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Volunteer Andrea extols the virtues of perseverance and a closed mind.

September 13, 2011, marked a special anniversary for me. On that day in 2010, I began to work on a novel by writing 500 words per day. Two hundred forty two days later, I completed a first draft of 122,735 words. (Don’t bother with the math. I got a bit carried away at the end.)

I had originally planned to start this 500-words-per-day-novel-writing project in January 2010, but within a week of starting and after immediately falling behind schedule, I realized that I had not re-arranged my personal life to focus on the novel-writing endeavor. (Note: I also have a completely unrelated full-time job.) Cue despair. How could I not find time to do this thing that I most wanted to do?

I re-focused. In the winter that remained, I wrapped up my novel research (mine is a historical novel). In the spring, I scrutinized my iPhone’s calendar app so that I could better understand how to find 2 hours per day to write. In the summer, I told all my friends and family that something crazy was about to happen and not to be surprised or upset if I wasn’t as available as I had been in the past.

And then came September 13th, my planned-for start date. The first 500 words were a joy, as were the next 500, and the next 500, and so on, all because I continued to meet my goal. On the flip side, I also lost control of my email. I didn’t return phone calls in a timely manner. My exercise program got patchy. I said “no” to numerous social engagements. I tried to explain to a disappointed sibling that I needed to write for an hour instead of watching a show about some people who build a house out of Legos. Mine was a whole new world. And it turned out that in the new world, I was a lot happier than I had been in the old one.

My word count continued to grow. I talked at every opportunity about how caught up I was in the writing and how I couldn’t imagine not writing 500 words of the novel every day. Surprisingly, more people than I would have expected said “take it easy” and “don’t push yourself so hard” and “don’t force the writing.” The only thing I tried to do in response was not to scoff visibly at their recommendations.

At 100 days (50,000 words!) I was thrilled to realize that I was, in fact, going to finish writing the first draft of the novel. By 150 days, the forward pressure of not having missed a single 500-word day buoyed me as did a dangerous addiction to chocolate. By the 200-day mark (100,000 words!) I had taken to sitting on my couch while holding my head and clutching a pillow to my chest as I tried to figure out how to wrap up the first draft, but I had no doubt that I would finish.

May 12, the day I declared the first draft complete, is the next day I will celebrate. Ignore the naysayers. Do what makes you happy and what works for you.

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