So today is the last day of November, and I’m ecstatic to report that my NaNoWriMo project is worth calling a success.
You might remember my post a few weeks ago when I launched my NaNoWriMo project for this year. In case you don’t, I’ll recap: it’s utterly ludicrous for me to expect, with my current life circumstances (teaching high school full-time, two young kids), that I can write 50,000 words in 30 days. I don’t even try that. (You can listen to an interview I gave, which aired on November 23rd, about this subject on the Pacifica radio show LivingArt by clicking here, but the archive will be easily available for just a few weeks, so I suggest you do it soon.)
So what do I try, if not the traditional NaNoWriMo? I attempt to make a commitment to writing something significant or furthering my writing career every day in November. This year my goal was to write 350 words a day on my current WIP (a new novel) or some other manuscript. A couple of those days I made or supplemented my word count with a blog post, and I took a few days off — one after my grandfather’s death and a few for Thanksgiving, which I hosted for my family. These were just things I really needed to do.
But the rest of the time? I made (and usually exceeded) my word count. I added almost 7,600 words to my WIP, which brings my current total to almost 22,000. I’d say I am good and well writing this book now, even if the plotting has been spotty at best. I’m suspect I’m just a pantser at heart, and trying to manage 350 words a day, allowing myself to write weak sentences now and then and stopping myself in the middle of a scene when I hit 400-500 words, has really facilitated the ease with which I’ve been able to meet my daily word counts. I learned this nifty trick from my dear friend and writing partner Sarah Warburton: if you stop writing in the middle of a scene, when you start up again, you already know what to write; the added bonus is that you’ll have the urgency to keep going if you had to interrupt yourself in the middle of things the day before.
Well, dear reader, it works.
Aside from the solid and satisfying progress on my novel, I also wrote an essay about Grendel, which still needs revision and editing, but which I then hope to be sharing with you relatively soon.
So all of this progress is lovely, of course. But now what? With the end of November, is that the end of my writing for a while? Holy canoli, I hope not.
Much like a Lenten fast or a fitness challenge can be used to cultivate good habits and purge unhealthy ones, my bigger goal in doing my modified form of the NaNoWriMo is to make myself get into the daily habit of writing practice. It’s all kinds of miserably hard to write books while you’re also teaching English and Creative Writing and raising kids. I mean, if you also want to sleep. I spend what sometimes feels like an inordinate amount of time grading papers, but I also recognize that’s the job. Understand, though, managing creative, generative energy is tough when I’ve pushed that part of my life, the artistic self, to the end of my to-do list. It’s not tenable, and it’s not healthy. As much as I love and appreciate all the other aspects of my life — and I do — I need that artistic pursuit if I want to be a whole, healthy person.
My hope is that when November is over, I will still keep trying to write 350 words a day (or night, as the case may be). Will I be successful every single day? I can aspire to that, but I also have to give myself permission to be human. That means not a robot. That means not rigid and inflexible. That means that sometimes I will make a compromise or two: I might not write 350 words every night; some nights I will write 475 or 632 or a thousand. I’ve even been thinking that perhaps a weekly goal might be better.
We’ll see how it goes. I mean, look at tonight: I just wanted to do a blog post to wrap up this project, and I’m already at nearly 800 words. And maybe that’s enough for tonight. After all, I’ve still got some grading to do.
Happy December, tomorrow. You’ll get an earworm on Monday, and later in the month you’ll get 12 Days of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck. Probably one or two other blog posts as well, if things go smoothly.
I will get some writing time in, as often as possible.