Goal Accomplished! Win NaNoWriMo (2014)

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month = November) is not a contest. There is no limit to how many people can win. The organization sponsoring the event calls anyone a winner if they complete the goal of writing 50,000 words (about the length of The Great Gatsby) of an original novel during the month of November.

So why would anyone want to “win” this event?

Winning NaNoWriMo means I’ve made significant progress toward writing a story I’ve had in my head for years, and have not been able to write in any meaningful way. It’s a shared event within the amateur and professional writing community worldwide, and that makes it fun to take part in whether you meet your goal or not. Which is why this is my fifth year participating. This year, however, I finally completed this goal that I attempted four other times, and had previously failed. Each time I’d made more progress than the previous year, but I’d never actually completed my goal until now (and this time I finished before Thanksgiving, 4 days early!). This is also one of the goals on my list that could not be done in one day (such as slurp an oyster), so it took more planning and dedication to accomplish, and that makes the success so much more satisfying.

NaNoWriMo is supposed to teach you the discipline of writing daily, of building that habit of putting your words on paper (or on screen if you use the computer), and getting your story out there. The emphasis is quantity over quality for the first draft, because it is easier to edit when you actually have written some words to edit.

It helped me get about halfway on my story, and without this push to get a certain number of words done by the end of the month, I would be editing as I wrote, and would have hardly written a third of what I have now. However, just as I did with the 100 thank you notes in 100 days, I had a hard time doing the daily quota, daily. Instead, I would skip some days, then catch up on others. It’s a work pattern I am working to break. I would really like to get more disciplined on things like this, so that I get in the habit of making daily progress toward my goals.

My NaNoWriMo 2014 Stats - Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

My NaNoWriMo 2014 Stats – Screen shot courtesy of National Novel Writing Month, modified to add green line intersecting goal and actual word counts

I feel very happy that I completed this goal this year, the first year I was truly determined to do it (first year out of school). It makes me feel like I accomplished a huge task, something I am definitely glad I had on my list. And who knows? Maybe it will become one of the three books I want to publish…

Have you learned the discipline of making daily progress on your goals? Leave a comment and let me know if you have any tips.

Resource: Do you need that extra help getting motivated to write? An application called Write or Die gives you rewards (positive reinforcement), consequences (like showing creepy spiders for not writing quickly enough), and stimuli (like annoying sounds). It also has the Kamikaze option, which will erase previously written words if you stop writing. It is available free on the web, or as a paid version for Windows, Mac and Linux.


I’m still raising money for the organization who sponsors this event, to send curriculum kits to schools and support literacy efforts. Please join me in donating at least $1 to help children and adults reach their literacy goals. Donations accepted until December 19, 2014.

Is it bad to share your goals with others?

There’s a fine balance between needing accountability to accomplish our goals and wanting to keep things to ourselves, for whatever reason. As mentioned before, I don’t share all of my bucket list, because some I hold too closely, but I have experienced too many benefits of talking about my goals online and in real life to keep them all to myself.

Sharing our goals helps us to connect with and get encouragement from other people who want to do (or hear about others doing) similar goals. Together we get to enjoy the excitement of planning, and we can exchange tips and ideas to make each experience better. Sharing goals also keeps me accountable. If you heard me talk about something I planned on doing in February, and didn’t hear anything else about it and now it’s November, you might ask about how it went. And if I hadn’t done it yet, I’d be reminded about it and would follow through, because it’s embarrassing to only talk about doing things and to never actually do them.

But maybe that’s just me.

In the TED talk below, Derek Sivers makes an argument that sharing our goals may make us less likely to accomplish them. Take the 3 minutes to watch the video and let me know: what works best for you? Do you tell people your goals, or keep them to yourself?

Everyone Has a Story: Isaiah Smith

Today’s interview is with Isaiah Smith, the artist behind Kekumua‘oa Designs, specializing in wood, bone, and shell jewelry and Hawaiian art. He also shares the meaning behind some of his work, and tells me that “for the more significant things I make, I like to add letters explaining the pieces, which for me can be nearly as important as the object itself.” Below, he shares his some of his dreams and his guiding philosophy.

(If you’re interested in being interviewed for this blog or have someone in mind for me to interview, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

Photo provided by Isaiah Smith of Kekumua‘oa Designs - Used with permission

Photo provided by Isaiah Smith
Used with permission

Name and website:
Isaiah Smith, at Kekumua‘oa Designs on Facebook

What is one of your dreams in life?
Well, for me, I think I have too many dreams, but I guess one of my main ones would be to be a recognized native Hawaiian artist. I would say there are a lot of native Hawaiian artists, but generally the most famous ones are those who paint, i.e., Patrick Ching or the amazing Herb Kane. I mean not even necessarily being recognized in the sense of being famous but more so to be recognized by fellow craftsmen, I think that is more important (though I would not mind a little fame, hehe). I think the one benefit of adding fame to the equation would then be that more people start to appreciate your art beyond the superficial, and start to look at the heart and message behind it.

What is something on your bucket list?
I would love to go to Aotearoa (New Zealand)! As far as style, composition, and general aesthetics, Maori art is one of my favorite types of art in the world.  Maori carvings have gorgeous curve and flow, being both graceful and aggressive at the same time, the kind of juxtaposition of beauty and strength that just absorbs me. For me, being a botanist, Aotearoa has many endemic species of plants and animals, with an amazing range of ecosystems, which I would love to experience. Also being part Hawaiian, it is said that going to Aotearoa helps to make you a better Hawaiian, as according to ancient lore, the Maoris actually are descended from Hawaiians (at the very least, are very close relatives). I feel that Hawaiians and Maori are two sides of the same coin, each holding parts that the other has forgotten or perhaps just did not emphasize in their own culture.  Going there tends to rekindle that lost part of my own culture, so that is one more reason I would love to go to Aotearoa. Oh, and I really like kiwis [kiwi birds], they’re one of my fantasy exotic pets.

What is the best advice you ever received?
I am not sure that this is so much advice as much as a guiding philosophy, but here it goes. There is an old ex-pastor who I really respect named Uncle Paul, he is about 90 years young now I believe, and he is always one to give a word of wisdom. One day at church, we were sitting outside under our kukui nut tree as usual, and I believe Uncle Paul was teaching that day and though I forgot the rest of the lesson I remembered him saying, “Our main goal in life should be to increase the net amount of happiness in the world.”

It seems like a simple enough statement, but to me it covered so much. It can be easy to increase your own happiness at times, but often it comes at the expense of another, so if your happiness does not equal to the unhappiness you make, then you are creating negative net happiness. I think the opposite goes more for me (I tend to be a people pleaser): if you make someone happy, but the amount of your unhappiness is more than the amount of happiness you create for the other, then that is negative net happiness. It is a bit of a balancing act, but I think this guiding principle is a very good goal to be reminded of, that in whatever action we take, it is to make the world a happier and more joyful place to be. The best situation is when you get to the point where the act of self-sacrifice brings you happiness and brings happiness to the other, so you have a huge increase in net happiness! I guess now it is sounding cheesy, but I believe the world would be a better place if we were to think in this context more.

Thanks Isaiah, for sharing your time and stories with us! Readers, you can check out his work at Kekumua‘oa Designs on Facebook.

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

Will you consider joining with me in supporting children’s literacy, providing curriculum kits to schools worldwide, and teaching healthy self-expression through storytelling? My goal is to raise $1000 for National Novel Writing Month, a non-profit involved in all these things. Learn more at my fundraising page.

Progress Report #2: attempting 3 goals, including sending literacy curriculum kits to schools

Image made at BrainyQuote

Image made at BrainyQuote

This November, I’m attempting 3 goals at once: Win NaNoWriMo (by writing 50,000 words on my novel in the month of November), raise $1000 for a cause I’m passionate about (click for my fundraising page raising money for literacy curriculum kits for schools), and get at least one list item sponsored (will be accomplished if the fundraising goal is met).

Right now, my biggest disappointment is with my progress toward raising support for National Novel Writing Month, a non-profit that supports literacy efforts, supplies literacy curriculum kits to teachers worldwide, and teaches children and adults to express themselves in healthy ways through storytelling. My goal for this week was to raise $500, half of the $1000 total goal. However, only 1 person and myself have donated so far. I’m disappointed with myself that I didn’t communicate my motivations for this goal more clearly and that people may have thought the money was going to me because I associated it with my bucket list. If you have thought that, I deeply apologize for the confusion.

The money goes directly to the non-profit and there are more details about what types of activities they use the funds for on the fundraising website that is tracking my fundraising progress. The reason this cause is so important to me is that I appreciate all the people who invested in my literacy development throughout the years. Being able to read, write, and critically think about what I’m learning has been essential to my success as a student, employee, and human being. I want every person to be able to have the opportunity to develop as a reader and writer, and that is why I chose this organization. Would you please join me in donating to send curriculum kits to children and support their development into people who can communicate well?

NaNoWriMo progress: By the end of yesterday, I should have written a total of 30,000 words on my story. As of last night, I’ve done 24,358 words. This puts me 5,642 words behind schedule. (You can follow along with my progress by looking at the widget in the sidebar, or by following me on Twitter (@GoalListTweets).

Goals to complete by the end of November 25:

  • Catch up, then stay on track with my NaNoWriMo word count. By the end of November 25, I should have just over 41,600 words.
  • Raise $800 to support the nonprofit organization National Novel Writing Month, helping them continue their literacy work in classrooms and online. Click here for my fundraising page.

Resource: Can’t remember the word for the concept you’re thinking of? Trying to think of related words or words in the same category? Solving a crossword puzzle? OneLook Reverse Dictionary helps you find the words to express yourself.

Never miss a post! Sign up to get each post sent directly to your email.

What’s your most basic bucket list planning tool?

There are so many resources online and in stores to help you create, save, and live your bucket list. Today I want to go back to basics and share with you one of the simplest planning tools I use…

sticky notes!

Sticky Notes

Photo Credit: Ramesh NG via Flickr –
Used unmodified under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

I love these things. They help me remember little details and tasks, and they keep track of my notes on where, when, and at what cost bucket list items can be completed. They aren’t permanent, so if I decide I don’t need it anymore or if I’ve changed my mind about where I want to store them (usually I stick them on the journal page where I’ve written the bucket list item), then I can move them around or recycle them. Or I can take them with me on the trip when I go to do the item, so I remember where I’m going.

What’s your most basic bucket list planning tool?

Everyone Has a Story: Jess Caren

Today’s mini-interview is with Jess Caren, who was kind enough to send a bio with her interview responses, so I’ll let her introduce herself in her own words:
Jess Caren is a music maker and story-teller. Hailing from the south of South Africa she began blogging for The Big Blog Exchange competition which just ended. Her blog seeks to tell the stories of everyday kind of peoples. She’s always humming a tune or tapping a beat so that’s neat.

(If you’re interested in being interviewed for this blog or have someone in mind for me to interview, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

Photo provided by Jess Caren (seekingstory.wordpress.com) - Used with permission

Photo provided by Jess Caren – Used with permission

Name and blog:
Jess Caren at Seeking Story

What is one of your dreams for your life?
Music is my life line and soul companion. Whether it’s penning lyrics, reading the latest Rolling Stone [magazine] or singing along to the radio, I’m totally obsessed with music of all kinds. My dream is to become a professional and successful singer-songwriter.

What is something on your bucket list?
The top item on my bucket list (surprise!) is to meet Joni Mitchell. She is my musical muse and biggest inspiration. I was first introduced to her life story and music in 2007 during my Honours year at university. The threads of story she weaves together are beautiful and real beyond measure. [Read Jess’ post about Joni’s album Blue and the meaning it’s had in her life].

What is the best advice you ever received?
It was at my 21st birthday celebration. My friend Laurie Crook ended her speech with the following quote:

“Learn everything you can,
Anytime you can,
From anyone you can,
There will always come a time
When you will be grateful you did”
– Sarah Caldwell

Thanks Jess, for sharing your time and stories with us!

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

Will you consider joining with me in supporting children’s literacy and healthy self-expression through storytelling? My goal is to raise $1000 for National Novel Writing Month, a non-profit that organizes the event by the same name. Learn more at my fundraising page.

Progress Report: 3 goals at once

Image made at BrainyQuote (brainyquote.com)

Image made at BrainyQuote

This November, I’m attempting 3 goals at once: Win NaNoWriMo (by writing 50,000 words on my novel in the month of November), raise $1000 for a cause I’m passionate about (click for my fundraising page), and get at least one list item sponsored (will be accomplished if the fundraising goal is met).

Currently, I’m a little behind where I should be at NaNoWriMo. By the end of today I should have 20,000 words written, at the time of this writing I have written 15,885 words. However, the story itself is coming along nicely and I’m enjoying the process of writing. (You can follow along with my progress by looking at the widget in the sidebar, or by following me on Twitter (@GoalListTweets).

I am not meeting my fundraising goal at all. So far, the only money donated through my page is the $11 that I donated. National Novel Writing Month, while a funny name, is a legit organization that helps with children’s literacy and self-expression. In a world where suicides, school murders, depression, and poor self-esteem are so prevalent, I am very excited to support an organization that tells people their story is valuable and helps them learn the skills they need to express themselves in healthy ways. Please join with me in giving at least $1 to support their efforts (it’s tax-deductible).

Click here to go to my fundraising page.

Goals to complete by the end of Wednesday, November 19:

  • Catch up, then stay on track with my NaNoWriMo word count. By the end of November 19, I should have just over 31,600 words.
  • Raise $500 to support the nonprofit organization National Novel Writing Month, helping them continue their work in classrooms and online. Click here for my fundraising page.

Resource: Are you writing a story? Got writer’s block? Here’s a handy Writer’s Plot Twist Generator to help get you unstuck.

Never miss a post! Sign up to get each post sent directly to your email.