Last month, two close friends said they’d be singing in a choir event in a few days. Could I go? No, I could not. It was a difficult decision because the only event on my calendar that afternoon was, “Go to writing meetup and write 2,000 words.” There was no registration for the meetup, so I could have skipped it.
But my decision meant I would be keeping a commitment to myself. November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). To succeed, you need to write 50,000 words in one month—in my case, working on a mystery novel. In past years, I’ve tried to do NaNo four times without success. I’d get a certain number of words, and life would get busy. I’d realize I was too far behind and I’d quit.
This year was different. In October, I cleared my calendar and added writing meetups in November. A local writer’s group sponsors these write-ins, which are fun and inspiring. An example is that they have “Huzzah balls,” which consist of newspaper wadded up with ribbons attached. If you achieve a personal goal, like writing a certain number of words, you throw the ball into the middle of the room and shout, “Huzzah!” Everyone must stop writing for a moment and clap.
So instead of going to the choir event, I attended the write-in. The camaraderie and lighthearted atmosphere supported me so I could relax and write. This is different from the way I usually approached NaNoWriMo: “I have to get a certain number of words every day this month or I’ve failed.”
To write 50,000 words in a month, you must write an average of 1,667 words a day. My goal was 2,000 words a day, so that Thanksgiving and busy days wouldn’t be an excuse to miss my goal. Keeping this commitment was difficult, but it was a matter of prioritizing my goals. For some of you, this might not be difficult. But I find it easier to honor my commitments to others than to honor my commitments to myself.
Another friend invited me to a fundraiser-luncheon in November that I’ve gone to in the past and much enjoyed. But it would be a four-hour event, plus driving. I decided to instead take part of that time to work on my novel. First I treated myself to a tasty lunch, so I wouldn’t feel I had deprived myself too much. My lunch took little more than an hour, and I had plenty of time to go to the library and write.
I was sorry to miss some enjoyable events last month, but I sure felt good when I reached 50,000 words on November 25. Putting my needs first empowered me to succeed. I felt proud of myself for getting the 50,000 words done. For probably a decade, I’ve said, “I want to write a mystery novel.” Now I can say, “I’m writing a mystery novel.” There is a big difference between those two statements.
As always, I have room for improvement. I let go of some healthy habits in November and haven’t gotten back on track yet in December. I need to get back to running, watching my weight, and drinking enough water. These commitments to myself need to be above my holiday commitments to others. It will not do anyone any good if I am stressed out when attending and hosting holiday events this year.
What commitments do you need to keep to yourself? When do you find it difficult to keep your commitments to yourself?