I heard something about this last year (or was it the year before?) but this year I’ve actually managed to sign up for it in time…it’s National Novel Writing Month! The challenge is to try to write 50,000 words in one month and the result of that *should be* the raw material you need for your novel.

(NOTE: to those people I’ve talked to about this already, I thought it was supposed to be 30,000 words, but I was wrong, it’s 50,000 words.)

50,000 words sounded like a lot to me, but I thought I’d try a bit of a test…a speed typing test. I searched for “how fast can you write” and did an online test where you type random words that are displayed in front of you. I got 40 words per minute. Is that good? I don’t know, but it really doesn’t matter.

Let’s assume that my normal typing speed it a bit less than 40 per minute. Let’s say it’s 25 per minute due to my internal editor not letting my just type freely all the time. 50,000 words divided by 25 words per minute equals 2,000 minutes, which is 33.3 hours. In a 30 day month like November, that’s 1.11 hours per day of just pure writing.

Now, that’s only the writing part, and not the “working yourself up to it” part, or the “where can I go from here” part, and not even the “ARGH! That ******* internal editor!” part. ONLY the writing part.

Deep breath.

“Let’s do this.”

So, I have managed to work out two main goals for myself: write a novel, finish the hovercraft. Now what?

First, I think, I should say that this is not at all what I had in mind when I started writing about my goals, and these are not the only goals I have. However, they are two big ones that I could use to help “redefine me” into the kind of person who finishes what he starts. There are other, smaller projects that could also help with this (finish framing the mirror, get the remaining screens for the windows/doors, get my certification to teach SCUBA diving, etc.) but these two are the biggest ones, in my mind anyway.

Let’s start with the “easiest one” first…a major writing project. I say that this is the easiest one not because I think it will be easy, but because I think I’ve found some good motivation in the form of a write-a-book-in-a-month challenge that I’m going to take part in. The challenge has you write as much as you can in one month with a goal of 30,000 words (1,000 per day). At the end of the month you have the raw material for your book and the rest of the year is spent editing and polishing it up.

So, step one is going to be to take part in this writing challenge. I’ve already signed up for it, and there’s a preparation workshop on October 14th at 4:00PM (I need to remember to let Stella know about that) that I’ve registered for. I’m slowly fleshing out a plot and a main character. Hopefully it will all be ready in time.

As far as the hovercraft goes, I’m a lot less sure how to go about it. I guess I will need to discuss this with my dad first. Maybe we can arrange some regular time.

I am still thinking about my goals, especially in light of my previous post about wanting to be the kind of person who finishes what he starts. Two big things pop into my mind when I think about this:

  • The hovercraft
  • My writing

I have been “working on” the hovercraft for longer than anything else in my life. I started it before getting married, before I got into I.T., and no previous project lasted this long. Part of the reason it’s taken so long is because I haven’t been working on it regularly. While I don’t think a year went by without me doing something with it I wouldn’t be surprised if I was actually wrong on that point. It is the single, longest commitment in my life that I have started, not given up on, and not yet finished.

My writing is a bit different. True, I have been writing for longer than I have been working on the hovercraft, but each of my writing projects either gets completed (mostly short ones) or simply dies off as I lose focus on it. The reason my writing stands out for me is not because it’s something that’s taken me forever to work on, but because I have so many writing projects on the go at any given time and yet none of these projects are substantial enough that I would consider myself to be “a writer” yet.

I think that if I manage to complete the hovercraft and finish a large writing project, while not losing focus on current commitments of course, that will signify to me that I am starting to change and to become the person I want to be.

I was setting out my “New Year’s” goals (to start them in October so I would have a head start by the time January 1st rolled around) when it occurred to me that, maybe what I really need to do first is to define who it is that I want to be and then let this guide what goals I set for myself. This lead me, quite naturally, to the question “who DO I want to be?”

After a long pause I had another question, “why can’t I answer this simple question?”

This actually got me quite frustrated, and now that I’m working through it, it’s starting to get me a little depressed. The problem is that I can’t be everything I want to be; I’m going to have to pick something. While I might be able to pick more than one thing to be, there’s no way I can do it all. That means that I am going to have to let go of some of my ideas.

As a simple example, I want to be someone who reads a lot. Reading takes time. Especially for myself as I cannot read very quickly. I also want to be someone who can both work a regular job and go back to school (I don’t care much about what I go back to school for, I just like learning). However, I cannot both read a new book each month and work while being a student…at least, not easily. And if I through into the mix the fact that I want to be the kind of person who gets a full night’s sleep each night, regularly works on building a hovercraft with his father, while also being the kind of husband who makes dinners during the week…it’s just too much.

I think the first thing I need to do is to finish what I’ve started. Even then, something might need to be put on hold, but for sure I don’t think I can start anything new. Well…isn’t that interesting. While that might be a bit depressing for me, I also think it’s answered my overall question of who I want to be.

I want to be someone who finishes what he starts.