21 days ago I joined millions of people in spending 30 days going completely insane. I have 8 days and 19 hours left to complete this mission. Not only does my brain waver between lucid and completely bat-shit-crazy, but in those sane moments, I realize I am also walking a thin line bordering failure and success. Apparently I have big feet, or I just swerved into crazy again, because I think I am actually doing both.
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month to the non-participants ( I believe this is because participants simply don’t have the time, or extra the synapses, to enunciate the full title, is just what it proclaims. In a one month, specifically 30 day, time span participants must write a 50,000 word novel. I do not know where the wordcount requirement came from. I trust those who chose it know a bit more about fully published novels than I do. I read them, I dream them up, but until now, I have never considered how many words they contain.
I chose this year to participate for several reasons. Mostly because I only heard about this madness last year, and partly because last year I signed up right about the exact moment I decided, once again, to completely uproot and change my entire life. Apparently the decision was too ambitious, even for me. (I believe I am superwoman. Sometimes life enjoys disabusing me of that notion.) Lastly, because I am, still pretty unbelievably, now living a life in which I have the time, the means, the comfort, and the support to be as creative as I please.
That pretty much means that I no longer have any excuses. I am well aware that my not writing any books or being published up to this point is exactly that, my very transparent excuses not to. Even now I try to pat my excuses on the head, telling them they really were very plausible reasons. I don’t want them to feel bad you see, they have been my companions for a long time.
Without those excuses and kicked in the ass by the knowledge that there was a massive worldwide community doing exactly what I was not, I signed up again and on October 29th I started panicking. I began a book. I began it on a patio swing at an Irish pub with friends, whiskey, laughter and imagination. I began writing it down right here, twice. NaNoWriMo traditionalists told me though that its best, and most true to the spirit of the madness, to begin something completely new. Begin something on which you had not worked, had not written a word of. Begin from word one and go for it! That didn’t include though outlines, timelines, research notes, character sketches, plot twist notes… Wait! No! I had a book, I have three books in fact, but one is not ready, one is not a novel, and the other.. I already started! Not mention, I had not notes, no outlines, no nothing, on anything! I was a mess already.
How could I possibly leave my love, my baby, my novel in progress, not to mention my other ideas, to make something up off the cuff, just to follow the standard? I tried. I asked for prompts from friends. I got some ink stains on my sheets making notes in the dark. I missed several conversations I pretended to be a part of. I asked for forgiveness from my muse. I couldn’t do it. Then I realized.. maybe my blog entries, my supposed start to my novel, maybe they could act like my outline. Maybe I could tell myself they were just notes, and begin again, at the beginning, with a different perspective. That night I slept. My muse was happy, my book was waiting.
So I began, November 1st, and it went well. I used my blog entries as my “notes,” even though I have clearly realized myself to be a Pantser through this process. I used the blog as notes only because I must write my story, not because I am a note taker, outliner, or Planner. I write whatever comes next in my head. So the few entries I had made here were wonderfully helpful, but I found they were cliff notes compared to the book version, and they were over so quickly. I was soon staring outwardly at empty pages and inwardly at the beautiful story living in my imagination and my dreams.
In order to achieve a “win,” a NaNoWriMo’er must write an average of 1700 word of his or her novel per day. This is
where I am failing. I am so far behind on my wordcount it is either scary, sad, or hopeless. I have surpassed (underpassed?) my deficit so far at this point that though other still encourage me, I am losing my certainty, and drive. Some days, I write 3000 words. Some days I write nothing. This is not “what writers do.” “Writers write. Writers write everyday.” That’s what I read, on Pinterest, on Instagram, on the NaNoWriMo website. Write everyday. You must write everyday to be a winner, to be NaNoWriMo success, to be a writer. I am failing.
For 21 days I have felt this. For most of my 21 days I have felt guilty, unworthy. For the last 2 days I have wondered. I am so immersed in my book, so in love with my story that I bounce when I talk about it. I see inspiration all around me. I buy food and drink that I think my character would buy. I listen to music she would listen to. I stare into space seeing palm trees, sailboats, and… (I can’t tell you that part). But I don’t necessarily write. So I wonder. Am I really failing? I am not reaching my daily or monthly wordcount, but I am deep in research I never realized I would need to do before. I have more plot ideas and character voice inflections, and even shopping lists for a sailboat voyage than I ever did before. And I am relaxed, happy.
I realized, waiting for my amazon shipment of maps and books yesterday, that winning NaNoWriMo does not allow for days of research, days of inspiration, days of rejuvenation. If I push through all those things and just write, write everyday, I might make the deadline, but would I have the pleasure or dreaming, the certainty in my words, or even the quality of the novel that I really want? I am not so sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are many, probably thousands of people who write amazing, fully developed, artistically worded novels in this 30 days. Also, I praise the system for giving me a goal, a deadline, the kick in the ass to get back into the habit of writing. I praise it and am immensely grateful that I am finally turning my dreams into reality, my thoughts into words, my excuses into memories. I am writing my first novel. I am writing it the way I want to, expressing each thought, developing scene, getting to know each character, learning how to sail for goodness sake. I am loving it. I am finding success at last.
And I am totally failing NaNoWriMo. I’ve got 30,000 words to go. The NaNoWriMo monkeys are scampering around my workshop and whispering in my ear that I just write 1200 words I can’t count towards my wordcount goal.
Hmm, maybe not so sane after all.