Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I am back, I am back, I am back! I hope you all had a wonderful November, and if you're part of the NaNo crowd, a wonderful NaNoWriMo.
As is tradition, I am writing my "What I Learned From NaNoWriMo #Year" post, and I hope you enjoy it. This NaNo was extremely different for me, and in plenty of ways extremely tough, but I feel that it was a good November overall...to find out why, browse below!
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I have been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009. It was a flurrying year -- like a storm of snowflakes -- because I was young(er), and NaNo was new to me, and I was brimming with excitement for this challenge. I started a day late, actually, because I entirely forgot about NaNo due to a test I had (I was taking French #1 at the time), but that night I hashed out quite a few words. It was exhilarating, liberating, and when I reached 50K (in less than a month), I was thrilled. Look how much I wrote!
Fast-forward to the next year: same time, same excitement. That year I tried a completely new-to-me genre, and I attended the write-ins for the first time. Wow, other writers who are as crazy as I am (maybe)! It was fantastic, and I had so much fun. I even wrote a bit over 76K that year, the highest amount of words I've ever written for a NaNo story, I think. And when NaNo ended, and our region's ML said he was going to pass the torch -- and wanted to pass it to me, of all people -- I was thrilled.
Unfortunately, I missed the signup date to be ML for the next year -- and the year after that. So, I made myself "unofficial" ML, and hosted parties and write-ins. Again, NaNo was fun -- for the third year, at least. I was able to push the boundaries of my writing further, penning one of my first ever sequels. But by the fourth year, I was beginning to have trouble (in hindsight, this may have been because I was writing a novel I was dared to write, and though I liked it, it was honestly completely outside of my comfort zone).
Fast-forward again to year five, where I became official ML for the first time. Oh my goodness, the work! Some may speculate what is particularly taxing about being an ML, but as an introvert who is extremely perfectionistic, it was difficult. I enjoyed it, but it was difficult. Planning, answering inquires, planning again, and attending every one of our write-ins: time consuming and stressing. It was hard to focus on my novel, because I was helping other people through the issues they were having with theirs -- why I signed up in the first place, because I love to foster writing spirits, but not quite what I was expecting. I began to fall behind in my word count, and of course I didn't want to lose NaNo, or get too far behind, because that would hardly be inspirational to my Wrimos! The result: I finished NaNo, but it was a struggle.
I say all of this to start my real story: about this year, 2014's, NaNoWriMo.
This year I signed up once again to be ML, as no one seemed interested in taking the torch, and it's really a better event if there are local write-ins, and someone is there to help you if you need it. I plotted, I planned, I bought and stuffed goodie bags for the Wrimos, purchased notebooks; I went all out, even creating a calendar for my team. Pre-NaNo, I was very excited. I wanted to start writing back in September, the idea really alive, but I waited, because it wasn't November yet (I should really have listened to Mrs. L'Engle's advice, to "write it while it's alive", but I didn't). I waited. I waited--
And then NaNo came, and suddenly everything collapsed around me.
No one ever asks for issues to arise, but when they do, we seek the best way to handle them. At the start of November I was faced with pressing health and family issues, and adding to that a month of managing my region was something I simply could not handle. With an aching heart, I e-mailed NaNo and told them that I could not be ML this year after all, explaining why. Everyone was very polite, very understanding, and I was grateful that I had at least been able to set up write-ins and the Kickoff Party for my region's Wrimos, but I felt like a failure.
You read that right, yes: I felt like a failure.
I decided to try and keep writing, though, to finish NaNo, and to at least participate in the community board. Strike two: my story fizzled out at 10K, and due to circumstances I had less time to write, and almost no time to interact on the board. Again: I felt like a failure.
But then something happened: I woke up and told myself I needed to evaluate just why I felt like a failure, and find a way to fix it so I could get back to being productive instead of glum, and get to feeling better.
Life is never simple, and sometimes it is more complicated than we want it to be. Life throws unexpected twists and turns and fast-balls at us, and we have to learn to dodge them, or to swerve when need be. But reflection is good, and in reflecting I realized this:
I had been feeling like a failure at NaNo for a while, because I was trying to put my heart into some place it simply didn't fit.
I think NaNo is wonderful, especially for new writers (though I wish they would emphasize editing and rewriting more), but at this stage in my writing life, it no longer holds the same appeal. It is more of a contest of pride than a fun or challenging pursuit. I know that I can write 50K, or 70K, or even a 100K probably, if I wanted, in a month, but that isn't the point anymore for me personally. I like taking time with my stories, instead of trying to prove to myself that I can outdo my last set of numbers. I feel very much like Dave in NaNoWriMo the Musical: "NaNo just isn't fun anymore."
I needed to fail, I really did, because failing NaNo helped me see that I don't need to need it anymore. I don't need to try and beat my last word count, or write a crazy story that is way outside of my comfort zone. I don't need to try and push through something that I don't like writing, and tell myself its necessary, only to "win". I don't need to need NaNo anymore; I don't need to "win". I don't need to prove anything, because I already know.
I can get back to being the type of writer I am -- slow and steady wins the race, as they say -- instead of the type of writer I have learned that I'm not.
It's okay to "fail" in this case. I've learned from it -- and isn't that what failure is for? Learning?
Does that mean I will never try NaNo again? No, it doesn't, though I don't see myself participating for at least a few years, if at all. Does that mean that NaNo is not good for other writers? No, it doesn't. I met some wonderful new writers this year, some people who I think will be really wonderful at the craft, whether they ever publish or not, and the challenge really helped them to try, to see what they can do. What it does mean is that I felt like a "failure" because I wasn't reaching the deadline, the word count, not because it was what I wanted to do, but because I felt like I had to, and I didn't have to -- I don't have to.
So, what did happen during my November, if I didn't finish -- and after a week or so didn't worry about finishing -- NaNo?
Honestly, it was very refreshing not to have to worry over reaching that 50K, or updating my word count constantly. I spent my November instead getting to know my writing again, having "dates" with my characters, focusing on my health and personal life, and something else exciting -- researching into traditional publishing and querying agents (to be talked about next post). I may not have reached 50K this November, but I did write around 25K, re-connected with my writing, got to feeling better, and started preparing for a new venture.
I didn't win NaNo this year, but now I don't feel like a failure at all.
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What was your NaNo experience? How was writing in November for you? What have you learned about the type of writer you are?