I started November a rosy cheeked optimist, armed with pages and scenes, characters, ideas and a goal. Like thousands of other word nerds, I signed myself up for the National Novel Writing Month Challenge, or in geek parlance, NaNoWriMo.

I figured it couldn’t be that hard. After all, I had my plan, a precise list of scenes with motivation, character and settings all condensed into easy-to-follow bullet points. I had already written and published a book of a length longer than the goal of NaNoWriMo. I mean, how challenging could it possibly be?

Turns out, laying down 50,000 words, in some kind of recognizable order, felt a lot like training for the half marathons I have run.

Some days, I felt strong and lean, thoughts and images pouring from my fingers to the keyboard in seamless symbiosis. Other days, I felt like a plodding toddler learning to walk and not seeing much success.

The point of the month, I think, is to practice discipline as a writer, to see how much we can accomplish when we decide and do. Yet, there were days (or to be more accurate, days after days) when approaching the keyboard filled me with a kind of lazy dread. Those characters were getting on my nerves, or weren’t dimensional enough for me to care about, or I just really was tired of the period in which I had chosen to set this piece. So I didn’t do it.

As the month flipped by like one of those cartoon calendars, the days slipping into oblivion faster and faster, and weekends and football games and birthday parties clamored for attention, it became clear that unless I devoted a full day to writing, I would not finish the mission I had accepted. In much the same way I like to run a full half marathon before the race day, I sat down and pounded out 10,000 words in one Saturday. Sometimes, when I finish long runs, I feel like I could kept running; maybe not another 13.1 miles, but some. That feeling sometimes translates to writing. That Saturday of writing was not one of those days. I wanted to stop at every chance I got. I was happy for the interrupting washing machine urging me to send the wet stuff into the dryer.

Running and writing, for me, have been two activities cut from the same cloth for almost two years now. I wonder if I can do one without the other. Thankfully, I don’t have to find out right now. Both require discipline, decision and action when inaction is preferred. Both are singularly solitary pursuits with no competition other than that which I set for myself. Both have results that usually only I can measure, and I am my harshest critic.

But. I did it. I set a goal and I did it. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. Not by a long shot. In fact, I think running 13.1 miles is far easier. But I finished. There is something so empowering about accomplishing a goal. I felt as if I had climbed the highest mountain, uncovered the secret to lasting world peace and perfected the elusive smokey* eye for which I have beens searching all in one glorious day. Of course, it wasn’t one day. It was page after page, mile after mile, image, idea, scene, footstep heartbeat one after the other.

Now that I’m done with that one, I could rest on my heels for a time, savoring my triumph. Or I could set up another goal and work to knock that sucker out of the park. I bet you know which one I’ll choose.

How about you?

*some of my facebook friends may know that in an effort to try new things, I’ve been experimenting with different eye shadow looks. I know. It’s earth shattering in import.

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