Swimmers, take your mark and then an obnoxiously loud buzzer are a combination of sounds that I heard thousands of times when I was swimming competitively on my high school team. Last night at midnight I felt much the same sensation take over my body in anxious minutes of anticipation.
In a dive, a swimmer will occasionally “False Start,” that is to say jump early and thus be eliminated from the race. As I stared at my screen waiting to start NaNo I had to physically hold myself back from false stating. For a fraction of a second as you fly off the block, the explosion of energy feels good, the tension gone that much sooner, but alas you are technically cheating and reality hits hard when your chances of winning are suddenly gone. If I had false-started on my NaNoWriMo novel I would have felt that same sense of heady elation that is so quickly followed by horror. I never would have counted myself a winner, even if I hit 50,000 in a month. So it’s with pride that I announce that I did not false start, but rather held myself in check and exploded off the starting blocks with my full energy and enthusiasm at the appropriate time.
In those five years of competition I swam distance events in nearly every meet. Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month? Well it kind of feels like the distance race of a lifetime. Will I break a personal record this year? Will I even finish? All questions that will be answered in the course of the race (And after my homework is done).
Of course the most beautiful thing about the sport of swimming is the friendships across enemy lines. Many people may have observed in August that while the fans wanted Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps to be enemies, the two simply weren’t abandoning their friendship in the heat of competition. I myself have often hugged a friend who had just beaten me or cheered for a member of the opposing team. Much the same way, we aren’t enemies in NaNo world even though we’re all trying to win, so I’m looking forward to congratulating everyone else in thirty days.