Around lunchtime on 29 November 2009, I typed my final word on the document that I had had open for the previous 29 days, added a “the end” for dramatic effect and grabbed my phone to call C. It was sunday and he was out on a bush walk with some friends.
It was a gorgeous day outside, as it had been in the few days prior to that. I had massive bags under my eyes and was in serious need of some vitamin D so I remember feeling really bummed out I couldn’t join them for the walk. “I DID IT! IT’S FINISHED!” I said, as soon as he said ‘hello’. Instead of his usual patronising “hmm okay, honey” (usually said while he quickly tries to remember what the heck I’m talking about), he said “All done? Wow! That’s awesome!” and proceeded to tell the person walking next to him that I had just finished my first NaNoWriMo challenge and, with that, my first 50,000 word novel.
The reason for his genuine satisfaction with my achievement (which, on a universal scale, is pretty minuscule, I do realise) was because he had seen how hard each of those days had been, working full-time in a writing job, only to get home and write another 1667 words on top of that, when my brain was begging for a break. I printed out my “winner’s certificate” and felt genuinely proud of myself.
Was it because I had written the next New York Times Bestseller? Of course not, I’m no Snooki! I had over 50,000 words of complete rubbish (so bad I haven’t dared to open the document pretty much since that exact same day, for fear of dissolving into a pool of embarrassment).
So no, it had nothing to do with the kind of work I had slaved over. It was just about the fact that I had set myself to do it… and I had done it. Bonus: I had managed to stick to my self-imposed rules: 1) do not take any time off work because of it and 2) do not cancel any pre-scheduled social engagements because of it.
In the great scheme of things, doing the thing you love the most every single day for 30 days shouldn’t be hard. But like most things in life, turn it into an obligation, give it a deadline, and it enters the “tedious chore” danger zone. That was what I was afraid to happen. It didn’t.
Anyway, I started thinking about this after watching this short TED talk by Matt Cutts about how small sustainable steps make you achieve your goals in a much easier way. It all sounds pretty obvious until you start thinking about how you usually have big ideas (I want to write a novel! I want to run a marathon!) and then get completely overwhelmed by the scale of those ideas and toss them aside in favour of something a little easier.
In a way, I think that’s the same logic behind my decision to enter one running event per month this year (I’ve entered five so far, having missed the June one due to a cold and the July one due to not wanting to give organisers $50 for the only run that fits into my schedule… but I’ll catch up). The point is, this goal is not to run a marathon (CALM DOWN!) but to slowly progress towards something of the sorts.
(The fact that I’m going to be running my first ever half-marathon in 3 weeks time and still have no idea how I’m going to live to blog about it is a subject for an entirely different blog post.)
Last January, I also set myself the “mini-goal” of running 100km during that calendar month. It turned out to be fairly easy to reach, with summer days being a big help and getting through the month tracking the numbers and seeing them increase was actually quite exciting, like I was in a race against myself… and winning!
Thirty days seems like short enough for me to stick to something in case I don’t like it and it also seems like long enough for me to do something I like very often without getting sick of it. Plus, it means I’m making each day matter, somehow. Well, most days.
image credit goes to my friend & running buddy S. and you can sort of see me with my dorky knee brace during our very first running event, on Waiheke Island, back in January.