Before I get into the details of just what I figured out during NaNoWriMo, I think I should review just what kind of progress I actually made through the month of November. I’m not talking content, simply raw output, the benchmark of NaNoWriMo’s success. As I always try to remind myself, if you don’t ever write it down, you can’t make it work.
Nevertheless (what a fun word), let’s start with the calendar of progress once again.
You can see that Saturdays never worked for me, not once through the entire event. Nine days out of the event I was behind, if only a little.
November 8 and 23 were catastrophic days, horrible days that gave up only about 400 words combined. Essentially, those are two days where I made no real progress.
Add it all up, that’s eleven days where I made less than optimal progress. One third of the entire month, I was behind. For most of November, I stayed behind. I spent so much of the month behind, I was convinced for a while that I wouldn’t come back from it.
I kept fighting, kept trying. I wanted to give up so many times. There were query letters to write, dishes to clean, clutter to pick up, more of Tesseract to write. Still, The Night Lands wouldn’t let me go. I wouldn’t let it go.
At the end of the month, I still managed to push through and get to the 50,000 word mark. How, in detail, did I do it? By discovering a number of things about myself.
- Focus. I’ve been determined before, but I’ve never simply applied myself strictly to writing. Patrick Rothfuss once called writing “a whole brain activity.” As a multi-tasker, I’ve never treated it as such, even if I exclude listening to music, something I’m not going to give up doing when I write. To make the progress I needed to make, I have to apply myself to my writing, not my writing and one or two other things at the same time.
- Trim the Fat. Even with multitasking, I know I have taken a lot of time doing things that don’t get me anywhere. I love play-by-post forums, but I’ve joined too many of them. I want to draw, but I know it’s not something I’m going to be able to do as much more than a hobby, which is how I used to treat it. Same goes for watching TV or just general surfing. Some is good, too much hurts the writing.
- Recreation. No matter what it is I’m working on, I can’t just chug non-stop. I have to be able to step away from time to time and have some fun. November 8, I didn’t do much because I spent the whole day playing Mass Effect 2. I had fun and it restored my creativity at least to some extent. I can take days off from writing and I’ll be just fine.
- More Work. There’s always going to be more ahead for me on a project. I’ve yet to write anything that I wasn’t planning something on, even Vitamin F and my steampunk short stories, and those have been released. I have letters to write and an online presence to spread.
- Speed. I’ve never thought of myself as a fast reader, which I’ve largely come to peace with. It took me a couple of months to finish reading Jo Walton’s wonderful book Among Others. In half the time, I wrote well over half the word count as that book. Looking at it that way, I think I can write a book faster than I can read one! How awesome is that? I won’t read every book at that speed or write at the same speed, but I need to remember that I can write quickly as well as creatively.
- Self-definition. I’ve thought of myself as a post-grad for a while now, coasting on with a young man’s mentality when I look at the world. Having to fight myself to get through this writing, I realized what I can still put aside to get where I want to be in the quest to be a writer. Because of that, I think of myself a little more maturely than I did even a month ago. Maybe it’s just having a better perspective on things.
- Perspective. A writer has to be their own best advocate, it goes with the territory. Coming off a long stretch of not being able to immerse myself in reading a book, I see that the notion of writing the books I want to read has to be a reality for me. I’m not always happy with the books available on the shelves at the local bookstore, so I have to fix that myself by writing an excellent, incredible book. I have to Be The Best if I’m going to excel. That’s something I recommend any writer choose for themselves as well.
From here, I’m going to try some new things out. I’m going to finish a few projects and try to present my work in new ways. It’s not a matter of something I think–or even know–that I can do. I simply have to sit down and say now is the time.
What about you? Is now the time for you?