Lessons Learned in November

November is over, and so is National Novel Writing Month. I finished my novel, but fell short of the 50,000 word count, ending up somewhere in the mid 40’s. I’m still kind of processing the whole experience. But I do know a few things. First, I feel good about what I accomplished, even if I didn’t “win” by writing 50,000 words. And second, I couldn’t have written one more word of the story if you had paid me a million bucks.

It was pretty awful.

Don’t get me wrong. I did a lot of writing and some of it was good. I ended up with a story that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. But, for me, this month-long writing exercise wasn’t really about the story. It was more about doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, something I have been putting off year after year after year. It was more about facing my fear of failure. Or of success. Or maybe it was just about overcoming laziness and a tendency to procrastinate.

Here’s one thing I learned for sure. There are a lot of poor excuses for not writing. Doing the dishes. Watching crappy television. Browsing the Internet. Sleeping late. Just goofing off. There are things I am willing to give up for writing. And, it turns out, you can get a shitload of writing done if you put your mind to it.

On the other hand, there are plenty of valid reasons not to write. Taking long walks on the beach and hikes in the woods. Reading. Spending time with people you like. Watching good television. Taking naps. Going on photo field trips. All things I enjoy. Things I had to give up or cut back on in November in order to write all those words. And I don’t actually want to live my life like that. Not to the extreme, anyway, and not year-round. One month out of the year? Maybe. I’m pretty sure that I will take another stab at crossing the NaNoWriMo finish line next November.

This November, I tried to write 2,000 words a day. Some days I wrote less, some days I wrote more. Some days the writing was a joy. Some days it felt like a chore. I think the key is to make time in your life for writing. But not so much time that you start to hate the writing. I figure that I could easily write 1,000 words a day and have plenty of time left over for the other things I enjoy. And even if that’s not 50,000 words a month, it is a whole lot of personal essays, short stories, poems, and pages of a longer work, such as a novel or a memoir or a screenplay. Not to mention blog entries.

So that’s what I’m taking away from my November noveling experience. There’s a deeper lesson in there somewhere about facing your fear of failure and failing anyway and finding out that that’s OK. I should probably be writing about that. And I should probably write about some of the technical lessons I learned about plot construction and character development before I forget them. And I will. Later.

Right now I’m going to take the dog for a nice, long walk.

1 comment:

Eleran said...

Brava, Gienna. As you say, there a million of excuses, many of them good, why we don't find the time to write. But then there is the ironic benefit of treating it like "work". You force yourself to do it, like you force yourself to put in 8 hours a day at a regular job - but you get the benefit of actually enjoying it once you get going. And, of course, what you have when you're finished is something more lasting than a mere paycheck.