Seven Things Writing a Book in a Month Taught Me // Autumn 2019 Reflections

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.

Søren Kierkegaard

My guru for creating space for my soul to breathe, Emily P. Freeman, suggests that we “establish intentional time to reflect on our lives,” so as one season closes and another begins, that’s just what I do…

I am a NaNoWriMo 2019 winner! For those unfamilar, NaNoWriMo is a month long writing challenge that takes place every November. Short for National Novel Writing Month, over 600,000 people worldwide attempted to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Here are some things I learned from this experience:

One. I can do hard things.

I kind of already knew this, but I wrote a book in a month. That’s hard and I did it and I never thought I could. (see number five)

Two. I can do things that I want to do simply because I want to.

This year I made the infamous Traditional English Trifle a la Rachel from Friends. Just because it sounded fun.

There doesn’t have to be a reason that brings benefit to my family and the dog and the mailman… it’s okay to do them just because they bring me joy. Mind. Blown.

Three. My kids are watching everything I do.

And they want to be like me. My 6-year-old decided to write a book and my 10-year-old asked for illustrating software. It’s good for them to see me chasing my passions too. That’s how they’ll learn to chase theirs.

Four. Celebrate the little wins.

Don’t just wait for the big ones. Celebrate that you wrote 500 words. Celebrate that you found a title. Celebrate that you wrote 50 words and rested. Celebrate that you took time to spend with your family. Celebrate that you finished laundry, read a book, took a walk. It all counts. It’s all grace.

Five. Find people.

Just some of the amazing hope*writers that I got to link arms with as we all ran hard for the prize of 50,000 words in a month.

Find the right ones, the ones on a similar path with similar goals and similar mindsets. The ones that will encourage you when you feel like giving up and the ones that you can remind about the magic inside them when all seems lost. Journey with them. Encourage and cry and celebrate with them. I firmly believed that God created us in such a way that when we work together that we somehow amount to more than the sum total of our individual selves. With the right people, you can do things you never though possible.

Six. Do the next right thing.

Emily P. Freeman wasn’t the first to say it and Anna (of Frozen fame) certainly won’t be the last. Why do so many wise people share this advice? Because it’s brilliant. Just focus on the next step. If you take in the full mountain you’re climbing, the wide river you’re crossing, the dark night you’re fighting through, you’re likely to become so overwhelmed that you just curl up into a little ball and fall into the black hole of Netflix binging and mindless scrolling. But taking just one little step is doable. You know what they say about eating an elephant… turns out they’re right.

Seven. My phone is the enemy.

It wants me to fail. It lures me in with its bright lights and dopamine surges and beckons me from wherever I put it in the house. Bottom of the junk drawer, top of the pantry, under a couch cushion… I still hear it’s sirenic call. I may just have to pull a Rose and drop it to the bottom of the sea. I haven’t learned how to live with this necessary evil, but I’m thinking on it. Maybe (probably) more in another blog post soon…

And a few more non-NaNo bonus lessons that Autumn extended my way…

Bonus 1. It’s okay to change things you’ve done a certain way your whole life.

This year I decided to decorate for Christmas— are you sitting down? — BEFORE Thanksgiving. And as blasphemous as I once thought that to be, it was an incredibly life giving decision for my family this year. 

Bonus 2. Hygge.

Get this in your life.

Bonus 3. Not everyone feels the same way about traditions.

I love them. They are a necessary facet of my existence. It’s only taking me 38 years to realize that’s not true for everyone. Have this conversation with your family. It could help alleviate a lot of stress for the holiday season. (Check out The Lazy Genius podcast episode that really got me thinking about this.)

Bonus 4. Boundaries change everything.

Much more about this to come…

As we transition into Winter, here is what I hope to focus on…

  1. Remember that perfect is the enemy of good and people matter most. 
  2. Hygge— the creating of a cozy and warm and twinkly lighted space to rest and connect— it’s one of the ways I get through the gloominess of winter.
  3. Grace. grace. grace. This is the first holiday season without our grandpa, our gentle Papa who we all loved so dearly, and that’s hard. Let it be hard.
  4. Writing is rapidly becoming a huge piece of my life and heart. (Thank you hope*writers!) Learn how to allow it more space while maintaining excellence in what I already do and start to explore what needs to move.

What did you learn this Autumn?

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