Opening The Void

[3-Min Read] [NaNoWriMo 2023 #1/6] This November, I'm embarking on a writing challenge and invite you to get a front-row view of how my mind ticks when pursuing a bold goal.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

Opening The Void

[NaNoWriMo 2023 #1/6] This November, I’m embarking on a writing challenge and invite you to get a front-row view of how my mind ticks when pursuing a bold goal. 

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual tradition in the USA. Writers from all over the world gather online during November to carve out 50,000 words. It’s an entirely volunteer organisation guided by passionate writers covering every genre.  

NaNoWriMo gives writers a time and place to transform ideas into reality. Some folks will be writing their idea for the very first time. Others, like me, will have completed some pre-work.

I aim to write the first complete draft of the book version of Dare To Be Your Boldest. Fifty thousand words may not get me there, but it will be a massive leap of progress.

Dare to be Your Boldest is the keynote speech I’ve shared for the past year. It goes behind the scenes of how I mentally prepared for running from Broken Hill to Sydney, a distance of 1300km, in 2017. During that preparation, I learned how to trust myself 100%, and I share those insights in the keynote. Without spoiling the plot too much, I confronted a life-threatening moment that forced me to see the power buried inside me.

My keynote speech is 3,000 words long, so I’m expanding it to 50,000 words to explore my experience further. I’d like to explain how I induced that life-threatening moment, what I learned from it, and how it radically changed my life path. That’s the goal anyway!

The conversation in my mind is already trying to turn the NaNoWriMo molehill into a mountain. When I think about writing 1,500 words for 30 consecutive days, the first thought that pops into my mind is, “Gosh (not the actual word used)! That’s a lot of extra work!”

I have tried writing this book before, back in 2019. Let’s call that my first-first draft. I’ve written all types of business documents for decades and thought that writing a memoir would only be a step or two away from my existing skill set, but the transition didn’t happen as smoothly on the screen as in my head.

I pushed myself to write 300 words a day and reached 22,351 words before I choked to a dead stop, never to open that file (which I grandly called manuscript.doc) again.

Reading the rubbish I had generated made my tired eyes weep. The plot wandered in strange directions. The sentences were weird and contorted. I wanted to shift from a formal, arms-length business tone toward an intimate, descriptive style, and it was evident it would take more than bravado and wishful thinking to accomplish that.

As they say, a little self-awareness can take you a long way. Discovering I sucked at writing a memoir provided an extraordinary insight because it led me down a trail of exploration that has delivered me here. I would have been content with the same predictable journey if I had not failed.

PHOTO: On my verandah in 2019, writing the first-first draft when a local dropped in to offer some advice.

It’s almost clich√© that when extreme adventurers hunger for personal growth, they plot an even more extreme adventure to stretch themselves.

Ant Middleton shares a stark example of this behaviour in his book The Fear Bubble.  

Middleton is a former British SAS soldier who achieved fame through the reality TV show, “SAS”. In The Fear Bubble, Middleton talks of a call-of-the-wild moment he experienced while sitting in a London gentleman’s lounge surrounded by influence and opulence. Answering that call had him climb Everest, ultimately risking his life and almost wiping out his crew in bloody-minded desperation to feel alive and get his growth fix.

Part of me can relate to what he was feeling. After achieving everything I wanted to with running Broken Hill to Sydney, I felt a massive gap in my life. Not only because I no longer needed to train for 20 hours a week but emotionally, too.

Without the impetus of a grand goal, I felt stagnant, and that’s a horrible, depressing sensation for a goal-driven person. I needed some way to get my “growth fix”, so I planned to set a new speed record for running a north-south section of Australia.

I created another of my infamous spreadsheets and plotted a 3000km route straight through the middle of the Simpson Desert. It had all the tricks of a fantastically engaging event, including setting up a scenario where I would race one of Australia’s iconic cross-country trains.  

The book writing was also an attempt to fill the void. My impetus for starting the first-first draft was a stream of requests from friends within the running community and work colleagues for me to write “the book”. Other people seeded the idea in my mind, and I took up the challenge because there was no other compelling void-filler within easy reach.

I can’t remember whether I dumped the book writing or the 3000km epic adventure first; I guess that’s something I delve into during the NaNoWriMo draft. But underlying the dumping of both was the same realisation.  

I had more to learn about myself, which would only emerge by allowing the void in my life to open rather than compulsively closing it.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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