Anytime my friends or colleagues are overwhelmed with a task, I always ask them:
How do you eat an elephant?
They often roll their eyes and say:
One bite at a time.
I’ve said this hundreds of times to people, but never once thought to say it to myself when I decided to take on the daunting task of writing my first novel. It all started the sad day my favorite writer, Maya Angelou, passed away. I sat at my desk, holding back tears, and realized despite the emotional passing, she left a legacy of her words. And I immediately thought:
If I die tomorrow, I will be known as “Angie Dyer, the writer who never finished her novel.”
That thought scared me, and I decided I needed to sit my butt down and write the novel I’ve always wanted to write. I created a deadline, March 31, 2015, and wrote it on my vision board, my calendar and told my best friends so they could hold me accountable. But the inevitable happened: I was so nervous about not finishing that I let it get in the way of eating the elephant one bite at a time.
After a few nights of angrily closing my laptop and walking around my apartment cursing, I made a schedule –– just write every day. I was only going to hold myself accountable for simply writing. 20 words or 2,000 words, every word was a victory. I did this while holding down a full-time job. Every day after work, I would change into my favorite pair of sweatpants, get in my spot on the sofa and start writing. Some nights were easier than others, but I kept telling myself “just write.” I had the help of my roommates, who kept me entertained during my blocked moments and gave me high-fives every time I announced my word count for the day.
I enjoyed writing my novel because, with every chapter, I realized this was the story I was always supposed to write. My main character is a combination of all the other characters I’d been writing since I was 13. And nine months later, on March 17, I wrote the last word of my novel. I didn’t cry like I thought I might, nor did I scream with joy. I simply called my mama and told her, then I took my exhausted behind to sleep. I was out of words and out of energy.
I had to make working on my novel my second full-time job and a top priority. I hardly went out, and put writing before a lot of things. Thank goodness I’m single because I'm sure my boyfriend would have left me by January. Did I also mention I gave up coffee for Lent while finishing the novel? Even now, as I’m in the editing process, I am forcing myself to make a schedule, because I have to keep the momentum going. I’m encouraged every day by my friends and family who say they can’t wait to read it, or say they’ve never met someone who actually finished a book. I’m also encouraged by the fact I made one of my dreams come true, one bite at a time.