Needless to say, I failed last year. As it says in my About page, my New Year’s resolution was to write more and to periodically (and with the highest of futile hopes, regularly) update this blog.
Definitely didn’t happen.
I would periodically write, of course, because of my wonderful writing group I had back home. But then I moved and didn’t have an established writing group anymore and that made things much harder. I still kept my regular writing day of Saturday at Panera for a few hours, but I was not entirely productive and would get stuck listening my my music, texting (people from my former writing group), playing stupid games on my phone, making excuses that I can’t write while I eat my lunch, etc etc, until I felt like I put in my allotted time (I would always try to stay at Panera for at least two hours) and then give it up for a loss. It’s just not one of those days where the muse hits me, too much other stuff in my brain, I can’t focus properly right now, and other such bullshit.
I found that really the only time that I can buckle down and focus is during NaNoWriMo. Something that should be known about me is that if I don’t have a deadline – a real deadline – I am just utterly useless. I can try and set myself arbitrary deadlines and those occasionally work, but more often than not, they just really don’t because I know that they’re not real. Tricking myself rarely works but it definitely does not work when it comes to writing. Hence the glories of NaNoWriMo! 30 days, 50,000 words, one frantic writer trying to figure out what comes next in the story.
Somehow I won this year (two in a row!!), even though about a week in I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to make it. I hadn’t planned enough, I had no real idea where the story was going, personal shit got in the way, etc. But I realized after telling myself that I wasn’t going to make it after only a week’s worth of writing was the stupidest thing I could ever do to myself. Why would I get myself down like that? Yeah, I was going to keep on writing anyway but I wasn’t going to worry about getting the 50k because there was no way I was going to do that with this story, blah blah blah. NO! I had a new story that I was really excited about, a whole new world to discover and unfold, and I was already telling myself that I couldn’t do it, at least not the way that I wanted to. Needless to say, I got my shit together, buckled down, and wrote 50k words in 30 days.
The next part is the hardest though. Life after NaNoWriMo. NaNo really comes at the most inconvenient time of the year. With November comes Thanksgiving (the greatest of all holidays!!), lovely crisp fall air, and the desire to hibernate and never be productive ever again. And then follows lovely December, which brings chaos and presents and family and traveling and socializing and ribbons and wrapping paper and more chaos and stress and who the hell has time to write during December?
So here I sit, 3 minutes after midnight on January 11th doing my first bit of writing since November 30th (yes, I am counting this as writing because I am writing more words than needed in an instragram post).
So what have I learned?
Yes. Obviously. That’s a given. I want to call myself a writer, but I don’t write. Not really. Not enough that I can justify calling myself that. But the ‘how’ of it is the question.
How do I motivate myself to sit down and write when it’s just so easy to click the “next episode” button on Netflix? How can I motivate myself to write when at the end of the work day I just want to turn off my brain for a while and wind down? How can I motivate myself to write when I read all of these other great works of literature whose stories and characters are just so alive and real and I can barely figure out basic plot in my own novel, let alone have the characters seem real enough that someone might potentially care about their joys and their pains enough to feel them too, the way that I do when I read other stories?
I know. I’m supposed to just sit down and write. Push through it. 10 words are better than no words. And yes, that’s true, but good lord that makes writing such a chore doesn’t it? Writing really is something that I truly love and enjoy. I do it for myself, not with the goal of ever getting published or becoming the next great American novelist, but purely because I love it. But forcing myself to sit down and write because I feel like I have to? That doesn’t make me love it.
The long and short of it though is, I do love it. Writing, when it’s working for me, when the muse is with me! is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. As grueling as NaNoWriMo can be, I LOVE IT because it gives me real deadlines and makes me sit down and write and when I’m done I feel so great about myself. Even if what I wrote was utter shit (and, of course, anything written during NaNo is going to be shit), I still wrote it.
And that really is a great thing.