Already know you that which you need.
This year was the fourth year in a row that I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, a virtual writing camp where you work on a writing project with the encouragement of a virtual cabin of writers during the month of July, and it’s the first year that I achieved my goal.
For the past three years, I’ve set big goals for Camp NaNo and haven’t achieved a single one. I should have listened to Yoda and given myself what I needed instead. But, we’ll get back to that later.
In 2016, my first year at camp, I set my goal at 35,000 words. After only eight days at camp, I was completely discouraged by word counts and declared I would probably not go back to camp the following year.
The following year, in 2017, I decided to go back and this time, I tried five game-changing techniques to make my time at camp more productive. A big change was I hosted my own cabin instead of being randomly sorted into one. While I did not reach my goal of 35,250 words, I did write 22,000 words, and I also felt so encouraged by my cabin mates that I decided I would definitely go the following year.
Then, in 2018, I set my writing goal for 25,000 words, the lowest goal I’d set so far. Still, I didn’t reach it. I wrote a little more than 17,000 words. Not only that, I realized I wanted to write a screenplay rather than work on either of my novels.
This year, in February, I did end up writing a screenplay–a pilot script for an animated TV show–and like I hoped it would, it felt great to do screenwriting again. But despite being promised that the script would be pitched to Apple TV and other streaming services, it never happened. When I offered to enter the pilot into script contests and pitch it myself, the person who came up with the show concept put the kaibosh on it. It was frustrating and disappointing, to say the least.
Next thing I knew, summer had rolled around and here I was, debating if I wanted to try Camp NaNoWriMo again in July.
I hadn’t reached any of my goals at camp in the last three years. After crashing and burning with the TV pilot, I didn’t feel like writing another script. After receiving no agent interest on my last novel, I didn’t feel like revising it. And the novel I had worked on last year, the sequel to The Contenders, just wasn’t calling to me.
So, like the old Clash song, I wondered, should I stay or should I go?
Well, dear readers, I went.
I hosted a cabin again, this time dubbed the Psychedelic Psychopomps, thanks to my writing friend Catherine.
And, I did something different.
Here’s where the Jedi mind trick finally came in.
I set a goal so small that there was no way I couldn’t reach it.
I remembered how much I hated word counts the first time I tried Camp NaNo. Since you could set a goal in words, lines, pages, hours, or minutes, I decided to choose minutes. I set a goal of writing thirty minutes a day–a total of 930 minutes by the end of July. Small and simple. I was going back to basics.
I had a busy July that included three short vacations. I also missed ten days of writing.
Did I reach my goal?
In fact, I exceeded it.
I ended up writing for 945 minutes instead of 930!
I was thrilled. There’s something to be said about exceeding your own goals. Even if your goals are small, when you exceed them, you get a boost of confidence.
Also, instead of holding myself to working on just one writing project, I allowed myself to write anything I wanted. Anything. The point was to get back into writing again, not limit myself to one writing project. Every day, I felt myself getting stronger and more confident in my writing.
I ended up writing six blog posts including Befriending My Shadow with Theresa Reed the Tarot Lady, Dear Fear and Creativity, Fear Wants Me to…, and I Have 5 Autoimmune Disorders Yet I’m Living My Best Life. I also wrote a poem, an alternative opening scene to my last novel, many freewrites, and notes about my future nonfiction books.
This year, I finally gave myself what I needed. I gave myself the freedom to write whatever I wanted, and I set it up so I could achieve my goals, even if I hadn’t achieved them before.
Yoda was right.
“Already know you that which you need.”
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.