Priority and NaNoWriMo

This week I had taken leave from work to celebrate a festival and spend some time with my fiance. I had a lot of plans, long list of things to do – crushing NaNoWriMo word count everyday being one of them.

However, I managed to write maybe 3k words in total so far. The task list got lost on Tuesday as soon as I fell down and sprained my ankle. The week just flew by after that.

But it was a little different this time. Every time I fail any of my so well planned goals, guilt would swallow me. Reliving every failure and hating myself for it would take up rest of my time.

But this time, I just enjoyed the moment. While I was on bed rest with my swollen ankle, I enjoyed watching movies, reading books, talking – basically everything. Then when my fiance came and I got to spend time with him, I wasn’t even thinking about any other task I was supposed to do. I had absolutely the best time this week.

I finally understood the meaning of the word PRIORITY. I mean it’s a simple word, we all know the dictionary meaning but I never understood the essence of it. At any given time, only one thing can be a priority. If we are hungry, food is our priority, if tired, then sleep. As long as we are able to identify the current priority and align our actions accordingly, we are at peace. Stress creeps in when we are doing one thing but thinking about another.

I know I am way behind my word count for NaNoWriMo. I thought I would write more if I don’t have to spend entire day in office. But as it turns out, I wrote those 3k words on the days I had to go to work. So, my excuse that I’ll write when I have more time goes straight out the window. If I don’t write then it’s because I am not making it a priority.

It’s the same logic for any other aspiration I am neglecting. But the good news is – if I understand it, I can control it.

  1. First step would be to identify my current priorities. It will change with current day/week/month. I mean on the day of my wedding, I am sure writing will never be a priority for me.
  2. Second step will consist of ranking the priorities and selecting the top one to focus on. Here it’s important that I don’t mix up my priority and my to do list. For instance, finishing my book is a priority but paying a bill is a task. I can do multiple tasks on a day but my priority list should never exceed three items.
  3. Third and last step is simply working my ass off. Making sure that my actions are aligned with the priorities is very important for my mental peace.

The most important thing is to remember that life may have it’s own plans for us and we may not be able to chose our priorities. Like if we are sick, doing everything we can to get healthy again is the top priority. We may not have chosen it willingly but we have to align our actions accordingly. Fighting it will just slow us down and just add to the stress.

Success – Failure and NaNoWriMo

Today is 1st November – beginning of yet another NaNoWriMo.

For the last three years I have been trying to finish NaNoWriMo (i.e. write 50k words in the month of November). The story that I am working on has been in my head for more than six years now. But even then I can not write more than 10k. And this is not due to my laziness. I analyzed my failures and realized that I stop at exactly the same point every time I start this project. Mainly because I don’t know how the story moves forward from this point. I mean I have a very clear idea of how the story begins and what happens at the end. But it’s the middle portion that I am struggling with. I don’t know how to take my story from starting point to end point.

I needed to plot my story. And not just plot but I also need to have a clear idea about my characters, and about the world this story takes place. In short, I need to prepare well before I start writing my story. Now, to prepare well, I first needed to learn how to do all this. Thus I worked on plotting courses online. There are so many good ones provided by great writers.

Now, I know many of you may feel differently but this is what I needed to do this time. There is no guarantee that I will finish my story this month. But at least right now I know where my story is headed and which journey my characters are about to take.

You know, we hear so much about failures and how failing is actually important to succeed. But all these advice comes from people who have overcome their failures and are successful when they are narrating their stories. Since most of the narratives come after the fact (rather long after the actual failure occurred), the image becomes distorted. Most successful people glamorize failure. No one talks about the ugly side of it. No one talks about how painful it can get in the moment or how the distress can keep on increasing with time as we pile on guilt on ourselves. No one talks about the fact that only a small fraction of people actually overcome their failure and get their definition of success.

I am not an expert at either success or failure. But I can summarize what I learned from my failures –

  1. We remember failures more than success and that’s why the lessons learned from failure stays with us more than lessons learned from success.
  2. Success and failure are subjective definitions. Others may find you super successful but for you, this success doesn’t measure up and you keep focusing on what you feel is your biggest failure
  3. This too shall pass – Nothing lasts forever, neither success nor failure. We have control over only the present moment.

Today is the first day of November. And I am done plotting, naming my characters and locations (up to last year, I didn’t even name all the places and people). I have deleted everything I wrote up till now on this project since I want to start with a clean slate. I have some holidays coming up in this month which I am planning to utilize well.

I have failed at NaNoWriMo so many times but I have never given up. I am counting on this resilience to help me write consistently. I have noticed that every writing session, I struggle for the first 500 words or so. I struggle to focus, I feel tired, I get distracted and want to do anything but write. But once I am over that initial resistance, I can actually write over 2K words in one sitting. this just feels like the inertia of rest and inertia of motion. a body in rest will stay in rest until an external force is applied. Now, since I no longer live with my parents who constantly apply external force, nor am I a student with assignment deadlines and professors bugging us every single day, I have to apply the required force myself.

Let’s see how I do over the next 30 days. Either I will write 50K words or I won’t. Either case, I know I will learn something new.


Why this shy novice writer decided to journal online

Today started well. I went for a walk, then came back and meditated, wrote in my journal, had breakfast and even managed to wash my hair – which is a big deal for me. I need to confess that I don’t do any of these things regularly so it’s kind of a big deal for me to actually achieve all this before going to the office.

But even as I was going through the actions, instead of feeling happy or accomplished, I was feeling empty. Like a dark cloud permanently clouding my mind.

Writing while feeling such despair is a Herculean task. But writing is the only thing that can actually clear my head. A perfect catch 22.

My mind keeps on generating fictional stories and scenarios and I do not know how to tell them. I want to be a better storyteller. But every time I attempt to tell a story, the magic simply disappears. The scenes the characters, the dialogues which are so lively inside my head, turn really crappy as soon as it takes forms of words.

I read somewhere that first million words we write are bound to be crappy. This statement gives me hope. Because I have barely begun my writing journey. A million words is a long destination for me.

But it’s not an impossible task. If I write 500 words every day, I’ll reach my target in 5.5 years. If I practice a skill every day for more than 5 years, I doubt there is anything I can not learn.

I am not so regular in writing in my physical journal as well. Mostly I write once or twice a month, depending on what’s happening in my life. But then that’s the thing. I can barely remember what happened in my life. Sometimes it just feels like I get up, get ready, go to the office, come back, binge-watch and then sleep. Next day, the same cycle repeats. Days, weeks, months pass by and it becomes difficult to distinguish one day from another.

Like a zombie I keep moving, without a purpose, without knowing what I want.

I read a lot. Books, articles, anything at all. And these days any self-help or productivity book/article/YouTube-video keeps telling us how beneficial journalling is. Be it morning pages or journaling prompts, it is bound to change our lives. The only caveat is that we actually have to take the action. Actually, move our fingers over the keys or hold the pen in our hands. Otherwise, all the well-intentioned advise means nothing at all.

We can write in any manner. It can be in a notebook or on the back of a receipt. The medium doesn’t matter. Bleeding ink matters, flowing words matters. In fact, spelling and grammar too play a very limited role. So, I need to take action. Let the words get out of my mind’s prison.

I always used to wait for the perfect time or place to sit and write. I’ll write once I reach home. I’ll write when my laptop is charged. I am too tired to sit on my desk and you get the picture. Too many excuses.

If it’s important to you, you’ll make the time, else you’ll make an excuse.

I am not putting off writing anymore. I know it’s good for my mind and this is a dream I am not letting go. So, right now I am typing this on my phone. There are a lot of typos and I do not have spell checker tools like I have on my laptop. But you know what, it really doesn’t matter. I know I need to improve my spelling and grammar (after all English is my second language). But the only way I can improve my skills is by writing consistently.

I am feeling easy and relaxed about writing this journal entry describing my day because of the following reasons:

  1. I have maybe 2 readers – so no one is actually going to read this and the shy part of me will get the perfect opportunity to grow without getting overwhelmed in relative solitude.
  2. If I write at least 500 words daily, my writing is bound to improve.
  3. In order to write about my day, I will have to actually do something worth writing. I mean writing about my Netflix binge-watching sessions will get too embarrassing pretty soon.

So, to summarize my day, I had a productive morning then I reached office. I managed to finish most of my tasks and evening was spent taking work calls with various teams around the world. Then I had a nice homey dinner before I spent some time talking to my fiance who lives far far away from me.

Overall it was a good day.