mount Everest. I, Talitha Lynn, wrote a novel in one month. We each defeated the impossible.
History books will not contain my name, and I’m not the only one to complete it. Nonetheless, my feat—which seemed impossible when I started on November 1st—was accomplished on November 30th. With the help of Jesus, toothpicks to hold my eyes open, and a closet full of junk food, I conquered the impossible! For a brief moment on the last day of November, I shared something else with Thomas Edison and Sir Edmund Hillary…
I shared the feeling of victory.
Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Don’t feel bad, until this year, I’d never heard of it either. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The object is to write a novel (50,000 words) in a month. I’m going to be honest, I’ve been writing for ten years, but up until this point I’m not sure I’ve ever written 50,000 words in a year, much less a month.
Have you ever just felt dull, uninspired? I needed inspiration. I needed to believe in myself. How better than to conquer the impossible, right? Completing NaNoWriMo was hard. I lost a lot of sleep and almost quit more than once, but along the way I discovered four steps I believe makes the impossible possible. While I used these steps to complete NaNoWriMo, they could be used for anything like weight loss, learning a new language, education, battling an illness, even marriage problems.
STEP 1: SET A GOAL
I believe the first step is to ask oneself: What impossible feat do I want to conquer and by what date? With NaNoWriMo I didn’t set the goal, but with most goals you get the opportunity to make your own dreams come true on your timetable. In the past, I have gotten a little too zealous at times, with goals a magician couldn’t have even completed. Truth be told, I’ve also set a few goals I could have completed with a blindfold on walking backwards. Just like the three little bears, your goals have to be just right.
Here’s how I set a goal. First, I pray over my goal and make sure it’s something God wants me to do. Then, I grab a piece of blank paper. At the top I write down my goal, and beside my goal I write down the date of completion. For me, writing down my goal is an act of commitment, but just to be sure I am 100% committed, I say it aloud. In this case, I said: “I will complete NaNoWriMo (say that three times fast) on or before November 30.”
A little corny maybe— but it works. Don’t get me wrong, setting a goal is not as easy as it seems. I believe everyone is different. Your process may not be exactly like mine. The important thing is that you do set a goal, and then commit to the goal.
When I decided to do NaNoWriMo my heart raced, my palms felt damp, I even felt a little sick. Every excuse imaginable popped into my mind, but somewhere deep inside I knew I had to complete the goal. I committed myself to it 100%.
STEP 2: DETERMINE YOUR “WHY”
For me, step two is figuring out why I want to complete the goal. Without a strong “why,” your goal is as good as dead. Your “why” is the gas that will move your goal forward. If I were setting a goal today, I would write a short paragraph on my piece of paper with the reason why I want to complete my goal by the date I’d chosen.
Why NaNoWriMo you ask? I saw people in my Music City Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapter writing three novels a year. I saw their success. Have you ever watched people lap you over and over, when you haven’t even crossed the starting line? At times when I would go to my monthly RWA meeting when I hadn’t even written a single word. To be a writer, you have to write, right? I needed to prove to myself that I am a writer. I needed to feel like a writer again.
STEP 3: BREAK IT INTO BITE-SIZE PIECES
I will never forget a comment I read in a self-help course. It said: “Even an ant could eat a camel if given enough time.” To complete any goal, you have to break it down into bite-size pieces.
Countless times in the past I dreamed a fairy Godmother would wave her wand and my goal would be completed without any work. Have you ever heard the saying: The joy is in the journey? Believe it or not, it’s true. The accomplishment of a goal without the work would feel hollow. If I had a dime for every time I wanted to quit or go to bed during NaNoWriMo, I’d be rich. Yet, the moments I cherish the most from this experience are the hard ones.
Unfortunately for me, step three’s “breaking down the goal into bite-size pieces” requires a little math. Ugh! First I have to figure out how many days I need (or have) to complete my goal, then I divide my goal into little bite-size chunks. With NaNoWriMo I needed 50,000 words in 30 days, so 50,000 divided by 30 is 1,667 words a day. Some days I did more, some days less, but my goal every day in November was to write at least 1,667 words. Bite-size pieces is possibly the greatest key to conquering the impossible!
STEP 4: WHEN YOU GET BEHIND, DON’T QUIT
Without a doubt, life’s going to happen and you are going to get behind. The urge to quit will be strong. The #1 most important thing when working on a goal is not to quit, even if you have to adjust your bite-size pieces. I found myself behind several times during November, but I was determined not to quit. Quitting cannot be an option!
Setting up accountability for yourself can help ensure you won’t quit. How? For me, I needed to tell the whole world. I posted my progress on Facebook every night. People began to notice. Quickly, cheerleaders began to emerge. People would even see me around town and encourage me. I simply could not let my supporters down. (By the way, thank you to every person who encouraged me! You’re the reason I completed NaNoWriMo!) Building in accountability makes all the difference.
Now, I just need to go find a piece of paper, and set my next goal. Stay tuned!
For Your Journal: Put It In Ink…
What goals have you been hiding from? What’s stopping you from starting to conquer them today?
I’d love to hear if this post has inspired you. When you complete your goal, message me and let me know. Or even better, send me a friend request on Facebook so I can follow your progress!