Every time I read a blog post from word-slinging Chuck Wendig I feel equal parts fear, exhilaration, disappointment and excitement – in that order. Fear because his word-herding sticks are sharp and dripping with the blood of his most recent bout of editing, and mine are blunt. Exhilaration because FUCK YEAH I can do this, I can write these words and make the skies sing with description and characters and mystery. Disappointment because I haven’t done it yet, I haven’t “made” it, I still work a day job and I’ve published goose-egg novels. Finally excitement, because all of those feelings aside, I’m excited to sit down and pound out some prose.
I bring this up because of this blog post, which, in addition to the roiling ball of emotions listed above, made me feel a sense of calm, because I’m sure that throwing myself on the altar of words to “compete” in NaNoWriMo is a Very Good Thing, even though my cup runneth over. (And no, his post isn’t about NaNoWriMo, but it sums up how I was feeling at the time about partaking in the event).
Now, I say “compete” in quotes because it’s not really a competition. Not against others (unless you want it to be). It’s sort of a competition against yourself. Can you beat last year’s word count? Can you crawl, broken and bruised through the bloodied tatters of your sanity and claim your victory? Mostly it’s a way to improve your writing, to accomplish something phenomenal (even if you burn the draft when you’re done, dancing naked in a field, drinking strange liquor from the husk of animals), to bring yourself closer to your craft and hone your skills.
For those of you who have no idea what NaNoWriMo is, check it out here. At its most basic level, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel during the 30 days of November. But it’s much, much more than that. True, NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not necessarily quality, but buried in the mountain of words spewing from the keyboard you’re bound to find one or two gems that you’ll keep. If this is your first draft, you’re going to gut it anyway. If it’s not, well… I guess my opinion is that NaNoWriMo might not be the best arena in which to battle against your second or third or fourth (etc) drafts.
If you’re already part of the NaNo family, feel free to add me as a buddy, username: go.zeki
That being said, I’m super far behind. Monumentally so. According to NaNoWriMo, at this rate I’ll finish my novel on March 25, 2015, or, if I want to finish in November, I’ll have to pump out 2,413 words per day. That’s probably not going to happen with my other commitments, though I’ll certainly give it a good old college try. Let me tell you why I’m not freaking out about it: because I’m still writing. For me, completing NaNoWriMo is something to be proud of, especially at this time in my life when finding the nanoseconds to scrape out 500 words a day is something I practically have to schedule. I have my day job to consider, which eats up most of my time. I’ve just begun a Master’s program, and that takes another big chunk out of my waking hours and especially my weekend. I have all the usual life things: grocery shopping, cleaning, petting the cats, feeding myself, playing video games, etc. Call that 1/8th of my day. Then there’s my fitness regime. I’m on a quest to become a healthier individual, and that doesn’t happen without work. Throw all that together, then add in some writing and I’ve got a full schedule.
But the simple fact that I’m putting words into my novel, that I’m still working on it, despite the tornado buzzing around me, makes me happy. Things change in life, and one day I’ll be done with school and I’ll have scads of free time to fill with words. I’ll probably have so much free time that I’ll wonder what the hell I DID before school. And I’m A-OK with that.
That’s all for now, I’ll go put the cursor to the page and sling some sentences around. I’ve got some words to catch up on. Look forward to another blog post soon – I have a “post vacation post” in the works.
Aside: One of the great things about being a writer is that if you’ve had a rough day you can always take it out on your characters. Chances are good it will make for some interesting and possibly wonderful writing. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m torturing my characters this evening.