Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
So, it's December already, nearing Christmas, and I cannot quite believe it! I am always excited for Christmas, as it's my favorite holiday, and this year is no exception. I fully plan to write, write, write this December, along with celebrating with family, but before I do, I would like to take a moment to look back at November...
Every year, I participate in NaNoWriMo, and every year I learn new things about writing from my experience. This year was one of the strangest NaNos I have ever taken part in, but I learned so many things along the way, things that are currently pushing me to write another book about writing (you can find the other, Writing With Inspiration, here). But, for now I'd like to share some of the things that I discovered when it was just me, my laptop, and my writing friends (old and new!).
~ Lesson #1: Being The Leader (ML) Is Not Easy Work, But It Is Very Important ~
This may be something that sounds obvious, but when you sit down and think about it, it is put into a new perspective for you...or, at least it was for me.
This year, I signed up to be my region's Municipal Liaison, or ML, for NaNo, scheduling the write-ins, the parties, and answering questions. We had not had an official ML for two years, so it was very exciting. Thankfully for me, I suppose, we have a smallish region, and not as many writers as, say, New York City has (one of the largest cities; I guess I could have said Boston), but still, it was a lot of work! But you know what, it was worth it, because I was able to see writing, and the act of talking about writing, from a different perspective.
I have said many times over the years that I have been inspired by other writers, and it is true. Some of this has been in person, such as when I have gone to get books signed, and some of this has been through interviews, or even through reading the words that someone took the time to pen. But I suppose, in a way, we all take inspiration for granted, and that is something I realized during NaNo. I took it upon myself to write pep talks for our struggling writers (this year of which there were many, me included), and I tried to offer advice and encouragement whenever I could. I'm not saying it was perfect, but I like to think that if even a small bit of that encouragement helped, then it was worth the time.
But, just as with the writers who have inspired me, if I hadn't taken that time, then the budding authors might not have been encouraged -- I might not have been encouraged. Looking back over how I've been encouraged by others, I feel that I've taken their words for granted, or expected them to be there to encourage me -- because that's what they're supposed to do, right? -- but being on the other end, I now feel more appreciative than ever because of the time they took out to say a few words, whether they thought those words might help someone or not. That could have been life or death for me -- as far as writing -- if they had said they were too busy.
I nearly wasn't able to finish my goal this NaNo, because I had so many other things to do (ML and work-related), but I don't regret taking the time out to help and to encourage, even so. The reward from that is too great to put into a measure of words, because if it means another author's life or death as far as writing, well, I choose life.
~ Lesson #2: Writing Isn't Fun ~
This may sound cruel, but hear me out.
I used to think writing was fun, relatively easy, something that I could do fairly well (and get a lot of words out) when I sat down, though of course I had my difficulties, as everyone else. But then, something happened this year, and writing became hard -- more serious, more emotional, more like, well, work. During NaNo, I wrote the most difficult 50,000 words I have ever penned, and half the time I felt as if the act of writing those words was akin to ripping my heart out and slicing it into shreds.
But there's something beautiful in that, I've come to realize, and now I feel like more of a writer than ever, because I've discovered that writing is not fun, and I've accepted that -- and, consequently, I've written what may just be my best piece yet, heart shards and all. Does that mean that I was never a "real writer" before this revelation? No, but I do feel quite different now, empowered almost, because writing isn't expected to be fun anymore -- so when it isn't fun, which is most of the time, I don't feel as though I'm doing it wrong. It is quite freeing.
Can writing be fun? Of course. I'm having fun with the story I'm currently working on, so far, but "can be" and "is" are two entirely different things. Writing is not fun all of the time, and neither should it be--
Writing is heartbreaking. It is emotional. It is physically unhealthy most of the time. It is painful. It causes stress, lack of sleep, headaches, carpal tunnel, depression, and all other sorts of lovely things...
But, it's also fun.
See what I'm getting at here?
Writing is a lot like life -- sometimes up, sometimes down -- and the thing about it is, if you can carry on, then you can get somewhere. Not every day is going to be great, not every day is going to be filled with inspiration, not every day will you produce good words, but, hey -- if you keep writing, eventually you will get somewhere, and write something fantastic, and it will be worth all of those tears, and sweat, and blood, and smiles, and that is why we keep doing it.
~ Lesson #3: There Is No "Time" To Write ~
As I said above, like it or not, writing is work. It can be a hobby, and that is great, but even as a hobby it is work -- and it is work even more so for those of us who like to publish.
That having been said, you are not always going to feel like working. I currently have a second job that I really enjoy, but when I get up in the morning, early, to go in, I definitely don't feel like working -- I'm tired, I'm not a morning person, and I don't want to deal with people -- but, after a little while, I get into my routine, and everything is good; some days are still better than others, but that is normal.
Writing is a lot like this. There is no magic spell you can cast, no serum you can take, no word you can find to make you want to write all of the time. It just isn't going to happen. More than likely, you won't want to write more than you will; the keyboard and/or notebook can appear extremely terrifying at times.
I have noticed this NaNo that I far too often rely on "inspiration" to get me writing, to get me "in the mood for writing", and I've learned this NaNo that I cannot rely upon such things; if I do, in fact, I will never get where I want to go, and neither will the characters who get left behind. Inspiration rarely pops up out of the blue, and even when it does, there is a lot of hard work that must be put behind it. But while you're off waiting for this elusive inspiration to appear, you could be writing -- not in the state of "inspired" perhaps, but writing, and that means getting something done, and that means forward progression.
I actually felt like writing, actually felt "inspired", perhaps 1/27th of NaNo this year, if that. Most days, it felt like drudge work, which I truly hate to say, but as with my second job, once I begun typing, and settled in, some of that gloom lifted, and I was able to write -- maybe not perfect words, but what ever is perfect? The fact was, I wasn't able to wait around for inspiration to find me--
I had to make my own inspiration, and that's called perseverance. Writing is all about perseverance, about not giving up, about devoting yourself to sitting there, every day, and typing something, no matter what you feel like.
The act of writing, for an author, is a labour of love -- a conscious decision that, even when you don't feel like it, even when you're not "inspired", you're going to do it anyway, because it's something you care about.
I hope these reflections were helpful to you! Keep writing!
Alexandra finished her NaNo novel, Cataclysmic, a two-part Science-Fiction piece, on November 30th, at 11:18PM, less than an hour before NaNoWriMo finished.