I’m sitting in front of my computer, full of bacon and oatmeal (yes, my morning routine spills over into the weekend, too) and watching YouTube videos while waiting for a patch to download for Elder Scrolls Online. The last video I watched is “On Motivation” from John Green, and while he spends most of the video disparaging the idea of pithy motivational quotes, he also acknowledges their power. Particularly the phrase often attributed to Will Smith, which I’ve quoted above.
(In the video, John Green phrases it backwards, i.e., “You don’t have to get ready if you stay ready,” which, honestly, to my ear, sounds better. It’s ending on a positive note. It’s telling you the part you want to do last, so it sticks with you, unlike the more common phrase I found all over the internet, linked above. But I also want to quote correctly, so, there it is.)
Like any aphorism, it has a ring of truth but can fall apart if you dig in too deep or examine it and compare it to real-world examples. Nobody is ready all the time. That would be exhausting. But it does seem like a good practice to, well, practice doing the hard thing you’re planning on doing in the future, to build up some momentum towards it rather than try to tackle the hard job from ground zero or square one or oval negative-3, if you’re particularly out of practice.
Right? Staying ready at all times takes some energy, but jump-starting from complete unreadiness might take more energy. Dishing it out slowly over time means you may use less energy overall. There’s some intuitiveness to that concept. It rings true, even if you can poke holes in it if you look at it with a critical eye.
The part that struck me, though, is that whole building-up-to-something-hard is what I’ve been trying to do with my 30 days of 500 words per day thing, of which this post is day #19. I’m trying to build up to something I’ve attempted but have never completed: NaNoWriMo, where someone writes 50,000 words in 30 days, which requires, on average, 1,666.667 words every day. Usually, I barely make it to my 10th day, and typically fall much shorter than that. On my best attempt, I managed 13,000 words, if my memory serves me correctly (and it was years ago, and I haven’t double-checked, so who knows?)
But also I usually decide to jump in only a few days ahead of the start of November. I steel myself, I build up the mental energy but never actually write much in the days leading up to the 1st of November. I start from zero, after having gone over and over in my mind how much I need to get done out of the gate. Nothing on the 31st of October, then a giant burst of writing at the earliest possible moment when the next day rolls around.
This year, however, I will have practice. I will have a minimum of 19 days in a row of writing something, 500 words, every day. And every day after this that I keep this up will add to that streak, and get me closer to the start of NaNoWriMo. Assuming I do, in fact, make it 30 days, I can either keep going, staying ready, or push myself a little closer to the ultimate goal of 1666+ words per day. Maybe increase it to 750, or even 1,000 words per day. I can ramp up. Because, clearly, I can do 500 words a day. I’ve demonstrated that to myself. If this were NaNoWriMo, I would already be over my previous—you know what, I’m going to go check my official stats, hold on.
According to my stats page on the official NaNoWriMo site, my best year was 2016, when I logged 22,145 words, lasting 16 days, on a novel I called “The Elites Ran Away.” I don’t really remember that, even though it was only 3 years ago. But as I was saying, by writing 500+ words per day for 19 days, I’ve already logged almost half that amount. I can definitely do this.
This year, I’m getting ready now and staying ready all the way through November.