I joined the NaNoWriMo challenge- Just do it
“Don’t live your life from the sidelines. Dive in deep and follow your dreams.” — Paulo Coelho
The idea to join the NaNoWriMo challenge, which happens every year in November, came to me during an interview with Tim Vandehey, a prolific and New York Times bestselling author on Seeds of Sunshine, a mother/daughter podcast that I do with Sophia.
I made the promise during our interview to write my first novel. The National Novel Writing Month was the perfect avenue to try my hand at letting my creativity all loose. I committed to dive in deep, as Paulo Coelho said, and follow my dreams of being a novelist, or at least trying it out, while refusing to live life from the sidelines.
My decision to just do it reminded me of my dear father who loved to dive into the coldest waters whenever we went swimming together. I, on the other hand, was skirting around the water, tip-toeing, dipping in slowly one limb at a time until I was fully submerged in the cool water while shrieking with excitement — my body shivering at first till I finally relaxed and relished the cooling and refreshing water.
“Don’t tip-toe and prance around like a scared little mouse,” my dad would tell me. “Just dive straight in.”
Now so many years later, with my father smiling upon me from Heaven, I understand what he meant that early summer day and why it was OK to be scared of the unknown. My father encouraged me to live life by diving deeper because it was worth it. Looking back, his message to me was this:
- Dive into the cold water to avoid turning back to the shore.
- Get in quickly and decisively.
- Make the agony of the cold water short and the swim long and enjoyable.
- Don’t give up or make the excuse that the water was too cold for swimming.
- Swimming and writing both require a quick dive into the unknown, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time.
First day of writing my novel and what I learned
Everybody has to share something. This is one of the most important laws of the human condition, is the necessity to share. This is the task of the writer — but not only of a writer, of every human being — it is to share something that he or she has.” — Paulo Coelho
The first thing I did before embarking on this writing journey was to come up with a plan that would hold me accountable and help me achieve this big challenge.
My plan was simple:
- Wake up every morning between 6:15 to 7 a.m. depending on my schedule and how late I went to bed.
- Prepare a big pot of tea, since I am not a coffee drinker.
- Close down all browsers on my computer, especially my Outlook and social media to stop any notifications and distractions.
- Just do it and write.
As expected, the moment I sat in front of my computer on the first day of my novel writing, I felt like a first grader, fearful of the big leap ahead. I stared at the screen as if waiting for the writing to just pour out on the first empty page of my novel.
After about five minutes of my fingers not touching the keyboard and feeling frozen, I realized that I needed to write and just do it. I started tentatively like a toddler learning how to walk. Wobbly words and thoughts started to fill my page. As the words came out, so did my ideas flesh out.
Most importantly, I understood that I had no time to overthink the beginning of my novel and every single word that I wrote. The writing needed to flow as freely as my childhood river, which meant no or little editing while writing.
As I wrote, I also realized that I could not take any breaks for research since my writing speed and every word counted. I thus came up with an easy solution: adding parentheses after an idea or words that needed further research so that I made it easier for my rewriting.
I like to follow through with my plans and set myself up for success, which meant writing, rewriting, and hopefully publishing my new novel about Marta, my hypochondriac protagonist.
I finished the day with 962 words and read an inspiring article by another wonderful writer guest on our podcast, Christine Yu, who did the NaNoWriMo challenge last year. Her article inspired me to keep track of my word count every single day just like she did. Some days, I needed to do two writing sessions just like I ran twice a day in preparation for my marathons.
Writing a novel is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. And since I ran 16 marathons in the last 8 years, I can apply the same principles to writing my first novel.
One word, sentence, paragraph, and one chapter at a time until I reach the finish line with the biggest smile on my face.
Wishing you all the best in writing your first novel, running your first marathon, or doing anything that terrifies you.
It will be good for all of us!
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For more poetic musings and short-form philosophy, please check out my new book, Inspirational Signs for More Sunshine in Your Life and Morsels of Love, A Book of Poetry, and Short-Form, published in 2021.
You can also order directly from my website www.carmenmicsabooks.com to receive an autographed copy.
If you like podcasts, please listen to Seeds of Sunshine, a multigenerational podcast that I started together with my daughter.