I participated in NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month -- and wrote 50,000+ words of a novel in thirty days. It's a goal I've had since 2007, the first time I attempted it and failed. I think I wrote one sentence back then. I was working too many hours at the time and had very little time to devote to it. So I figured hey, I have loads of free time this year, so I better do it now or never. And even though it only takes writing 1,667 words per day over the course of the month to accomplish the goal (which I keep thinking shouldn't seem that difficult), I'm still asking myself if it really happened…did I really just write a novel? Well, I can't really call it a novel…more like a very, very bad first draft. But that was the goal…to just write write write no matter what, leaving the inner critic locked in an attic somewhere, starving. And even with all this free time, it was still exhausting. My brain is mush.
Here's the nifty little certificate they give you for crossing the 50,000 word finish line…
It was a weird feeling crossing that finish line and realizing I completed a goal that always seemed impossible. I'm a notorious procrastinator who never starts anything until the last minute, and then takes huge leaps to accomplish something (this goes way back to middle school homework assignments, through high school, college, job after job and so on…). I used to start my high school term papers at 4 or 5am the morning they were due (sorry, mom!…all those mornings of flipping on the light and probably waking you up well before you had to be at work). The number one thing I will take away from this month is not a best-selling novel, but long-awaited proof to myself that baby steps and perseverence really can add up to something…unexpected. I found myself trying new things and exploring different ways of thinking. Basically I was finally taking time to play and have fun instead of rushing to beat the clock. That was the best part of NaNoWriMo for me. I may never again open up the manuscript to read it -- because I would probably shudder and trash it immediately -- but just knowing it's there on my hard drive, and that there's a beginning, middle and end, gives me this weird (more like "alien") feeling that I can do pretty much anything. And then I laugh because all those nothing-ventured-nothing-gained and you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to cliches really are true.
On a less positive note, the teaching gig has been testing the limits of my patience. I still absolutely adore teaching my three-year-olds and five-year-olds during the mornings at the kindergarten. That hasn't changed. Teaching them, goofing off with them and just being in their presence is so rewarding. It's like this weird crazy feeling of pure joy that I don't think I had ever experienced before.
It's my Friday night classes of seven/eight-year-olds and twelve/thirteen-year-olds that are really pushing me to my limits. Every Friday night for the past month, the students have been misbehaving more and more, to the point where I just want to jump off a bridge into an icy river, with raging white waters and big sharp pointy rocks.
Maybe that's an exaggeration.
How about we just decide to gather up all the thirteen year olds around the world and lock them away until they're fourteen or fifteen.
Yes, that sounds good. In fact, from time to time, I still call or e-mail my mom to say, "Hi mom, remember when I was thirteen? Yeah…I'm sorry about that." No joke. I was awful. And I still feel bad about it.
It's like we turn thirteen and turn possessed. Something literally takes over our bodies. Yes, besides hormones. I keep wanting to make an alien invasion analogy, but I feel like someone's already made the connection between teenagers and pod people or body snatchers. Anyway, Friday nights are not fun for me right now. But I'm now a firm believer in another favorite cliche…what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I will seriously be able to kick some major ass in anything I do from here on out.
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