For several years I said, “that looks fun,” or “maybe one day,” or “I couldn’t possibly find the time.” This year I finally stopped making excuses and went all in with NaNoWriMo.
Once I committed, I was committed. In 30 days, I wrote 54,000 words on a novel that I had never thought about before Oct. 31. Craziness! And I’m still working on it. I spent two weeks in December attempting to wrap it up. I am currently at just over 80,000 words. 80,000 words since November 1–I did that?!
Part of my end of the year/new year reflections have focused on what I learned from participating in NaNoWriMo. My conclusions are:
- I love writing fiction. Even though I haven’t written much fiction since college, my heart is still in fiction, just like Lauryn’s heart probably still is in rhymin’.
- I need writing retreats. My best academic writing experiences have been in retreats away from everyday life–my mom’s house, hotels, and a writer’s colony. What was beautiful about writing fiction in the middle of the semester was that it gave me a retreat of sorts. Yes, it was work, but there was something energizing about getting into a creative space every day.
- I need a sabbatical. There I said it. I’ll leave it at that.
- I run on words. This experience confirmed for me that one of the best ways for me to stay on track with my writing goals is to use word counts. From now on, I will no longer think of conference papers or assignments in terms of pages, but by words. Breaking those into chunks is so much more manageable and motivating for me.
- I am out of practice. The truth of course is that I have 80,000 words of a clichéd, cluttered, and disorganized zero draft (not even a first). But that will not stop me from finishing this one and writing another one in November–I need the practice!!
- I love my writing friends (and maybe a little bit more than everyone else). The encouragement I received from other writers was amazing. None of it was the “collectively miserable but united” kind. All of the support was positive and/or practical which tells me that I have already identified some ideal future readers. More importantly, talking about writing with other writers reminded me of how much I enjoy being a part of a community of writers.
- I can do this. I wasn’t in a state of absolute doubt at the start of the project. I have written a dissertation, so I know I can write a lot of words. But the time crunch, the day job, the usual family/home responsibilities combined with no hotel room to hide in made the goal a bit unreasonable. Yet, I did it. Through prayer, determination, and love, I won. Now I keep telling my writer self–imagine what you could do next.