13 Weeks: My Own Personal NaNoWriMo

In years past I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month, not for the sake of starting and completing a 50,000 word novel, but just for the sake of getting myself to write something. Recently, however — and especially since beginning my Master’s degree! — I’ve been too sensitive to the time crunch to even let myself think about undertaking such a task.

This doesn’t stop me from writing, as you might have noticed. In fact, it helps because I know my writing time now is precious. The less I have, the more I use it.

Still, as November draws nearer I’ve found myself longing to forget my other responsibilities and just write. It doesn’t matter that I’m already 24,000 words into my current work; I don’t need to participate officially in order to get something out of NaNoWriMo. I’ve realized that what I really want (mentally need?) is a reasonable deadline and a series of small goals leading up to it — the basic NaNo formula. Except that my NaNoWriMo will extend from right now until the last day of the year, and the word-count goal will change depending on how many more words I think the novel needs.

So, there are 13 weeks left in the year, plus a handful of days that I’m not really going to count on. At 24k, I feel like I’m about halfway through the novel, so my word count for now will be, as in NaNo, about 50k. Maintaining a weekly goal, that’s 2,000 words a week, or an average of about 285 words a day.

That doesn’t seem so bad.

The danger here is in those days where, for one reason or another, I don’t write. Suddenly the 285 words I was supposed to write on Monday become 570 to get out on Tuesday. If I miss more than a couple days at a time, which happens often, I may just feel like putting it off even more. Every writer knows this feeling of procrastination. However, if I simply say that I have to write 2,000 words a week, I won’t stop myself after a session of 285 words; I might go on to 300, or 500. I may write 1,000 in a single day. At least, this is the theory.

So then, fellow writers… what’s your goal?

Let the countdown (and the word-count) begin!

The Writer Becomes… “Teacher”

Though I was lucky enough to get financial aid all throughout college, this resulted in my not getting a job until this past January, when I started working six or seven hours a week tutoring Japanese. I starting private tutoring ESOL in April, only five months ago.

So imagine my surprise when a random resume drop-off (with a not-so-good self introduction, btw) resulted in my university’s English Language Institute calling me up with a job offer. Two days later, I had my own intermediate grammar class and a surprisingly hefty hourly salary. A second class, Reading and Vocabulary, was added the following week.

I have to say, teaching a class is a lot different than private tutoring. The students I worked with before were more self-motivated, and because we worked one on one, we were able to make more progress in a session. Though I have some dedicated students in my ELI classes, almost half of them don’t show up on a regular basis. This makes it very hard to coordinate tests. On top of that, some students feel entitled to special treatment based on some logic that I just can’t fathom. “Teacher, teacher,” says the student who’s missed the last three classes, “I didn’t know about a test today. I can take tomorrow?”

There are times, however, when I am pleasantly surprised. Like when most of the Muslim students who had three days off for the Ramadan celebration chose to take the test despite having missed the entire chapter and being completely caught off guard. I thought that was rather brave.

The most amazing thing is that I was able to get this opportunity at all. In fact, I almost turned down the offer because I was terrified of failure. I’d only been tutoring for eight months! How could I possibly hope to teach an entire class without any actual training? The person I was not long ago would have turned it down. What actually convinced me to accept, I’m still not sure; surely it was an amazing opportunity, and everyone said I should take it. But the final decision was mine, and it surprised even me.

Every day I learn something new about my students and about teaching groups. It’s a lot of work both inside and outside the classroom, and not everything I try is successful. In a way, I’m learning more than many of those I teach. But if that weren’t the case, I think I would be hopeless as a teacher. I’m on such a level now that I need to learn and keep improving as much as I can.

And so I will.

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