NaNoWriMo 2018 Update (Warrior vs. Fairy)

I was/am super excited about participating in my very first NaNoWriMo. There is a lot about it to be excited about. What a neat little concept to challenge writers and want to be writers to commit to an average of about 1,700 words a day in the month of November to hit a 50,000 word count goal that looks something like the first draft of a finished novel.

Except I am averaging 281 words a day.

Well, in all fairness, my overall word count is much higher, they just aren’t all book oriented. I’ve done a ton of work with things I had already written, published a few more things here, and made headway on this writing thing actually paying bills. While those do not count for this particular project, I have decided they do count as considering this first full month of answering the question of “What do you do?” with “Writer” a win.

The actual act of book writing itself has not been the scary monster I thought it was going to be. It is true that the more you put words together, the more you are able to put words together. Writing follows the same rules as everything else in the world; inertia and practice payoff are really things.

I gave more credence to the power of what I didn’t know to what I did know. I have been so hesitant to write outside of my comfort zone (long form fiction) because I just couldn’t imagine how I could pull it off. How would I describe places I hadn’t been? How would I make real things that I knew little about appear authentic? Could I create a whole story of people and places I totally made up in my head? The answer is yes. I give credit to the guys over at the Self-Publishing Podcast for turning that lightbulb on. They talked about “writing around” those things you weren’t an expert on or that felt unauthentic. Eureka!

I thought that would be the hard part and the actual act of writing would be the easy part. Turns out I had it exactly backwards. Figures.

For nearly 18 months I have been trying to figure out the new rhythm of my life. I had grown very accustomed to the steady, waltz like beat of 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, of the time before. I woke early in the morning, if I was writing, I wrote. If I wasn’t, and there were long periods of time when I wasn’t, I filled the morning hours with other things to distract me from the fact that I wasn’t writing. I handled my regular life during the day – work, kids, house. I went to bed. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

I now function more like an alien on milk at my first rave. My calendar has given up the ghost, I can’t even fake a schedule, and making sure the kids are getting everything they need to be successful is the only thing I can absolutely guarantee. Most days I can’t even tell you what state I’m going to be in. Learning to write outside of a set time or place and becoming accustomed to finishing projects in pieces versus one sitting is taking some practice. I’m kinda getting the hang of it, but learning that talent while working on a totally different type of project (i.e. a book) is a bit of multitasking that is not going well.

The way I write is a bit different too. Or at least it is becoming different. I am working on being more open and confident. I am attempting to become a more fearless writer. Sometimes nouns and verbs go together in ways that are a bit scary to own. In my life from ago, those things would be immediately deleted. Today, they are thoughtfully considered and sometimes allowed to breathe whatever air they need to work themselves out. This process has made it more difficult to switch to projects that aren’t real (fiction writing) or not about the work I am doing (that wedding toast that I swear Ann is going to be great).

So while I am finding greater peace and enjoyment, the clock suggests a bit of a challenge. I need to write about 7,200 words a day to “win” NaNoWriMo. Gracefully, the folks over there also offer another cute little stat – at my current pace I will still finish on April 27, 2018. And honestly, that doesn’t sound so terrible.

The warrior in me balks at that, chides the fairy side of self on settling for the out, finding the justification where ever it may be to give me comfort in accepting defeat and failure. I own that. I think there is some truth to the fact that I could have been more disciplined in the the task. I could have taken the whole thing more seriously and been more confident in just getting words on paper. There is a piece of this project that is a failure. I do not expect a trophy for simply showing up. And, while admittedly unlikely, who knows what magical word count feat I’ll be able to pull off at the end of the month. Ever seen Rocky IV?

But the fairy wins today. I will not apologize for taking the time I need and doing the things I need to do. I will not feel guilty for the mornings I chose to steal minutes in bed when I could have been up putting words on paper. I will not begrudge the chaotic because I am all too grateful for both the chaos creators and the freedom of life to rock the rave.


*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

There is no such thing as Writer’s Block (Take 2)

Alrighty, now that I got all of THAT out of my system (I think), let’s try this again, shall we?

“I don’t believe in Writer’s Block…Writer’s Block is something that people tell themselves; it’s not something that really exists…if you give them a writing prompt and tell them to write as many words as they can in five minutes, they will all write words. One sentence breeds another sentence.”
~ Grant Faulkner, Executive Director, NaNoWriMo

I know that I have said “damn Writer’s Block!” before. In fact, just yesterday I stared at a computer screen on and off for probably two hours just trying to figure out what word to write next.

I know what it is, firsthand, to feel the creeping anxiety that you will never be able to come up with another cohesive sentence again. To feel like every idea that you have ever had is used up. That every phrase you turn has been turned so many times before that you are one cliche away from being a fabricated pop song. I know what all that feels like.

So it is probably fortunate that Grant’s little declaration that Writer’s Block isn’t merely a myth, but a situation of our own creation, therefore controllable and not really a thing occurred deep in a conversation that had already cemented my opinion of him as someone to listen to. Otherwise, I am certain I would have dismissed the notion straight away.

As it is, I considered it. And considered it again.

This will shock you…but I have been known to be wrong. I know. Even more unbelievable is that I am pretty okay with admitting it. In fact, I will over analyze some situations just to ensure I haven’t overlooked the way in which I am wrong even after I have determined that I am, in fact, right. That’s the tactic I employed today. Convinced as I was that I myself could vouch for the validity of Writer’s Block, I needed to give the contrary its due.

“I feel like I have experienced Writer’s Block.” – True
“Writer’s Block is a subjective concept” – True
“I can 100% say that my feelings are always objectively correct.” – False

A subjective label determined by subjective methods cannot be objectively verified; I had to consider the possibility that what I had experienced was not Writer’s Block.

What would be characteristics of true writer’s block? The inability to put words on a paper. If someone offered me a huge sum of money or threatened some terrible consequence, could I, even at the height of the perceived block, put words together on paper? Yes.

Shit. He’s right. What I experience is not Writer’s Block…it’s Writer Refusal.

There are times I just refuse to write. Ranging from mismanagement of time to fear of rejection or consequence, I was immediately able to identify a myriad of reasons why I couldn’t get words on the paper. Not a damn one of them had anything to do with being unable and everything to do with being unwilling.

There’s a huge difference between unable and unwilling. Frankly, I can see why my soft self prefers the former. That one can’t be my fault. That one can’t be chalked up to my failure or my accountability. It just is and I’m off the hook. That’s a much cozier feeling that the latter – the choice, the willful neglect, the culpability.

So I find myself here, and it’s a pretty serious gut check. I have quit my job. I have declared myself a full time writer. I have insisted that there is a better than average possibility that this will not only make me happy, but can parlay into a dream career. The obstacle that stands in front of me is not one, despite previous declarations to the contrary, that I can shovel into the “oh well that just happens sometimes and I’ll just have to play Candy Crush until it passes” pile.

The obstacle is created by my own doing and it will only be moved the same way. There is not Writer’s Block. There are only Writer Choices. As I have declared myself the writer, it’s time to start declaring, and owing, my choices.

Thanks Grant.

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

There is no such thing as “Writer’s Block” (FanGirl edition)

“I don’t believe in Writer’s Block…Writer’s Block is something that people tell themselves; it’s not something that really exists…if you give them a writing prompt and tell them to write as many words as they can in five minutes, they will all write words. One sentence breeds another sentence.”
~ Grant Faulkner, Executive Director, NaNoWriMo

Before I get into the barrage of thoughts that this excerpt created in my brain, let me first tell you where it came from. Actually, in true “one sentence breeds another fashion,” the telling nearly spurred me into probably twelve different next sentences. Let’s see if I can keep this stream of consciousnesses thinking out of the ditch.

You may have heard that I recently turned loose my pretty amazing corporate job to be a full time writer. There may or may not be correlation between the timing of that and NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is this crazy little idea that suggests if you start on November 1st and write roughly 1,500 – 1,700 words a day, you’ll end up with a 50,000 word novel at the end of the month. Crazy? Maybe. But have you ever heard of the Robert Pattinson / Reese Witherspoon movie Water for Elephants? Well, it was originally a book…a NaNoWriMo book. So, there’s that. And there’s more.

I decided to do what I always do when I am trying to get my bearings straight – I google related podcasts. I happened upon these three guys over at the Self Publishing Podcast. The content itself is great. But the delivery is where it’s at. I could go on, instead just hop over there and check it out and I am going to try really hard to stay on topic.

As luck would have it, Johnny, Sean, and Dave had Grant on this week’s show. It’s one of the few podcasts I’ve ever listened to twice.

Ok, nevermind. I have some things I really want to work out about this writer’s block business and it just isn’t going to work right this second. So I have added “FanGirl” to the post title (which also happens to be a NaNoWriMo work) and I will continue with my love of what happened during this podcast.

Grant Faulkner and I are facebook friends now. Yeah, no big deal… (!!!!)

So the podcast first. I haven’t been listening long obviously, but the thing that keeps me coming back to it is the lack of pretense (and Dave). Because I have never had the opportunity to belong to or immerse myself in a writing community, listening to these guys discuss their craft, work around topics, move through the weeds, has been invaluable. These guys just write. As a great side benefit, it makes me wanna just write.

If you are not a writer, “just write” is not easiest thing on the planet. Probably because when you say it, what I actually hear is “just write really great, earth shattering shit all the time and be consistent and wonderful and productive and published and income producing…” Yeah, it’s a thing.

Except for when these guys say it, it really sounds more like “just write.” Period.

Now to Grant’s episode. There was so much real stuff in there. Mostly, Grant just sounded like a really good dude. If I wasn’t excited about NaNoWriMo before, I am now. Reminds me of the time I saw Andy Grammar in concert. I walked in sorta liking his music. I walked out a fan. When today’s podcast was over, I am a Grant fan and a NaNoWriMo advocate.

He called the process “improv writing.” He discussed the “yes, and” when moving through a story. They also talked about the “time hunt” – that process of finding the time (because it is there) to cater to that creative side and just write. There were talks about community, support, accomplishment, goals, expectations, and just being a writer.

Did you know Toni Morrison wrote her first novel in the small time she had among all the other things she had to do in the day? Me either. Grant breaks down the math … roughly 300/day … 10,000/mth … 120,000/year … boom!

I was in for November before the podcast…I am all in now. Thanks guys.

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month