I managed to write 12 714 word so far, and even though this is only slightly above the recommended word count (which is 11 666 for day 7), I’m so happy that I’m close to tears. Yes, I’m not even kidding.
Going into this, I expected everything. I expected to not even find the courage to start. I expected to be unable to write every day (I have a job that can be demanding and tiring, after all). I expected to get stuck without the words or the will to carry on. I expected my inner critic to set in and convince me it was no use anyway.
What I didn’t expect though was to be able to meet my goal of 1 6667 words pretty much every single day (sometimes I went over, and only once I went under). I didn’t expect to sit down and be able to type for two hours straight, then look up and wonder where the time went. I didn’t expect to get this sweet feeling of “writer’s high” (better than drugs, I swear) after a particularly successful writing session. And I didn’t expect my story to grow and develop so well.
Pretty low expections, you might say. Well, let me explain. The short version, at least.
The experience of NaNoWriMo has often been compared to slaying a dragon – or trying to, at least. For me, it is exactly that. But the dragon is not the challenge. The dragon is something within me.
Once, I used to be able to write for hours, to create worlds and stories with ease. I used to be able to novel.
But then things of a personal nature happened, and I was unable to separate them from the writing. In the wake of this, I had to abandon an unfinished, ongoing story (something I had never done before), and that just added to it.
Every time I wanted to write, I had to fight those bad memories as well as feelings of guilt and incapability. My inner critic grew stronger and stronger. I had always been a perfectionist, but this was beyond perfectionism.
Yes, I was still writing. Yes, I was still plotting. But I was plotting to infinity, feeling stuck and unable to ever turn those plots into words. And I was more or less just writing short stories. Good ones, yes, but what I really wanted to do was writing novels.
I managed to develop four projects that were all dear to my heart. I was longing to write them. But my heart was not into writing.
And then, this October, I was reminded of NaNoWriMo. I had wanted to participate for years, but every year in November, something else came up. Last year, I had my exam lessons for my teacher’s degree to get through, and back then I promised myself that next year, I would do it.
However, given my ‘writing trauma’, should I even try?
At this point, I decided that I had nothing to lose. This first of November, it would be do or die. Either I’d rediscover the magic, or I’d fail miserably. It was that easy. Yet I freely admit that I was scared.
Choosing a project turned out to be hard, but doable. Out of my four ‘works in progress’, one was already too developed (I had several chapters already written) and one was not developed enough (the rough plot was there, but there were still too many holes in it). And between the two remaining ones, I finally chose the less refined one. I also didn’t plot much – I had the beginning, the end, several ideas for the middle and a rough version of the main characters. And tons of details to fit in somewhere, of course.
The planner and the perfectionist in me were both terrified, but I felt I had to be this way.
And strangely enough, it seems to have worked so far.
What I’m already taking away from my NaNo experience is that I really need less pefectionism and more time to ‘just write’. Oh, and that statistics are surprinsingly motiviating. Every day, I’m looking forward to the moment when I enter my word count and watch the bars grow.
And I rediscovered not only my personal long-lost magic of writing, but also the fact that it helps so much to surround yourself with supportive people.
To all my writing buddies and all my non-writing-friends – I love you more than I can say, and I’m blessed and grateful to have you.
To all NaNoWriMo participants: Keep writing. Word after word after word.
Onto another week of magic!