The Power of a Half-Hour

This is a post that’s been due since December 1st. Really, it’s been due since before then. Likely since sometime around November 11th, though I couldn’t say that was the precise date. You see, November was when I took on the National Novel Writing Month challenge: write 50,000 words in 30 days. That task sounds daunting to pretty much anyone who hears it. If you write 1,667 words a day, you can get to 50K in 30 days. Also keep in mind that for NaNoWriMo you don’t have to write 50,000 GOOD words, you just have to write 50,000 words. For a month, the focus is quantity over quality, the objective is just to take time to write every day.

I started my project a week late because I didn’t feel comfortable with my idea. I wrote about that here. Even so, I didn’t keep the goal I so dramatically outlined at the end of the post; I certainly didn’t write the double word count each day that next week, and there were some days I had to write 4000-5000 words to catch up. But as I wrote day after day, steadily increasing my word count, I found something out: I could write 1,700 words in a half-hour. It’s not a quality 1,700 words, mind you. But sitting right there in front of my face, plain as day, was 1,700 words for the story I was writing. At this point I suppose I should have felt elated, should have felt glad or proud or something. Instead, I felt ashamed.

Essentially, this means that, when I’m really focused, when I’m trying hard and getting back into the groove of things, that it would only have taken me a half-hour a day to satisfy my goal. One shitty TV show a day is all the time NaNoWriMo was asking of me. “Instead of putzing around on Facebook, take that time to write.” That was the request, and I failed. I failed miserably. And I’ve continued to fail since November, to be honest. I let the holiday rush take me over at work, drain me of my energy. I played games. I couldn’t just take a single half-hour in a day to devote to my writing, to practice my craft. I haven’t even written here in months. Political acts like the National Defense Act, SOPA/PIPA, and the absurdity of the Republican Primaries have taken place and I haven’t said a word, I’ve been outright offended by racist commentary on MLK Jr. Day, and still I’ve said nothing.

Here, friends, is the danger of contentment. I’ve gotten used to my situation, have become content with the waves of happiness and unhappiness, let the “life happens” approach take over. And I’m rusty because of it. I can see it in this post, feel how dull the blade’s become. But a dull blade can be sharpened, and maybe all it takes is a half-hour.

During November I found that, with some practice, I could make some pretty amazing things happen in a half-hour. When I really focused I could write my way out of practically any jam, could create plot twists that were actually semi-interesting, create some decently gripping dialogue. All it took was a half-hour, a CONSISTENT half-hour, and life started to improve. I’m convinced that all it takes to improve anything in life, a financial situation, a relationship, a talent or skill, is a small amount of time applied regularly. It’s the regularity that’s key, the regularity that holds the power…give it a shot, you’ll see.

-Josh

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