Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
First off, I hope you had a wonderful holiday! Normally I write a happy holidays post prior to Christmas, but this year the holiday season has been so busy for me, I simply didn't have a chance. I'm sorry for that, but I'm wishing you a late Merry Christmas anyway! I hope your holidays have been filled with hope and light and love. I had a wonderful time with my family.
Also, something else I've been a little late on...
The yearly "What I Learned From NaNoWriMo" post!
Gosh, time has simply gotten away from me. But don't worry, I've actually been busy putting what I learned from NaNo this year to good use, so it wasn't a waste, merely a redirection.
Honestly, I've learned plenty of good things about writing this year, so instead of making this my typical "what I learned from NaNo" post, I've decided to rename it my "3 things I learned about writing in 2017" post. I've learned more than 3, but these 3 were big lessons, and I hope they're of inspiration to you.
Dive in and enjoy!
#1: Every Writer Has Their Own Journey
I realized a while back (thank you, Mrs. L'Engle) that if you compare yourself to other writers, ultimately you lose. I spent part of my summer reading "Walking On Water: Reflections On Faith and Art" by aforementioned Madeleine L'Engle, my favorite author. I recommend this book for a variety of reasons, but this was a big lesson I learned from it.
In writing (and anything, you can argue) the person you're really competing with at the end of the day is yourself. You are your own worst enemy, and all that. And of course, we are constantly trying to improve our craft. So don't worry so much about others.
I see so many authors (especially young ones, I'll admit) talking about how awful a book was, or how horrible the writing was, ranting and raving usually (I have been, and sometimes still am, a guilty party, though I try not to be). Sure, we all have different tastes, and that's fine, but the sense of superiority that comes with this kind of criticism will only sour your soul. Instead of raging about the "awfulness" of the book, take a look at what you did like -- or what you didn't like, but why you didn't like it, and how it differs from your writing in a constructive way.
Every writer works hard; writing is not easy. Appreciate their work for its creativity -- don't pick through what's "wrong" with it without realizing it's just an opinion. That only leaves you bitter, and more likely to be overly critical of your own work. And if you're not so busy looking for mistakes or something to jeer at, you free yourself up to actually enjoy the story for what it is, for the parts that you do like. You don't have to love everything, but focus on the positives.
We are all doing our best, searching for our own stories, and that deserves respect. You don't have to like everything you read, but you don't have to rip what doesn't suit your personal tastes to shreds, either.
#2: Only You Can Accomplish Your Goals
This should be obvious, but hear me out.
There are so many things standing in the way of success for a writer: media, publishers, readers, money, time, and of course one's own fears (to name a few). Not to mention that writing itself is plenty of work up front, with absolutely no guaranteed payoff. I joke that I would never tell anyone to become a writer, because it's such a stressful job, but that joke is honestly half true (as much as I love being a writer at the same time).
But despite all of the obstacles, we have to push through if we want to achieve our dream, whatever that may look like for you. And in order to do this, we have to lace up our shoes, put on our hats, and keep walking.
It's great to have people cheering you on. Support is invaluable. It's great to have deadlines to guide you, and books to reassure you. It's great to have people you look up to and can look to -- those who have been down the road, and made it to the other side.
But when it comes to accomplishing your goals, it's all on you. The blood, sweat, tears, and time are all on you. Only you can sit down, put in the hours, and get this thing done. Sure, others will take your work into their own hands afterwards, help you shape it and sell it, but the central part of the work -- the writing -- is your responsibility.
Don't let this frighten you. Don't let this overwhelm you. Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say. Keep working, keep your spirit up, and walk forward step by step until the end.
#3: It's Good To Let Go Of Distractions
Another one that sounds obvious, but hear me out.
This one, I "learned" (which, for most of us, means relearning) during NaNoWriMo this year.
For the record, I didn't "complete" NaNo this year, and I'm perfectly happy with that. I wrote a lot, accomplished things on my to-do list, and I had fun with my writing friends. That's what matters to me. 50K is a fine goal, but most novels are not truly written in a month; it's not a mindset I want to get into, though for new writers it's a good challenge.
I wrote on 5 different stories during NaNo. I started off with a book I'd been writing for a while, wrote a short story, put a few chapters into an ongoing project, started draft #2 of 2016's NaNo novel, and edited/rewrote some chapters in my ongoing editing project.
At first, I tried to stick with my "official" NaNo novel, which I was initially excited about. But about a week in, it was becoming clear that I wasn't enjoying writing the story...or how fast I was "supposed" to be writing it (I'm a fast typer, but a medium-paced writer, as I like to overthink everything). So, I did what in years past I would never have done:
I let go.
Some people think this is crazy, but I've been writing long enough to know that it's not. Sometimes you really do have to let go: of a story you've been working on for years, of a scene you love, of a character who has stuck with you. Writing, in many ways, is a practice of letting go.
So I let go. I told the novel goodbye (whether for now or always, we shall see). And I started working on other things.
I have a goal in mind for 2018, so I shifted my focus to my goals during NaNo, rather than to the story that ended up being the distraction. It's not that the "distraction" was a bad story -- I'm pretty fond of it, actually -- it's just that, right now, it doesn't align with what I'm working towards.
Come the end of NaNo, I pretty much disappeared from social media, too. I like interacting with people, and SM can be inspiring, but it became a distraction, and the truth is: I can't do multiple projects and SM at the same time, and do either one very well. I have about 2-3 things I can do at once and do well, and I've currently reached my limit, so something had to go for now.
I believe in doing your best work. I believe in putting your all into the work you're doing. If you find that you're overloaded or are not doing your best, chances are something is distracting you. There's nothing wrong with pushing aside that distraction. You may very well come back to it later, when you have enough time.
I hope you've enjoyed this post, and it's inspired you. Comments are appreciated! If you liked this post, feel free to tell me below.
Happy late Christmas, and a very happy New Year!