The Finish Line

Finish-lines, dead-lines, due-dates, the red ribbon we cross through, there on the horizon. Our dream. Staring us in the face. What do we do with that image? How do we proceed? Do we rush toward it, ignoring all the distractions? Do we start strong and finish strong? Do we need or use or look for support along the way?

I recently tested my own ability to cross the finish-line myself by writing 50,000 words in one month. A novel from start to finish. No notes, no outline, no preplanning. Just write as it happens upon you. November is National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo. On November 1st I woke with no intention to sign up for NaNoWriMo. In fact, I knew for certain, I would not, could not, didn’t dare, attempt participation. But my dear spouse, who knows me so very well, and a new friend (prettylittlebanana) who blogged about the contest, both prompted me. “Just Do It” became a chorus that day. A chorus I could not ignore, so I, in fact, did sign up.

But on the morning of November 2nd I still hadn’t written a word. But worse than that, I had no idea or scenario or character or plot from which to start. I was quickly in panic mode and the month loomed like a heavy string of dark days with no chance of sunshine. Luckily, maybe even miraculously, mid-morning, I did find a droplet of light in my path, a small crumb of inspiration, and I snatched it. It was a snippet of conversation. I jotted it down as my opening line and let it lead me on a wild writing ride into a drama peopled by characters with stirring pasts and bustling nows and pressing dreams all their own.

Thirty days and nights of writing ensued, with countless inspired moments along with some sticky times when I really just wanted to stop, not write another word, not care about Molly or Seth or whether they did in fact love each other, or whether Alice would forgive Walter for having an illegitimate child, or if Betsy could ever come out to her family. I mean, these were my imagined characters, right? Not real flesh and blood people! Jeez, somedays I just didn’t want to keep them in my life any longer. Yet, as I did on day one, I used the support all around me, and somehow, with my team, I keep going, squeezing in a hour here or there, skipping meals, skipping plenty, yet always with my eye on the finish-line, and together all of that mixed with my own competitive drive, until I arrived at the very last day, and during the evening hours of November 30th I reached 50,017 words and brought the North family saga to an end.

I often wonder what is it that enables us to struggle long hours to pursue our dreams. Does it takes an external impetus to shake us out of our own way? My daughter had all but given up on her artist dreams when, last summer, her boyfriend, reminded her that all it takes is one drawing to find a way back. As he shut her apartment door, he prompted her to get at it, no more delay, no more excuses, no more letting days slip by without making what you truly care about happen. He himself was on his way to do the same, working tirelessly on a screenplay. Now, just a short few months later, her extraordinarily distinct drawings are in a Chicago gallery (and selling) and she’s negotiating with a Los Angeles location. From having no time to draw, she had no time to not draw. And yes, his screenplay is completed.

Like a bubble inside, each one of us is ready to burst with the energy needed to make our idiosyncratic dreams come true. We need to dare a bit. Work indefatigably. Play with our dream like we did at six, with our body, mind and soul. Be willing to skip out on stuff you’d normally swear was super super important. Stand up to your own doubts. Seriously, don’t back down or back off. Instead, keep your eye on the fluttering red ribbon, defining your finish-line and with every ounce of your being let yourself dash across it.

Winning your own life feels like the life you were meant to live. After all, it is your wonderful life!

4 thoughts on “The Finish Line

  1. Well,of course,I am the first to comment,but won’t be the last. I will send it on…….Noone has your energy,commitment and caring….no wonder you are a selected AP teacher,a revered English teacher,admired by the world….An amazing woman! Keep on with your intrepid life! So happy to be here to see it……Love,E.

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