I’ve mentioned before about times when writing has been difficult. I am not even pretending to pretend that I’m unique (in any way) with regard to this or any other aspect of this gig. But as is true with each of those other writers, how that experience feels is unique. To me, and to everyone else. My dried up, scratchy brain may not tell the same lies yours does, and the sensations thus triggered are also one of a kind.
Now that December has settled in a bit, I at last feel ready to discuss November.
Against my better judgment I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month, which is better known by its nearly-as-long acronym, NaNoWriMo.
The concept of… all those letters I don’t feel like typing again… is to inspire we who pricked our fingers and made our marks to complete a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days of November. (Did you do the rhyme in your head to check me? Is it just me, or is there some kind of controversy over the correct ending of that teaching poem. I’ve always gone with “Thirty days has September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one, except for February, who I’m pretty sure smokes crack.” Doesn’t rhyme at that point… it becomes more of a free verse thing. Oh dear. I may have digressed.)
I told myself at the end of October, when I did the actual signing up, that I wasn’t going to make myself crazy about it. While I had every intention of aggressively seeking the goal, I know that life is, in the words of Smeagol, “tricksey.” If I should fall a bit short of the 50K, I promised myself I would show grace. To myself.
This probably doesn’t sound like that big a deal to you. It isn’t. I’m not trying to flex at the beach here. I just want you to know that for me to offer grace to myself is a new and radical thing. For most of my life, I sat in judgment of that dude in the mirror. But this time, I undertook a challenge giving myself permission to fail at the outset.
I may have been inwardly cocky. After all, in 2017, when I did not participate in the event, I wrote The Beauty of Bucharest in just about thirty days. And interestingly enough, I did it in November.
This year things took what they call in baseball a “honktastically bad hop” [Ed. Note: No one in baseball has ever used that phrase].
On the first of the month my wonderful daughter moved into her new apartment. Most of the heavy lifting happened on Saturday, and I participated but did not work with her the entire day. By then I’d been making car load runs for two days.
As Monday approached I was eager to dig into the new book and make up for the time I’d lost those first five days. I figured I’d just have to work a little harder. I don’t remember what the exact word count per day I needed to maintain to win the challenge, I only remember thinking it was doable.
But the move ended up getting the better of me. For the first part of the week I was in so much pain that writing was impossible. Have you heard that suffering can be a bitter but prolific muse for many writers? It’s no doubt true, but I don’t think they were talking about back pain. And shoulder pain. And a few body regions that may not even have names pain.
The real trouble came when this physical duress coincided with a few days of difficulty in feeling creative. This wasn’t full-blown writers’ block, but it did a fine job of standing in for it.
Even after I started feeling better I struggled to make any real progress on the book. I hadn’t really put all of its pieces together in my mind, and I didn’t have a clear image of the big picture.
Just about the time it became a virtual impossibility that I would even approach 50k I discovered the pieces I’d been missing. I started writing in earnest, and in the past couple of weeks have been able to work fairly consistently.
So there will not be a Christmastime release of the next Cleanup Crew. Perhaps instead with can plan for a “Deadline to provide W-2’s” release. I am a NaNoWriMo failure story. But I noticed a funny thing.
While I was poking around for graphics to include in this little number it came to my attention that a lot of people have written about what they “learned from failing at NaNoWriMo,” or how they would succeed next year, or whatever the hell. I hope you don’t think this post was intended to be one of those. I’m not trying to teach creative writing in this forum, (not for free anyway.) I’m trying to share my experience.
So did I in fact learn anything from failing at NaNoWriMo? Maybe one thing. Smeagol was right.
Life can be tricksey.