Do you remember the big dreams of your childhood? To be an astronaut? To perform at the Met before thousands? To run a world-class restaurant?
When I was a teen, it was my big dream to work for the United Nations. And to be a spy. Who spoke Russian. Not in that order, of course. And, er, yeah, that whole thing didn’t work out. But, believe it or not, writing out that dream at least got me on my way. It landed me one of the scholarships that covered my first year in college. And, since Russian language degrees weren’t being offered everywhere, it helped me decide on which school I’d attend in the first place.
Despite my incredibly poor performance with Russian, which was quickly over, mercifully, my love for writing (and language) has persisted.
Some weeks back, I interviewed Sara Colombo, a young translator who has written a book on her experience in translation and localization, principally as a guide to other young professionals who are just getting started. I remarked, with envy, that many more men and women talk about writing a book than those who ever actually do.
Me included. Like many people my age (and take your guess at that), my dreams have become more modest. To clean out the basement storage unit before winter sets in. To save my pennies for a trip to East Asia. To finally make the switch to this paperless future that everyone seems to be talking about.
But in taking the time to write out the Motivational Mondays column, I’ve gotten a whiff again of the pleasures of simply writing. So maybe it’s time to take Sara’s cue and, as Nike says, just do it.
And in walks NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The initiative, a writing marathon which runs every November, first kicked off in 1999. Last year, some 341,375 people participated from 386 registered regions worldwide; some 500,000 are expected to this year. And all of them will be working towards the same personal goal: to finish a novel of 50,000 words — okay, okay, a novella — by midnight of the November 30th deadline.
In an article for Chronicle Books, founder Chris Baty gave a cheeky interview about why you aspiring writers should not join the NaNoWriMo this year. “I’m too busy.” “I’m not a writer.” “I’ve done it before and never finished.” “No one can do that in 30 days.” “I don’t have any ideas.” It reminded me of a joke that one of my partners likes to tell. He’s a consultant who trains industrial service technicians on conflict-resolving customer service techniques. He says that there are really only seven excuses for why we never meet our goals, and those are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday … You get the idea.
Well, I first signed up for NaNoWriMo five years ago. But just that: signed up. One of those seven excuses always gets in the way …
Occasionally, and usually via Facebook these days, a question comes around that asks, What would you do if you learned you had just 30 days left to live? Well, I’ve never seen anyone reply with “finally keep my kitchen clean!” or “donate those clothes from the attic like I said I would every year.”
No, in reply, usually the big dreams get rolled out: To travel. To create art. To finally achieve the fill-in-the-blank goal that’s haunted our fantasies for years.
Today, I am writing to you from on the road. Just a few weeks ago, I learned that one of my favorite jazz vocalists, Cassandra Wilson, would be performing in Paris. Oh, I’d love to see her, I said to friends left and right. And in Paris! That would be like something out of a movie!
And then the wheels started turning … And then the phone calls …
So here I am. I’ve got my NaNoWriMo novel outline on the seat beside me. Tonight’s concert ticket is burning a hole in my wallet.
This could be the very hour, the day, the month, or the year that you too achieve some life dream. Stop talking about it. Just do it.