Thursday, January 18, 2018

What NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—Taught Me

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In November, I committed to NaNoWriMo—to write a book in a month or less.  I’d had an image in my mind for a long time of two characters in conversation.  I often fell asleep thinking about them, but I never explored their story beyond that.  I always just kept it for myself. 

But in November of 2017, I wanted to know more.  I knew it was NaNoWriMo, that month when writers are crazy enough to try to write an entire book in a month.  It’s an easy thing to say one is going to do, but nothing short of exhausting to complete, especially when time seems to slip away like a melting ice cream cone.  But I wanted to know their story, and I chose NaNoWriMo to have them tell it to me from beginning to end.  I’d tried it before, but never finished, sometimes never got started good.  Would I finish it this time?

I started with the scene I’d envisioned so many times,  and it ended up being several pages in.  I committed to writing every single day whether the characters were speaking up, telling me their story (in which I wrote upwards of 4,000 words a day) or not (in which it was a struggle to get 700+ words).  It was nearly impossible to miss a day because if I did, that would be double the work the day after.  I made the choice to just do it and had to make sacrifices, sometimes, with that choice.  I was teaching three classes online where I would have fifteen new essays to grade every few days.  And Connor and Lydia were still my first priority and so taking care of them—whether it was getting them to school or picking them up, taking them to lessons or appointments, remembering school responsibilities, due dates, helping with homework, reading stories or making art together—took precedence.  Then there was the everyday domestic work of cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  Oh, and we volunteer to teach Sunday School once a month for our church and we hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year.

I had to make sacrifices.  There were a lot of nights I didn’t get a lot of sleep, days I didn’t go for my daily run because I made the choice to write instead.  I’d be falling asleep writing, my carpal tunnel killing me, bones aching and nauseated because I’ve been awake and pushing my body for too long—it’s not easy, but the feeling after is nothing short of wonderful.  It’s like after a run—wonderfully exhausting. 

But despite the exhaustion and sacrifices, something this called to mind and reminded me of from when I had a lot of time to write is that it’s freeing, also.  You write every day, you stay with the characters in their minds, in their stories, you go with the ideas that come next and sometimes (not always) those are the best because they’re your first instinct and more often than not, first instinct is best. 

I’m usually thoughtful after I write.  I need time to think and process and maybe just dwell with my characters a little so something I learned, also, is that night time is a good time for me to write because when I’m done, I can set my laptop aside, lay down and just let these thoughts open up in my mind before sleeping and then when I get up the next day, I’m fresh enough to look over what I’ve written with new eyes or have thought enough about it to be ready to start the next scene.

So, writing every day (no matter how tired I am) and at night has been a new goal, a 2018 resolution if you will.  It won’t be easy, with teaching a new class, taking two, learning a new job and still keeping up with best thing that ever happened to me J .  But, it’ll be wonderfully exhausting.  I can’t write a book in a month (maybe next November, though), but  every day—even if it’s a little.  

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