Chapter Twenty: Challenge Accepted
November is known by many wordsmithing masochists as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo sets forth the following challenge: Write 50,000 words of a new writing project, specifically a novel, in the thirty days that make up the month of November. For more than two decades, writers from all across the globe have taken up this mantel, put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards, and have dedicated themselves to this creative endeavor.
National Novel Writing Month is far from the only time-oriented challenge out there. There’s Inktober, which challenges artists to create a new drawing every day in the month of October. Young adult author Marissa Meyer developed her own challenge, The 30 Days of Creativity. For even longer challenges, there’s The100DayProject or 365 Project. All of these challenges have communities behind them, where creatives can connect with others who are attempting to expand their own limitations and tackle something new.
There are no prizes for those who win these various challenges. This isn’t school and we aren’t being graded or paid or even necessarily published, so what exactly is the point? Why, in the midst of a busy fourth quarter for our business, and being right smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, would anyone put themselves through the stress of something like writing a novel from scratch in thirty days? As it turns out, the benefits are numerous, even if the stressors are, too.
The Creativity Behind the Challenge
So often, creative endeavors fall to the wayside in favor of the day-to-day responsibilities of adulthood. We have careers that require long hours, family and friends who require attention, errands to run, and when we do have a spare moment, sometimes all we can muster the energy for is zoning out in front of the television. Our hobbies can seem less and less important to nurture as time goes by.
Committing ourselves to a challenge, with guidelines to follow and deadlines to meet, makes us focus, no matter how briefly, on our creative pursuits. These challenges give us permission to prioritize something we want, rather than something that’s required of us, just for the act of creating in and of itself. By the end, even if we don’t win, we still have something tangible that we created, something that would not have existed if not for us challenging ourselves.
The Discipline Behind the Challenge
Timed challenges do not necessarily have to focus on an artistic pursuit. There are also challenges that target entrepreneurs in various industries and with all kinds of goals in mind, or physical challenges for those looking to prioritize their health. That’s because the discipline required to participate, and especially to win, challenges like this is transferable to any type of goal.
By participating in a set challenge, we get to evaluate, up close and very personal, where our strengths and weaknesses are in whatever arena we’re competing. Are we capable of setting realistic goals and an actionable plan, and really following through? All of our other commitments don’t magically disappear when we undertake something new, so now we have to finesse our time management skills. What about our ability to perform under pressure? If we weren’t sure before, the challenge will make all of this perfectly clear to us as we work hard to meet it.
Every month of the year, we try to challenge ourselves in some way at Noteworthy Communications. By challenging our norms, habits, and expectations, we are forced to stretch ourselves and our limits. We see what we are actually capable of achieving when we are focused and determined to win. Even when we don't win, we go outside of our comfort zones and can at least recognize that particular system might not work for us.
Taking action every day, even just for five minutes, means that, at the very least, we’re continuously making progress. The march may be long and tedious, but if every day we take one step forward, or maybe two if we’re feeling inspired, we can look back on how far we’ve travelled in astonishment. We’ve risen to meet the challenge head on, even when we didn’t have to.