The almighty “they” say you are supposed to “write every damn day”  and “shovel sand, you can build the castles later,” and all this other crap about how you need to just sit down and type, type type, and even it’s total shite, you can go back and edit later.  But I just can’t seem to do that.

What’s wrong with me?  Why do I go through these phases where I don’t write for days or even weeks on end.  Is it like working out and I just get totally lazy?  It is my perfectionist side?  Am I “blocked?”  Is it because I need what I write to be good, and if it doesn’t seem exactly right in my head, rather than pushing myself I just don’t write anything at all?  Am I just making excuses and need to be more dedicated?  Some would even say it’s because I’m not a real writer.  That makes me sad though and I don’t want to believe it.

I figure, if I am forcing words out of my fingers and pretty much bypassing the creative part of my brain to get something down on paper, then I will need to go back and erase it all later anyway because it won’t be anything I actually wanted to write.  The critics in my head, and on social media, and the big badass NaNoWriMo, say I am making excuses and that forcing myself to write will eventually create the habit of writing and soon all will be “write” with the world. (yes, I know)

Now, I can understand the possibility that writing each day can train your brain to think in a certain way.   No problem, that makes sense.  But I still can’t figure out how the work I produce through that tactic will one day make the leap from habitual writing to decent, on track writing.  Just because I am spewing forth words, it does not mean the words are meaningful or connect in anyway to the novel I want to produce.

Example –  When I am working on my novel, which is a sailing adventure, to put it simply, and I am having a creative day, I can sit and in about 60 seconds throw down a thousand words like “reveling in the joy of a perfect sunset, I sat in my deck chair 3 days before we set sail, vaguely daydreaming about tropical ports, warm mangoes streaming juice down my fingers, and steel drums echoing happiness from nearby taxicabs bouncing across the potholed streets..”

But when I’m not the mood to write and I force myself to work on the next scene (in which I am supposed to add depth and concern to the male main character), here is what comes out.   “the man he looked *pause* annoyed when I said *pause* something. he ordered for me anyway *pause* fish? I don’t know, I said *pause* interrupted  *pause* his neck gets red, nostrils flare *pause* orders anyway *pause, wiggle back and forth in annoyed trying to think weird gesture*, I don’t know why he’s mad *pause*…”   And then I delete the whole thing because it’s obviously crap and why leave it there just to go back and cut it when I do my first round of draft editing anyway?

Where did that “just sit down and write” exercise get me?  Frustrated, annoyed, feeling like an illiterate moron, that’s where.  So I just can’t get on board with the “write whether you want to or not” credo. NaNoWriMo and it’s Camps are all about this idea.  And if it works for some people, and they someday have enough sand that they can build castles, that’s freakin fantastic for them.  A couple people in my “cabin” this month spewed out close to, or over, 100,000 words in the first 2 weeks of the month.  That’s approximately 267 book pages.  I can only fathom they were following the “write anything, don’t care if it’s good, just write write and write more” system.

Is it wrong, or biased of me due to my perceived inadequacies, to think the majority of that work can’t possibly be either a)something they love and won’t cut at the first round of edits, or b)high quality writing?   Because logically, if 80-90k words is an entire novel, and some people crank out over 100k in 2 weeks… then it follows even if 20,000 words of what they write will be dumped after edits, they will produce something like 24 novels a year.  And I’m pretty sure the whole world would be hearing about authors who were writing 24 great novels a year.

This is why I can’t bring myself around to the value in just writing as fast and as much as you can.  I also can’t bring myself around to keep signing up for NaNos and Camps for the constant base comparison to writers who are mass producing.  It’s simply not my style to try to keep up with that.   I will absolutely say I am glad I signed up for one of each, because both times my desire to not fail at anything I do has kicked my butt into gear and made me get started on a novel that just floated around in my head for years (and start again after having to take months off to focus on my wedding).  I failed anyway, but at least the small amount of competitiveness I do have in me got me started.

This time around though, this “Camp”  has taught me another thing about myself… When I have a couple ‘off days,” when I don’t have the motivation to write, then look at my stats and see how far behind I am, I berate myself for the perceived failure.   I then simultaneously feel bad and get rebellious against my own guilt – “You can’t tell me what I’m doing wrong or how to act or who I should be! I do what I want!”  I respond.  I then turn on netflix and eat cheese for an entire day.

So, I am officially packing up my sleeping bag and my marshmallows and I’m going home.  Home to where I have the support and encouragement of friends, manageable long term goals, an office space I adore, the time and flexibility to write whenever I want, and plenty of cheese.  I have decided nothing is wrong with me at all.  I should not try to change who I am as a writer any more than one should try to change who she is as a person.  From now on, I am doing it my way, writing when I want to write, trying when I feel like I can, and taking time off when I damn well please to research, refuel, or simply go play outside.  I will not cry over unshoveled sand, I’ll build my castles out of big heavy rocks, thank you very much.

(**I mean no offense Ms Hale, I’m glad the shoveling thing works for you and I appreciate you trying to encourage other writers, you are awesome.  ““I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale)

Failing NaNoWriMo and Loving My Success

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.

Constant and Unconditional Support - they hang out with me, and listen to my madness everyday

Constant and Unconditional Support

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

My stats

My stats

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.


My R & D Department

My R & D Department

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.

Keeping me honest

Keeping me honest

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.