Here?s one way to surprise yourself

?To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.? ?Leonard Bernsteine


In October 2007, Parents magazine reported on the importance of creative expression in kids. They said ??we all come into this world with the need to create. It?s in our genes, and the arts are the basic way we express that need. (Creativity) connects, clarifies, and enriches?it?s a way of being and thinking, teaching and parenting.?

That goes for adults, too. In that spirit, I?m putting out a reminder about NaNoWriMo. November is National Novel Writing Month and time for the 11th annual NaNoWriMo challenge to write a book, 50,000 words in 30 days. A manageable task with a few more double-shot espressos and a few less snooze button hits.

Its Web site ( lays it all out. It?s fun, challenging and, yes, one more thing to add to your schedule. But we?re all busy, busy anyway, right? So, why not?

If there?s any chance in fate that this might be for you, then log on and take a look. Read some of Chris Baty?s notes (he?s the originator and a very funny guy). Then, if you?re teetering between sure, why not and uh, no thanks, go back to the basics of relevant information:

Who? You. And 35 people who ended up actually selling the manuscripts they started during Nano?including ?Water For Elephants? by best-selling author Sara Gruen. And over 119,000 other sure, why not?s.

What? A challenge to get less sleep (for creating), consume more caffeine (to get less sleep), take more walks or runs (for brainstorming), spend less time on Facebook (to see if you can), and to finally figure out how to set up an Excel spreadsheet to track your daily word count (bonus!).

When? Nov. 1 through Nov. 30. The pressures of noveling may excuse you from a few holiday family get-togethers. I don?t know your family, but for some that might be motivation enough.

Where? The forums and word count tracking are online. The writing could be done at the kitchen table. Or the bar?a dark corner?the trampoline. That?s a personal choice.

Why? This is an open-ended question. For most of the regulars who have done this for a couple, five, seven, or all 10 years, it?s about writing a story beginning to end.

For others, there may not be a clear reason to try a writing challenge. There are other means of expression?drag racing, baking, juggling, and the like. Maybe for those types, writing a bunch of words doesn?t do it for them. But the concept could still work. They could still use the idea of NaNo as a springboard into? something bigger.

Why is relative to the person asking. But if people need a reason to push themselves just past comfortable, whatever that might mean for them, think about my all-time favorite quote, from Sue Monk Kidd in her novel ?The Mermaid Chair?: ?At forty-two, I had never done anything that took my own breath away, and I suppose now that was part of the problem?my chronic inability to astonish myself.?

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