Words Today: 1107
Total Words: 50,551
The terminology is that you “win” NaNoWriMo, and like any good guide (or English teacher), the NaNo people are careful to say that you win by trying, you win by signing up, that any words written in November are more than you had before.
I hit 50,000 words today. I never thought I could do this, and yet, I don’t feel quite as victorious as the novelists probably do when they cross this finish line (running through, as the track terminology goes. One does not merely stop at a finish line). I’m not sure those thoughts self-sabotage, but as I’ve written before, I do believe that novelists, going through and birthing the same story for at least month are the true warriors. I’m like a knight’s page, shining the swords, cleaning the shields and all sorts of other tasks that sound vaguely filthy.
I spoke with my husband about this yesterday, that I did not use NaNo in the true spirit of the idea. However, I did do my 50,000 words, and if I’m lucky I’ll get at least 10,000 more by month’s end. I wrote essays and stories, and some days, several unrelated descriptions. Small pieces of creative writing. Seeds planted. Strings of thoughts that I had the luxury of seeing to completion (draft wise) every day or every few days. That in and of itself is motiviating. At this time in my life, I need smaller victories to move me along.
My husband told me that with the pressures of time right now, young children, volunteer work, and life, that I have to write about things that are “close to home” (if not literally in my home.) I don’t have the full luxury of time to craft a story of any novel length. This was made harder by having kids home for three weeks, sick. Those precious school hours when all three were out of the house were productive. I was able to get lost in thought. But them home and needing me meant that each day’s writing, each 1667 or so was it’s own special file. The only trick was coming up with new concepts every day or so.
Here’s what I have learned about myself as a writer with these 50,000 words. I don’t write this for you. This is for me to come back to in a few months when I feel the doldrums nipping at my fingers and whispering, “Impossible.”
- You can fix bad writing. You can file bad writing away. You can use bad writing as a machete to clear the path to good writing. You can’t do any of that with no writing.
- Wake up and get at least 750 words written. I used 750words.com first thing, even before coffee. I used to use these morning pages (based on Julia Cameron’s concept) as a sort of diary/venting zone, and while I still occasionally do, about halfway through the month I tried using them for playing with new ideas. My inner editor and inner critic don’t seem to wake up until about 9am, so from 5-9am, I write freely, honestly, and weirdly. My inner editor can deal with that during regular work hours. I got some really interesting work written when I wasn’t worrying about it, when I wasn’t quite awake. Plus I love having the little daily accountability/rewards that the site offers.
- When I know I need to get my best creative writing done before the kids wake up, I have a hard time sleeping past 4:30. That just sucks. It is the corollary to my setting an alarm and waking up every ten minutes for two hours before it’s set to go off. Which I also do. My sleep patterns are thrown off and I now worry about never sleeping well again vs. losing momentum. I have become a bit obsessive about my writing time.
- The habit of writing stuck quickly, and I got twitchy if I didn’t get it done by midday, knowing that my writing slows down considerably as the day goes on.
- I try to never leave myself at the end of a piece or a section at the end of the day. I always at least had a sentence or two written in a new piece or a new paragraph to start from the next morning, or the next time I had an opportunity to sit down. Starting from a blank page was very stressful for me.
- I spent some time early in November pouring over writing prompts. I found quite a few that go beyond what I would have assigned my middle schoolers back in the day. Sometimes a word, sometimes an image, and sometimes an evocative question. I was never married to a prompt and let the writing guide itself. I wrote honestly and wrote about things that were exceedingly painful that may never see the light of day as is, but they’re there if I need them and certainly now better inform what I put on the page.
- I work well with accountability and tracking. When I wrote my master’s thesis, I used excel to keep track of my minutes worked on the project. I found that having a goal of 1667 words a day was useful. I need to find a word count goal that I can stay with for the other 11 months of the year and still leave me time to edit.
- I have to write every day. Momentum for me is a fragile thing.
- Nothing I wrote is good enough at this time to be published, and I wrote with that in mind. Some of my struggle with the blog is the idea of putting up new content quickly. Now I not only have an arsenal for the blog, but I have a foundation for some essays and stories that I’d like to submit for publication. My work has always benefitted from a rest period, and I haven’t always approached my writing that way. When I was in an online writing course earlier this year, one of my fellow students told me she plans on one blog post a week. I think I like that model and am going to try it.
- I have no idea what I’m doing and that is exhilarating.
I will be transitioning more to my “official” blog page, where I need the writing to be focused and polished. This will be my “staging area” and the behind the scenes blog. If you’re interested in the more official goings on, that page is jackiepickauthor.com. That blog has not received the TLC it needs, but I think I wasn’t ready to do so until I felt more like an author.
This particular post may make an appearance there, after some rest and editing. For today, I celebrate and reflect.