Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What I Learned from NaNoWriMo (In Less Than 1000 Words)

Well, National Novel Writing Month is over. The goal was 50,000 words. I hit 68,342 by November 30. It’s still climbing. In fact, for the first time ever I have the entire plot mapped out in detail, so I know where I’m going with it. Along with the story, I took some valuable lessons away with me from this amazing month:

1. I can get a lot done when I just sit down and write. And don’t edit, read email, do research, or incessantly clean. When I don’t worry about people and dinner and will we be able to get everything done…

In short, when I’m guilt-free. That’s what NaNoWriMo was for me: guilt-free writing. I could go without blogging and emailing all month without feeling judged. I could go without reading (although I still managed to read 2 books start to finish). I could have us eating frozen dinners every night—instead of 5 out of 7—and leave the dishes piling up in the sink for 2 days. Without guilt. The only thing I was required to do every day was write 2000 words and spend time with my husband.

And I learned that there is no reason for my guilt. None. Costco has healthy(er) frozen food. My husband loves the food. The sink is really, really big and can hold 2-3 days’ dishes. Penny can survive a week without having her cage cleaned. The floor can survive without being swept. My world didn’t fall apart. In fact, it got better. I wrote 2000+ words every day. I felt vindicated over and over that this is my PASSION and that I feel most alive when I’m writing. I was made for this.

“Why don’t I do this all the time?” I asked myself. The answer: because of guilt. Because of expectations I’ve placed on myself to be a certain kind of person. Those expectations were holding me back from being the person I actually want to be. I discovered this month that this is actually who I want to be. She's less stressed and lower-maintenance. And she loves what she does. I like her.

Now I will be her. I’ve decided not to take on new clients after my current workload is finished. Ill continue doing dishes every other day and vacuuming every fortnight. What the heck. It’s actually not as bad as I thought.

2. I don’t need to edit to produce good work. My usual work day used to start with reviewing yesterday’s work, editing, then writing the next segment. During Nano, I put down my inner-editor and just wrote. You know what? It’s really good! I have re-read some of it and discovered that I really do have a talent for this. Sure, I’ll edit, of course. But it really doesn’t need it as much as I think.

The day after you write something you’re still full of all the ways it could have gone differently. But a month later, you’re ready to appreciate it as it is: a piece in a larger story. You no longer remember those tiny irrelevant details where you weren’t sure if “fury” or “wrath” sounded better. It really, ultimately, Does Not Matter. (Just like life, funnily enough.)

3. Facebook has its uses. I know that I got mostly off facebook awhile ago, for reasons I still believe were justified. I’m down to family and a very few friends. And because of that, I was able to appreciate the community support of the people I care about cheering me on. Far from being a distraction, Facebook helped me through my month of noveling 120 single-spaced pages. At the beginning of my day, I would go on and update something inspiring, and by the end of the day, I’d post my word count and get all sorts of positive comments along the lines of, “you can do it!”

Writing doesn’t happen in a bubble. Sure, I sit in my office all alone, but it happens because I have you guys cheering me on. Writing is insecure, terrifying work. You pour your heart out on paper and then, like a child, it grows up and leaves the nest... You can no longer protect this part of yourself. It goes out there to get bruised and bullied and maybe succeed. Okay, I’m being dramatic. But writing really does feel like that. It’s a creative process. You’re bringing something new into the world. It’s your baby. You need all the family help you can get to raise this thing without burning out.

That’s where you come in.

4. I missed you guys. I have been LOVING diving back into the world of fantasy. I have been writing comedy for the past year, and love it, but I realized my heart truly lies in the world of dragons and magic. But you know what? I just can’t go without spouting some good nonfiction on an at-least weekly basis. I need this blog. I need to be able to practice my story-telling on the funny things from my day or to give a short essay about my latest eschatological ponderments.

I need you guys. I need to know that there are people listening. Writing is a communicative art, which means it’s written to be read, received, and talked back to. I love this community where I write and you respond. I don’t get that with my books (yet). This feels more real, more organic, even though it’s through cyberspace.

So thank you. Know that I will not abandon you, even with my new goals to let the house run wild. The blog will not run wild. I will still be here.

5. I need to learn brevity. I’m really good at writing lots of words. I like reading lots of words, personally. But most of you have days packed with other things. So I’m going to learn to write my posts in 1000 words or less.

Phew: I did it! 996 words!