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Challenge Yourself: The Journey to Novel November

The first thing that I learned on this writing adventure is how little I know. Isn’t that always the way? The more that you learn about a topic the more that it reveals the vast depths of itself to you. As it turns out, having a Master’s degree in English literature does not equate to knowing all that you need to know about the art of writing.

The second thing that I learned is that no dream is going to come to fruition without taking that first step, without pushing yourself a little to make sure it happens. For six months of this year I felt bulldozed by life, as I’m sure many have. Writing and all manner of dream fulfillment fell by the wayside. It proved that no amount of good intention or desire would be enough to make something happen. Without a plan and actually taking a first step (and then a second) your dreams will remain illusive.

By divine intervention I found a writing community early this fall called Hope*Writers. Joining this community was my first action step toward regaining control of my dream. They are a faith based group of like-minded writers on a journey to release the words in their heart to the written page. This community equips its members with a library of resources, connection, practical advice, and encouragement.

It was there that I learned about Nanowrimo. When I first heard the word I was sure it must be a foreign language. It certainly was not a part of any writing world jargon that I had previously encountered. Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is a non-profit organization that also provides tools, community, and encouragement to writers. But it is specifically known as an organization based off a single challenge – write a novel (50,000 words) during the month of November. Thousands of writers accept this challenge and use the accountability it provides to be successful.

Hope*Writers piggybacks on this challenge to encourage its writers to embrace a month-long writing challenge without the 50,000 word qualifier. They call their challenge Novel November (Nov Nov) and, if interested, you can enrol in their challenge here. The goal is for writers to take intentional steps to move forward in their writing. To end the month further ahead than when you began.

As of today I am halfway finished the first draft of my novel – 25,000 words. I am, with a little fear and trembling, accepting the Novel November challenge and publicly committing to writing another 25,000 words through the month of November.

It won’t be easy, but things worth doing rarely are. We can’t add more hours in the day. We can’t clone ourselves to maximize our output. But would we really want either of those things? Instead, we do the best we can with the time we have, remembering to enjoy life along the way. Dream fulfillment isn’t easy, but it should at least be fun or else what’s the point?

I have no doubt that there is something you have wanted to do, or start, or finish, or change. Why not let today be the beginning? Maybe you want to work toward a big life change, or perhaps you simply need to work at finding more joy in your everyday. You can start now.

So, here is my challenge to you:

For the month of November, commit yourself to something. And as you do, consider this:

Be consistent. If you are doing something new, commit to doing it for a determined amount of time each day, or week. For me, this means knowing when I work best, but also having a realistic understanding of my daily schedule. With three littles at home, I write after they are in bed. I’m not a morning person so this is a better fit for me. For the month of November I’m committed to writing every day for an hour; that’s all I can realistically manage. Look at your schedule and choose times that work for you. Then stick to it!

Be specific. Determine for yourself exactly what it is that you want to do. Big goals are great, but it’s small, daily changes that become habits that are more likely to impact your life. For example, it isn’t likely that overnight you will be able to give up a sugary, carb heavy diet to become ketogenic. It might work for a short while, but it will be harder to sustain that way. Instead choose something smaller to give up or add or change.

Be clear on the measure of success. What are you hoping to achieve by the end of the month? How will you know if you have met that goal? If you are starting to learn a new skill, this may be an easy one. Either you will have learned it or you won’t. If you goal is abstract, like exercising more, it may be more challenging. But try to figure out some means of determining your outcomes.

Be gracious with yourself. I cannot stress this enough. Grace and goal-setting must go hand in hand. Have grace for yourself. There are going to be days where it all falls apart. That’s just the nature of life. If you haven’t read Jon Acuff’s book Finish, I highly recommend it. More often than not we give up on ourselves when we fail. When we break the diet, when we sleep past the alarm instead of getting up to write or read, when we get too tired to do what we hoped we would do. But keep going. Don’t let set backs keep you from moving forward.

That’s it.

Thirty days.

For thirty days I will be pushing myself and I encourage you to take this journey with me.

If you do, I would love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments what you are committing to for the month of November.

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