Anyone who’s talked to me for more than 5 minutes about writing in the past few years knows how excited I am for NaNoWriMo. I wait all year for it. It’s like Christmas for me. I’ve even tried organizing my own NaNo-esque events out of season, dragging less-than-enthusiastic friends into doing a month-long marathon with me. I love the camaraderie, the feeling of all pulling together to achieve a challenge, the word sprints and plot conversations but mostly I love the graphs. (Seriously. Give me a graph of what I should be achieving vs. what I have achieved so far and I am ON IT. I get it DONE.)
But not this year.
Some of you may know this already from the meatspace, but Cutie and I are going to Japan for three months in the new year. I’ll be going to conversation school for January-February, while Cutie continues to work remotely; for the last month we’ll be travelling and exploring. My Dad is even going to join us for the last two weeks in March, which is exciting, as he’s never been. It’s all exciting. I am excited.
Or at least, I should be.
Trouble is, the fall was very stressful. I took on enough tasks and projects to keep me constantly juggling deadlines. I had trouble with the CRA. I’m trying to study an hour a day. I still haven’t found a doctor to help with my chronic health issues. I’ve withdrawn from most of my social circles. And I stopped writing. My creativity dried up in the summer and it hasn’t returned. None of my tricks have worked so far.
When I look back at the enthusiasm with which I planned out my goals for this year, I feel a little sad, like I let myself down unwittingly. I should have had two more novels under my belt by now; instead Embers continues to hang over my head like the sword of Damacles’ evil twin brother Hamacles [obscure Can-Con reference for which I make no apologies]. I should have finished typing up Perceptions, editing Ashes and Creampuffs, oh and sold a few short stories by now. Because I thought my enthusiasm for being able to write every day was sustainable.
Life had other plans, as it always does. So when NaNo swung around this year, I rolled up my sleeves, took that deep breath and… ran headfirst into a wall.
Oh the intentions I had.
Cutie started NaNo with me. We went to the Subway Write-in; we planned to go to the Overnighter; I volunteered to host weekly write-ups in my neighbourhood.
But around the second week mark we were both massively behind and stressed. And it wasn’t the Week Two Weepies; it was something worse. We were fighting with each other, we were exhausted, we were each dreading having to sit down and write intentional garbage when there were other projects that demanded our attention and the few spoons we had left. And so we asked ourselves: what do we have to prove? We both know we can write a novel in a month. I know that I can do 70K in a month. I’ve written three novels in a year. What’s one more that I know I won’t use, that I’m not even inspired to work on, let alone finish and edit?
So we put NaNo aside.
And it felt amazing. The relief.
I’m still getting the emails and each one breaks my heart. I wanted to enjoy NaNo so much. I think back to how much fun last year was and it hurts. I thought what I wanted was the daily challenge, the write-ins, forums, and overnighters, but since I quit I realized that what I craved was the enthusiasm and inspiration. Without that NaNo is just more work.
All fall I’ve been trying to write action plans and long introspective journals to explore what’s causing my creative blockage. They’ve helped, but I feel a little bit in denial, because I know what’s causing the blockage, and what I need to do. I just don’t want to do it.
I need to finish Embers.
Even if it’s a terrible ending. Even if it later the whole thing has to be scrapped and thrown into a sewer and set on fire. It’s a specter in the mirror of every other project I attempt, like Bloody Mary. It’s gotta go.
So November is a wash. I have a big graphic design project that is due at the end of the month; I’ll throw myself into it, get it out the door and wave a hanky bon-voyag-ie as it sails away. That’s a week. I can do that.
Then I am going to lock myself in my workroom for December. I have studying to do, a big secret craft project to finish, travel plans to consolidate and implement. Christmas. But amidst all that I can manage a hundred words a day.
That’s my plan: 100 words a day on Embers, rain or shine, cramps or fatigue or migraine, until that fucker is FINISHED. I know I can do 100 words–it doesn’t scare me in the slightest. I’ve done over 900 just rambling for today’s blog! So I know I can do it. It’s almost… too easy. (I have to say, it feels really good to be confident about anything at all right now, which is why I am keeping my goal deliberately low.)
I love NaNo, but maybe what I need right now is to take its principles and discard the rest. I’ll make a graph in my bullet journal, and I’ll sit down every day. Not to prove anything, but to move forward.