“They are making me feel bad,” my five-year old said, holding back tears. She glared across the playground where half a dozen kids were scrambling up the brand new climbing rope mountain like monkeys. “They’re making it look like it’s easy but it’s NOT easy because I can’t do it!”
And I knew exactly how she felt.
My first NaNoWriMo, I was struggling to stay on pace with the daily word count, having never written this much in my life before then, and there were people who had already breezed past the 50,000 words in the first week.
I hated them.
How dare they make it look easy when I was struggling like this?
The sun had almost set by the time I convinced my daughter we should probably go home at some point. I told her she could have one last play and, to my surprise, she headed right for the rope mountain she’d avoided since the last failed attempt. I braced myself for the inevitable freakout when I’d have to climb up there and rescue her like every time before but it never came.
She moved very slowly and carefully, choosing just the right footholds, testing each rope before she used it to pull herself a little higher. It was slow going and I could see her legs shaking with effort and fear. At one point she paused and said, half to herself, “This is really scary.” And then reached for the next rope anyway.
Up and up she went, slowly but steadily and she did not stop until she reached the top.
That she had made it there long after all the other kids had left, when even the sun had almost given up on the day, didn’t matter to her as she whooped with victory from the very top of the mountain.
(No picture of her at the top because I’m a kill joy who doesn’t post pics of my kids online but instead here is a GIF of a random child being triumphant whose parents have no such compunctions.)
She had done it. In her own way and in her own time but done it all the same. And so will you.
If you are looking up at the mountain of words yet to write and find yourself glaring jealously at those of us that have already climbed higher, remember that you aren’t doing this for anyone but yourself. Keep your eyes on your next foothold and no one elses. You can do this your own way, in your own time.
You WILL reach the top of your own personal NaNoWriMo mountain so long as you don’t stop, you don’t give up and you just keep moving steadily forward no matter how slowly. Every word you get down is one more than you had before and every one counts. Everyone is a rung closer to reaching your goal of having a finished book.
We went back to the playground a few days later, the rope mountain still terrifyingly large. But this time, my daughter scrambled right up it without fear or hesitation. She reached the top in half the time it had taken before because this time she knew that she could. She had done it slow so that she could do it fast, crawled so she could run ahead without fear. Over and over she climbed and slid back down, laughing with giddy joy that she could do the impossible thing at last.
And, from down below, a little boy who’d just been rescued in tears from midway up watched and glared.