Last night I went to sleep with 38,500 words to my name and only one day left to reach 50k and claim victory in the month-long noveling marathon known as NaNoWriMo. I don’t think my family believed that I could do it. I told Dad before I went to bed that my victory was imminent, and he said, “Hopefully.” I told Mom that I was going to win today and she asked me how many words I had left. I said, “Eleven and a half thousand!” and she made a funny noise that I’m pretty sure wasn’t mean to convey belief and confidence. But here we are, 10:23 PM on November 30th, and I just validated my novel on the NaNoWriMo website at a healthy 50,067 words.
I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to give up. I fell hopelessly behind early on in the month, and with a work schedule that had me up at 4 AM most days and switched randomly to third shift for one week in the middle I had a hard time getting enough sleep, much less enough words. Yet for some reason, I kept chipping away, refusing to believe that it couldn’t be done. One night during my crazy nocturnal week I dragged my brother’s desk chair into the bathroom and noveled next to the sink while everyone else was asleep so I wouldn’t wake them up. I watched my time run out faster than my words stacked up, yet when I went to sleep last night with 11,500 words to go I still had every intention of waking up and spending my day off winning.
And win I did. I got up at seven o’clock, ate breakfast, and started writing. I took short breaks every thousand words to give myself a little reward, like playing five minutes of Portal 2 or eating lunch, but I was never away . I watched the forboding word gap shrink slowly down, dropping out of five digits into four, rapidly approaching the finish line. By the time my fellow-wrimo brother Andrew came home from work at five, we both had about five thousand words to go. We sat down in his room, turned up the music, and plugged away tirelessly for five hours, and at last, with two hours left to go in the month, I crossed the finish line.
I fell further behind on this year’s NaNoWriMo than I ever have before, and if I had focused on that I probably would have lost and this year’s NaNo would’ve been a record-breaking failure. Instead, I looked ahead to the end of the month and saw that if I gave it all I had, I could come from further behind than I ever have before and win more spectacularly than I ever have before. So I gave it all I had, and I wrote 11,667 words today, making this year’s NaNo was a record-breaking success with more than a fifth of the novel springing into being in just fifteen crazy hours.
I’m not sure what sort of things you’re thinking about giving up on right now, but I have one thing to say to you: don’t. If it’s something you love to do and it’s worth doing, then dig in, give it your all, and sprint for the finish line. And remember: there’s no victory that’s sweeter than the one that once seemed impossible. I have to go now. I hear fanfare coming from the back of the house, which means that Andrew just hit 50k. Time to pop that bottle of Sparkling Apple Cider we’ve been saving and have a toast with the family. Cheers!