NaNoWriMo Days 7 & 8 – Back on Track

It’s late, so I will be brief. In short, I’m back on track for a November 30th finish! Have pulled victory from the jaws of week one defeat, just in the nick of time, after an uber productive writing group today. Phew.

In other, possibly-NaNo-related news, I’ve had a tremendously productive weekend in other respects too, primarily in terms of getting a new hair colour (not, I suspect, all that easily detectable to the untrained eye, but exciting for me nonetheless), buying some Christmas presents (groan) and organising a baby shower.

I say possibly-NaNo-related with regard to the above because I really am wondering whether NaNo has a positive effect in other areas of my life besides my writing. In the past week I have felt more positive and capable than I have for some weeks, and this weekend has been a really calm and focused time, full of rewarding pursuits and positive reflections about what I want to achieve in my writing and in life in general.

I suppose the learning is to always have a tangible and (relatively) immediate goal, to never stop striving for that goal and to spend time every single day working towards achieving it. A lesson I will endeavour to remember long after my sixth NaNoWriMo has ended.

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Is there a cost to reaching our full potential?

So many of us spend our lives rushing around, jumping from one task to the next with scant regard for the strain we’re putting on our minds and bodies by not giving them a rest from time to time. But if we spend too much time resting will we ever achieve our full potential?

According to Dictionary.com, potential is defined as “possible, as opposed to actual,” or “capable of being or becoming.” Would it not follow, therefore, that to reach one’s full potential one must be entirely capable of becoming their best self? And that to be entirely capable one must be entirely focused all of the time – thus relinquishing leisure pursuits and anything unrelated to the ultimate goal?

Take wanting to be a published author as an example; it’s all very well wanting it, but if you don’t have the drive and determination to stick at it when the going gets tough how can you expect to succeed? It’s a well-known fact that even JK Rowling herself was rejected countless times before finally reaching the heady heights of success. She achieved her potential only by working through the low moments instead of giving up, and rising, Phoenix-like from the ashes of the rejection pile to come back stronger and more inspired than before.

Of course the danger of not resting enough is burn-out. It would clearly be unwise to never take a break from your desk, because your productivity levels would suffer due to tiredness. Nobody can concentrate for eight hours in a row – well, maybe David Blaine, but apart from him no one (surely?)

The key to achieving your potential, then, is simple (and best said in the words of the great Winston Churchill himself): Never, never, never,never give up. Unless, that is, you are in dire need of a rest. And, perhaps, an accompanying glass of chilled Pinot Grigio. And on that note…

I think this is the best photo I’ve ever taken, and it perfectly encapsulates the concept of never giving up. This was part of an exhibition at the London Zoo – ants are just the most amazing creatures!

Teenage dreams

I’m conscious that I may need to amend the rules of my writing challenge (but as I set them in the first place surely that’s my prerogative?), given that I wrote fiction every day a couple of weeks back and have written mainly blog posts this week. In times of change I find myself more drawn to blogging. I think it’s the teenager in me trying to document everything lest it be forgotten. But whatever the reason I’m enjoying it, so for now I’m going to carry on and hope you’ll humour me.

This morning I was up with the lark (well, comparatively so considering it’s a weekend) to prepare for the British Heart Foundation 10k race in Regent’s Park. I wasn’t worried about the distance – it being just a warm up compared to the 16 mile race I’m doing in two weekends’ time – but I was nervous about my time. Whilst I’m quite a steady long distance runner I’m no Speedy Gonzales, and I was worried I’d show myself up by finishing in over an hour.

The conditions were far from ideal; cold, foggy and muddy underfoot. Foolishly I’d left my gloves at home, and with the start of the race delayed – and my poor circulation kicking in – it soon became apparent this had been a major error.

Eventually we were off, and for the first couple of kilometres I settled into a comfortable pace. Then the course strayed from the path into thick patches of mud, and as I struggled to negotiate them I noticed that the tips of my fingers had turned an alarming shade of blue.

By the eighth kilometre I was determined to keep up the pace I’d set right to the end, but at the ninth I hit a wall and for a moment felt I couldn’t go on. Somehow I pushed through the final kilometre to the finish line, and was delighted to realise I’d finished in under 54 minutes – far exceeding my expectations.

This afternoon I (grudgingly) accompanied my boyfriend to Oxford Street to help him choose a suit for work. In Moss Bros we were served by a sweet boy who was, he told us, still at school but working in the shop every Saturday. He couldn’t have been more than seventeen, bless him, and he looked so awkward standing there, his gawky frame clothed in an ill-fitting suit. I know I sound patronising but it was so endearing the way he tried to engage me in adult conversation whilst my boyfriend was in the changing room.

On re-reading that last paragraph it occurs to me I’m already on the slippery slope to old age. Before I know it I’ll be spitting into hankies and wiping people’s faces. Come back teenage me, all is forgiven.

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The winning streak

Jasper stood on the edge of the muddy playing field. The other boys had streaked off ahead, their red shirts scattering like wildfire across the pitch. He couldn’t hope to catch up, and even if he could they wouldn’t want him to.

It had always been like this. From his very first day at Thorpe Elementary School for Boys, Jasper had stood out as being different. In truth he could see why. The other boys were slim and lean, whereas he was blubbery as a whale. He did try to eat less, to look more normal, but his mum would dish up a second helping and reassure him he was ‘just big boned,’ and his dad would tell him ‘real men’ didn’t ‘eat like sparrows.’

It was starting to rain now, little spots which Jasper first mistook for midges tapping at his skin, but which soon became fat splodges that splashed onto his forehead and plopped down onto his cheeks. He trudged over to the kit bag, pulled out the shin pads and began the painstaking process of attaching them to his chubby legs. He was half way through when he heard a shout.

“Wait!” It was Mister Johnston, the PE teacher. “Not today Barnes, I’m putting you up front.”

Jasper’s mouth fell open and he dropped the shin pad he was holding in his hand onto the soggy ground.

“Williams can go in goal today,” Mister Johnston continued, unperturbed.

A ripple of dissent ran through the boys on the pitch.

“But Sir,” Brian Williams went to protest, but Mister Johnston held his hand up in a way that told him this was not up for negotiation. He pointed to the goal, and Brian scowled as he took his allotted place.

Jasper removed the shin pad from his left leg, his mind racing. This was unusual. He always played goalkeeper. It was just the natural order of things – put the fat kid in the goal, he can’t run far or fast enough to be a striker. He’d always just accepted it. Why was he being given this chance?

As he passed Mister Johnston the teacher gave him a conspiratorial wink.

Half an hour later the game was drawing to a close. Jasper, who had tried to grasp the opportunity that had presented itself with both hands, had been thwarted by his lack of stamina and inexperience in any position other than the one to which he was accustomed. He stood at the side of the pitch, bent double and wheezing. He was cold and dirty. Mud clung to his legs with the kind of hope he’d clung to as he’d started out thirty minutes previously. But all was lost.

Suddenly, the ball was coming towards him at speed. Jasper looked around him. He was by far the nearest person to it. He looked towards the goal at the far end of the pitch and did a calculation. If he started running now he might just make it.

So he ran, as if his life depended on it. He ran until he had gone past all the other boys and all that stood between him and the goal was Phil Bardsley, the opposing team’s keeper. Phil’s silver braces flashed in warning as Jasper pulled his leg back and delivered an almighty kick to the ball. But there was nothing that could stop the ball in its trajectory to the back of the net.

And from this moment onwards, Jasper had the strangest feeling that there would be nothing stopping him.

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I wasn’t sure what image to upload with this post, as I’ve already posted a picture of my triathlon last year, which was my greatest sporting achievement to date (I still can’t believe the chubby six year old I used to be grew up to be a triathlete!) But when I thought about my other greatest sporting achievements to date I decided learning to SCUBA dive last year had to be right up there. It was the most amazing experience diving with the turtles, and something I long to do more of in the future.