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November challenge

I made a challenge to myself this month.

This month is National Novel Writing Month — more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a worldwide phenomena in which a couple hundred thousand writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. 50K is more of a novella than a novel, and what you have at the end is an unedited pile of… well, you know. But that’s okay. The point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to produce a finished novel. It’s to get the focus on butt-in-chair, words-on-page. It’s to get those creative channels open and productive — and to build that habit of writing consistently. It doesn’t matter if what you wrote is crap, because after November you have all the time in the world to rewrite and edit.

And now, after all that buildup, let me say… my challenge has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo. Sort of. I am not a fast writer, and I don’t want to be a fast writer. I have a completely different style of writing, and it works for me. But I struggle with the other key aspect of NaNo — butt-in-seat, write-everyday. So I decided to challenge myself to set aside dedicated writing time every single day in November. More specifically, I decided to get up at 5am and use those early hours to work on my novel.

I’m used to getting up at 7 — or even later this time of year, because it gets light so late. So on November 1, I was completely unsure I would make it out of bed.

But I did.

And I’ve done it every day since, even on the weekend. I even turn off email and close my browsers and Twitter before I go to bed, so I won’t be distracted when I get downstairs.¬†Okay, it’s only Nov. 8, but I’m feeling good about it — especially since I have yet to need an alarm. I admit, I’m glad we had a time change last weekend; that definitely made it easier. In fact, I was up at 4:30 this morning, because my internal clock hasn’t completely adjusted yet.

It’s working. I’m making forward progress. Not fast progress — I’m not a NaNo writer — but progress I am pleased with. I expect I’ll get faster as I build the habit and get into the rhythm. It’s fun to see the page count and word count increase. Maybe I’m being optimistic after only eight days, but I can see this being sustainable.

What I’ve learned is that I have to have dedicated time if I want to work on my novel. Even if I don’t have a lot going on during the day, there are still enough distractions that I just can’t focus on the writing. After work? Forget it. My brain is fried, my creative juices dried up. All I want to do at that point is watch TV and then head to bed.

I like this challenge thing. Maybe I’ll come up with a different challenge for myself every month. So, tell me, do you have tasks that you find you absolutely have to set aside dedicated time for?

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