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Be Epic

Crossing the finish line/ DelTorchio/12.1.2016


Can I confess how many projects I’ve started that remain unfinished? There’s the bathroom ripped apart with a missing shower door and vanity top. A lovely patchwork quilt from the Regan Administration that’s been on two house moves. Novels and screenplays. Boxes of those. A basement filled with projects that I can’t bear to toss out because they’re “good enough” to keep. “I’ll finish them someday” is my testimony. It’s a lie.

Getting started is easy-peasy. It’s like dating. You get excited. Buy a new blouse. Curl your hair. The newness brims with possibilities. Could he be the ONE?

Same with ideas, projects, goals. Could THIS be the ONE I start AND finish?

On November 1st I accepted the insane self-imposed challenge to write a novel in 30 days. The bar for the National Novel Writing Month is 50,000 words. My goal of course was to finish writing the required number of words, create something that resembled a story and live to tell about it.

On day one I cleaned off my desk. Fed a fresh ream of paper in the printer and gathered highlighters in a rainbow of colors. With the coffee pot perking I started off in full on sprint mode. Then I realized (of course I knew this already) that I am not a sprinter. Or a finisher.

But that doesn’t stop me from jumping out of the start gate. Because this time will be different, I say. I publicly tossed down the goal. Turns out shame of failure in front of my peers is powerful motivation.

Thirty days later I hold in my hands, not 50,000, but 63,703 words spread over 223 pages. If one were to look at sideways and squint into the light, said person just might be fooled into believing it’s a readable novel. No matter. Boom. It’s done. Let the editing begin.

What I learned from the #NaNoWriMo2016 challenge:

  1. You can do anything you make a priority. (Had this chat with a friend today who was hoping to “find” time to finish a project. Change “find” to “make” and watch the magic happen).
  2. You can catch up on THIS IS US and FIXER UPPER later. That’s why DVRs were invented.
  3. Your body doesn’t need three meals a day. It survives just fine on coffee and leftover Halloween candy for the first three days. After that peanut butter and Cheerios — a good protein to grain balance — will sustain you for 24 hours.
  4. Showers are over rated, as are clean clothes. You get two maybe three grace days if you live with someone. If your best friend is a dog or cat, you can hold out as long as you can stand yourself.
  5. You can live without checking your cell phone every ten minutes. I’ll return your call, unless you want me to write a complaint letter for you.
  6. Dust adds a “prairie” look to your home. Hoping this becomes the next HGTV sensation because for once I’m ahead of the trend.
  7. Sleep is for the weak and weary. So is a bed.
  8. Despite everything you’ve ever heard, drinking while writing doesn’t channel your inner Hemingway. It just makes you write really bad stupid incoherent sentences.
  9. Your very best friends won’t contact you for thirty days but every telemarketer will. Three times a day. Good news: They won’t be calling today. Bad news: GE doesn’t make replacement parts.
  10. Finally, for all the years I’ve spent days preparing a Thanksgiving feast. A turkey with all the fixin’s can be cooked and on the table in one day. Tomorrow I’ll start chiseling the gravy off the dishes.

It’s only fair that my mother’s words of wisdom, which annoyed me as a kid, kept me going every day:

“Once a task is first begun,
do not leave it ’till it’s done.
Be it big or be it small,
do it well or not at all.”

Happy Birthday, Mom. Miss you.


Original graphic: Stephanie DelTorchio




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