It’s been almost a full year of 1-month challenges for me. Tiny 30 or 31-day sprints (28 days in February) of things to push me outside my comfort zone and stimulate ideas and creativity in my lil’ ol' brain. It’s become something I love and look forward to every month.
We’re very rapidly approaching NaNoWriMo month, which is one of those things I’ve been excusing myself out of since 2011 when I first learned about it. Last year instead of feeling guilty about it and waiting a full year to try again, I decided to start my own smaller challenges, to build up the muscle of taking on and completing challenges. NaNoWriMo still feels daunting and intimidating. I’m not ready for it at all but like most things in life, if we wait until we’re ready, it’ll never happen.
Through my little monthly challenges I’ve learned a lot of really valuable lessons that I think may apply, especially in the department of mental preparation. The things my tiny challenges have taught me:
I HAVE TIME
I can make excuses why not to all day long. If I really, REALLY want to do something I do have the time, I simply need to make it happen and stop telling myself stories about why I can't.
For me, waking up a little earlier than normal was the key. There are days when it’s really hard. To be perfectly honest, there are days when all the desire in the world to accomplish my thing is still not enough to peel me from the comfort of my cozy, warm bed. I miss days. I kick myself for missing days. I remember to celebrate the days I actually accomplished my goal. I start again. I seek the finish line. I cross it.
New challenge. Rinse. Repeat.
I AM GREAT AT STARTING
Monthly challenges that are so small I can’t avoid them have helped me get really good at starting things. I’m no longer afraid to start. I’m starting things all over town. I’m not always super great at finishing, but the practice has certainly made me better at it. I’ve become pretty good at completing my monthly challenges. When I scale the challenge, sometimes I leave it hanging. Unfinished. A list of domain names. A 90% completed idea. I know that becoming an even better finisher is my next step.
I MIGHT FAIL
Maybe I end up overwhelmed, or full of excuses. I’m scared I won’t finish. I’m scared that if I do “finish” I’ll end up with a pile of embarrassing, unshareable drivel. And you know what? I'm scared, but... I'm exhausted at being scared. For all the unknowns there is one very certain known: If I don’t do it now, I’ll never really know what it takes to start or to finish this challenge.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT IS WHERE IT’S AT
If I’ve learned anything at all it's that there are a few people out there that have been huge supporters of my little challenges. To each and every one of you, I thank you so sincerely. Sometimes it feels like I can do it all on my own, maybe I can, but you make it better. You make it exciting. You hold me accountable and you encourage me to cross the finish line.
DOING THINGS MAKES YOU BETTER AT OTHER THINGS
Even though my focus for the smaller challenges has been wide and varied, it has electrified my creative juices. It’s almost like I have the opposite problem than I had before. When I had burnout, the thing that started me on this journey in the first place, I had very little desire to even live, let alone do productive things. I started with gratitude and it literally opened floodgates in my little brain and made me hungry to create more. The more I do in my small monthly experiments, the more doors of opportunity, the more ideas, the more excitement, and inspiration seem to flood in. That can get overwhelming too, but I’ll take that any day over what I felt during burnout. Because the more I experiment, the more I learn, and the more tools I have in my magical Mary Poppins bag of problem-solving skills. Those tools apply to every aspect of my life.
All this is to say, I’m openly committing to participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I’ll begin on Nov. 1.
I figure the best thing I can do is to document where I’m at, share what happens along the way, and follow up with how it went when I’m done. I land where I land. Most importantly, I need to remember I’m doing this for me. No matter where I land, I come out on the other side having learned something, who knows what that will be.
I’m doing a bit of planning now. I would love for anyone else interested in participating - go sign up at NaNoWriMo.org and "buddy" me, my username is: " jaimeejaimee". We can support and encourage each other, maybe even poke fun at each other’s excuses if we want to get silly. Let’s keep it fun! But let’s DO IT.
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Here are a couple of my favorite small challenges: