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It can be said that intense activity is the theft of time, or at least our awareness of its passing. No better proof of this for me than what happened on December 3rd. I woke up that morning, rubbing my fuzzy head, and thinking (I am not, as Dave Barry would say, making this up) “Wow, November already, where did October go?” only to feel like I’d been hit over the head as I realized that November was also already gone, given over to my baptism into the craziness known as NaNoWriMo.

Now, I worked my part-time job through NaNo. I took my son to school, talked to my other kids by phone, even fed them Thanksgiving Dinner. I spent time with my husband, AND I wrote. I did, by the way, pass the 50,000 word mark but not the 90,000. I let myself off the hook after 50,000, refusing to drive myself totally to distraction. But I made a respectable 63,069, finishing over 2/3s of the book. Once I’ve caught up on other writing projects, I will take up the rough draft again, complete it, and move on to the next phases of revision.

So, enough said about quantity and about losing track of an entire month. What else did I get out of NaNo? Well, I got a renewed sense of my family’s support, especially my husband’s.

See, Dave has long had good cause for a love/hate relationship with my writing. He likes it – he especially enjoys my blogs (thanks, sweetie). But, the man had to put up with my bringing a typewriter along on our honeymoon so I could finish a story for a contest. He is an early riser, mainly due to his work, but that forces him to be an early sleeper as well. I’m a night owl through and through. When it comes to writing, I am clearly still on college time. And being a mom got me used to going several days on a few hours sleep each night before I collapse into catch-up coma. So…. I’m staying up when he would much rather I retire. The man likes me in the same room when he turns out the light.

We have also collaborated on writing projects, and it’s always gone surprisingly well, um, almost always. But again, that means we get to critique each other’s words and that can be ---- well, dicey.

This all goes to say that having him agree to my trying NaNoWriMo and then to go through the entire month without complaining about my writing, nay, the man cheered me on, is major proof of his support. Add to that the encouragement from sons and daughters and all their significant others, and from other friends and colleagues ---well, it makes a grown woman cry.

NaNoWriMo also showed me how quickly I actually can work, and that was a big surprise. I’ve always been a thoughtful writer. Thoughtful in the sense that I had to think a lot about what I was writing. If I wasn’t sure I was in the mood, or if I wasn’t satisfied with the last segment, I often didn’t push myself forward. That word count hanging over your head in NaNo makes you move forward. Sometimes in your push, you don’t notice when your plot takes a swerve or is hi-jacked by one of your characters. Even though I had chosen a theme and style that had a fairly well-laid-out direction, I was still taken by surprise a few times during the writing. I found, however, that so long as I had a direction I was going in, I could write rough draft material at the rate of 1000 words per hour. To me, that is amazing. Realizing that is like conquering driving long distances. When you realize that you can actually cover 500 miles in just a day, suddenly driving across the country isn’t so daunting. Same with writing a book. Assuming you have something you want to say and that writing is your thing, learning you can work at high speed grants you confidence you can tackle large projects.

Then there is the tangible benefit. What I had at the outset was a concept and a bunch of notes. What I have now is most of a rough draft of a perfectly good novel. At least, I hope it’s perfectly good. It will be eventually.

I’m glad I did it. I will do it again. And, I might even try other writing marathons. Especially if I have a project ready to start. It’s a great way to get it going.

Should you do something similar? Set a crazy goal and try to live up to it? Work in overdrive on a major project and see if you can accomplish it in record time and manner? Sure! Go for it! Challenges are good, particularly if they are genuinely productive. This one has been terrific for me, and I’d love to see the same for you.

Meanwhile, enjoy your family and the holiday season. Never know when the urge to drop it all for one of those challenges might strike.

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