Sunday, November 17, 2013

Eddie... I Want Half

Back in 1989 I was all of fifteen years old. My family had a VCR but mom and dad got to pick the movies so there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that either one of them would let me rent the critically acclaimed box office hit Raw starring none other than Eddie Murphy. Fortunately for me I worked at a video store and had a friend nearby who shared my particular interest in seeing this movie.

One afternoon with his parents out and my shift complete at the video store I walked over to my friend's house and we sat there and watched Eddie Murphy sling cuss words for into a microphone for 90 minutes in front of a packed house in New York City. It was awesome! One particular bit that he did caught my attention, and that was the piece he referred to as half.

  Me imitating Eddie Murphy  imitating Johnny Carson after he gave up half.  

This is a topical bit for the time in which it was written (1987). Johnny Carson had just gone through a divorce in which his now ex-wife had received a ton of money in the settlement (FYI, it wasn't half)[1]. Murphy does a good five minute bit on half. I won't get into the details here but if you want to check out the bit on YouTube you can go right ahead. It's not nearly as funny as a 39 year old as it was almost a quarter century ago, but the basic gist of the story is simple: half is a lot.

Skipping ahead five half decades we've just past the mid-way point of this NaNoWriMo adventure and what you should have figured out by now is... half is a lot.

Last week I wrote about the importance of getting ahead early and maintaining the momentum. At this stage, if you've fallen behind it's going to be an uphill climb for sure but the good news is there's still a lot of time left. I have had a couple off days but have managed to build on my two day buffer from a week ago and am now sitting on a three day buffer. My philosophy has been simple: if I can write 1,667 words then I can write 2,000.



If you haven't reached the 28,333 words required to date to maintain the pace through the first seventeen days then do not fret. You still have just about half the time left to reach your goal. Through thirteen days I had written 25,868 words and that included a slow start on day one and close to a goose=egg on day seven.

"But I've only written 15,00 words so far. There's no way I can finish in time!"

I call B.S. on that right here and now. A friend of mine got behind and said that he was going to have to start setting his sights lower. My first comment to him was that he should be taking the exact opposite approach. He should aim higher.

Let's use my hypothetical from above. Let's say you're only 15k into this thing and you're sitting on your couch reading this blog post sometime during the day of November 17. You've got thirteen writing days left to finish 35,000 words. Round that sucker up to 39,000 words (to make the math jive with my OCD) and divide by thirteen. That's 3,000 words a day.

Will that be difficult? Yes.

Is it impossible? Absolutely not.

Find yourself some writing buddies online and run some sprints. Sprints are a great way to force a good half hour block of words. If you normally like to sit and read the news in the morning use that time to write instead. Fifteen minutes here and fifteen minutes there and the words start adding up. Record those shows and watch them in December. Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert will still be funny in a couple weeks, I promise.

The important thing to take away from this is don't give up. Two years ago I fell into a funk around day ten and it looked irrecoverable. By day twelve I crawled back up to the break even point, but it took a 4,000 word day to get there and I was spent. I didn't think I had enough gas in the tank to sustain any sort of pace and I knew some slow days were ahead. They'd put me in the hole again and I'd have to pull out another 4k miracle to get back up. So I just gave up.

Here's what that graph looks like:


It looks really crappy, doesn't it? That's because it is. It's a crappy, depressing, shameful graph. Even if the brown bars didn't end up reaching the grey line on day 30 it still would have looked like a better graph than this flat line piece of garbage.

The takeaway here? Don't give up. You don't want to have to stare at a graph like this every time you log into the NaNoWriMo site in October to register that year's book. Instead, why don't you take a good hard look at my graph, acknowledge it's crappiness, agree that you don't need one that looks similar, stop reading this blog post (tell your friends to read first), and go write something!

May the words be with you.

~ Andrew

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