Bucket List Item: Write a Novel

The first bucket list item I want to focus on for my Tuesday posts is very timely. The month of November begins tomorrow. Every year, I have wanted to participate in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which takes place every year in November. The idea is that you write about 1700 words of a novel every day throughout the month of November and at the end of the month, you have approximately a 50,000 word novel… actually, probably more of a novella, but it’s a manageable task with a huge outcome.

Back in September, I mentioned that I have a novel running around in the back of my mind, just waiting to get out. This is why my daily wring goal, and this blog, are so important to me. One day, I want to get that novel out of my head. You may be thinking that that is what I will be writing this November, but it isn’t. I need to test my hand at this novel writing thing first. I need to work on developing a story arc and creating dynamic characters that people want to read about; I need to come up with compelling obstacles and interesting ways for characters to overcome them; and most of all, I need to know that I am even capable of writing anything resembling a novel before I take on the great story in my mind. The NaNoWriMo program structure helps me break novel writing down into a manageable task… a SMART goal.

I first heard of NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I have friends who write a lot and have participated in the past. They seemed to enjoy the challenge and many wrote novellas that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. None of my friends actually published their NaNoWriMo work, which actually seems less threatening to me than the thought of trying to write a book that is intended to go out into the world and be read by millions, or even dozens, of people. I think that type of work needs more planning than the structure and timeline of the program allows. This means that I can simply work on writing a story with a beginning, middle and end. While, 50,000 words in a month seems overwhelming, I have learned through this blog that 1-2 thousand words a day isn’t. It’s given me the confidence to sign up for my first ever NaNoWriMo. I’ve finally realized that life isn’t just going to pause and open up a perfect window long enough for me to write. If I want a novel written, I need to make the time and do it, so here goes.

That’s right, I start writing a novel tomorrow and , if all goes according to plan, should be 50,000+ words in by the end of November. I’ve brainstormed a few ideas and may post a few excerpts here for review from time to time. I’m hoping this will give me the push I need to get moving on my main novel again. Architecture school was a big distraction, but if I cross writing a novel off my bucket list, I’ll be halfway there. Publishing and selling a novel is the other half of this bucket list item, but I’m now realizing they don’t necessarily have to come together. Maybe I have more than one story to tell and my biggest challenge is simply to get started and get one out of my head. The fast structure of the program won’t allow me to get hung up on any one little element, I just have to keep writing. I’ll definitely keep you up to date on how it’s going in my Monday morning check-ins, so stay tuned.

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I Ate the Frog!

Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” or alternately, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” This is a quote popularized in the book Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, which provides multiple strategies for procrastinators to get over their procrastination and get things done. I am a procrastinator and this morning I ate the frog… in fact, I ate two of them.

Yesterday I talked about how I was neglecting my SMART Goals in certain areas of my Level 10 Life, including the Health & Fitness and Physical Environment categories, and needing to focus more on those areas. I was specifically struggling with a seemingly simple goal of getting on the treadmill for 10 minutes each day and getting through the additional accumulated clutter in my home due to emptying my storage unit.

This morning I got on the treadmill and walked for 10 minutes before I even allowed myself to have my daily cup of coffee. It felt good to get it done and I checked it off as complete with a little more flourish than normal. It made me happy to see this accomplished. Many of you may be thinking,, “Only 10 minutes walking on a treadmill? That’s nothing. Why don’t you try for more?” Well, I have tried for more…. and failed. I’ve had a gym membership for 5 years, but almost never go. I used the excuse that it took too long to drive to the gym, work out, shower and drive home. It was an easy excuse because my lifestyle at the time didn’t allow for that amount of time to devote to anything for myself, including for my health. So, last fall I bought a treadmill. It was expensive, but I figured after spending that much money on equipment and having it conveniently located in the living room of my home, I would have no more excuses. Yet, I seemed to find them in spades. I didn’t have time at the end of the day; I had to get up too early to drive an hour to school every day; and I didn’t want to walk for an hour every day. Remember, I’ve allowed myself to get used to a very studious, sedentary lifestyle. This is why my writing and reading goals are so much easier to accomplish. So when I devised my fitness goal, I wanted to make sure it was something that would create a habit. It’s not going to make me lose 50 pounds by January, but it will develop the habit of getting on the treadmill every day and walking. The only problem was, even that was challenging me, until I made it a frog that needed eating. Yep, walking for 10 measly minutes on my treadmill is currently one of my frogs. But today, I did it. I felt a lot better about myself than I have in weeks just by eating that darn frog. Tomorrow, I will get up and eat it again… before my coffee. The next, and the next day, and for many days after that, I will get up and eat that 10-minute frog until it doesn’t feel like a frog anymore, but more like a lifestyle. When that happens, I’ll gradually increase my time. For now, getting on it and walking for those 10-minutes is enough.

The second goal was to reduce clutter and I ate that frog after I enjoyed my coffee to wash down the first. I went through 4 drawers of clothes in my bedroom and 2 boxes from the storage unit. I now have a whole garbage bag for Goodwill, a few well organized drawers full of clothes I actually enjoy wearing, and a little more space to get around my dining room. I spent an hour on this project today and didn’t find it to be as difficult as I was imagining in my head. I will put in another hour tomorrow morning and then take a day off. I’ll continue with the 2-days on / 1-day off schedule until I’ve made my way through the whole house. What’s more successful than before? I used to wait until I thought I had time to complete a whole room before I would start and then I would be frustrated by the time I was finished because it always took longer than I anticipated. This time I set a timer instead and focused on smaller areas. I worked on one drawer at a time until the timer went off and then spent a couple minutes over the hour organizing that last drawer. Like with the treadmill, I felt accomplished. I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but by focusing on smaller chunks, it no longer seems so overwhelming.

How are you coming along with your goals? Are you feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start on them? If so, maybe you have to find a way to break them down into smaller pieces so they are manageable and start taking small actions in the right direction. If I can do it, I know any of you can.

I leave you with the fortune cookie from my dinner tonight, which I think is actually quite fitting for this point in my life, maybe in yours as well. Feel free to share with me.

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Needing to Focus

As I review the first couple weeks of my Level 10 Life, I’m noticing some disturbing trends. It seems that certain habits aren’t getting done at all and others are done every day. Writing this blog is an exercise designed to improve the career segment of life and it has been going well. I’m enjoying the writing process and hopefully you’re enjoying being along on this journey with me. Reading 30 minutes every day is designed to improve my personal development sector and something I generally don’t have a problem accomplishing. But there are other categories, especially 3 of them, where I’ve given myself the simplest habits and still can’t seem to accomplish them.

In the family and friends category, I find myself avoiding my “call or meet a friend once a week” habit despite it’s apparent simplicity. Only, it isn’t simple. You see, as I reflect on why I’m not making those calls, I’m realizing that many of my friends are in very negative places right now and I’m struggling to not feel drained. I am usually the one who reaches out and then I feel emotionally drained after the conversation from being supportive of all the stuff they’re going through and never getting reciprocal support for the things I’m struggling with. While I do want to continue to be there for those friends, I’m considering an amendment to the SMART goal. I’m thinking my goal needs to be to find additional friends who can be mutually supportive to balance out my time with the other friends. On the surface, this feels selfish, but as I look closer, I think it’s probably better for all of us. No one deserves to have a friend who is resentful of the time they give you, and I’ve become that; I’ve become resentful of one-sided relationships that take away all of my energy. In order to be a better friend, I need to stop relying on those relationships for something they aren’t giving and expecting to get something our of them that I’m not. I am not really sire if changing goals is “technically” allowed, but I think this is a good call.

Which brings us to the Health and Fitness category. I’m struggling with 2 of the 3 goals in this category and doing pretty well at the third. The problem is, that this category is one I feel really needs a lot of work right now. I quit smoking 5 years ago, when I started school, and have doubled in size since then. I get out of breath easily, ache all over, and feel like if my body & health don’t get the attention, I might not live long enough to accomplish the things on my bucket list. I’m just now starting to have grandchildren and I want to be around, and actively able, to participate in their lives for quite some time. So for the remainder of this week, I’ll be heavily focused on the 3 SMART goals for that category. I will be getting on the treadmill for at least 10 minutes, 5 days each week. I will be getting to sleep (or at least laying in bed in the quiet dark trying to sleep) by midnight each night. I will continue to restrict my calorie window to no more than 10 hours. The 10-hour calorie window has been going well, but neither of the other 2 have happened a single time in the last 3 weeks and that just cannot go on. For the next couple weeks, these will be my priority and I will “Eat the Frog” by trying to accomplish the treadmill first thing in the morning. We’ll see how it goes.

The third area I’m currently struggling with is the Physical Environment category. This was going quite well initially. You might remember reading about emptying out my storage unit and letting most of it go. The only problem is, I brought home some of the more valuable and unique items with the intention of selling them and they are now cluttering my daily personal space. I need to spend a day photographing and posting these items for sale so they can move on to new homes where they will be useful or bring their new owners joy. Their presence (this overwhelming clutter) has also alerted me to the added items I have laying around the house that are not useful, or beautiful and don’t bring me joy. So after everything is photographed and posted for sale, I need to go through every corner of the house again and purge the clutter. I think once the physical clutter is gone, I will feel much happier in my physical space and hopefully be able to focus better on the other habits I need to work on.

So those are my 3 struggles and how I plan to tackle them in the next few weeks. I hope you will stick around to hold me accountable here and maybe find a couple things you need to work on as well. If you are looking for someone to be accountable to, feel free to share in the comments and I’ll check in periodically to see how you are coming along. I hope we can all help one another get closer to lives we want and deserve!

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