Friday, November 6, 2015

When It's Okay To Stop For A While...

November is NaNoWriMo--for those writers who are living in a different kind of bubble, this is a time when writers "fast draft" a 50k novel. I've done it in the past. There's lots of good to be said about it. For me, it's always been about getting the bones of a story down so I can spend the next several months digging in and figuring out the meat of the story, adding layers and setting and emotional landscapes and all the things that make a book great and workable.

Every day I see people posting word counts and finding within the community cheerleaders who are encouraging them to keep writing, etc. It's fun to see. It's fun to get caught up in the excitement. For a second I considered doing NaNo again this year, but then real life happened.

This is the thing a lot of writers don't really talk about when it comes to writing: REAL LIFE. This is when your dad gets sick or your kid gets sick or your partner is away for a long chunk of time or…or…or… Life happens and sometimes it's impossible to sit down and write the words because you are just keeping your head above water, surviving.

And sometimes life isn't even dramatic or terrible, but it's chaotic and busy enough that squeezing in words seems difficult and even if you do squeeze them in, they aren't good words. This year I couldn't do NaNo because my head wasn't in the game. Life rained all over me and the idea of accomplishing the writing of a novel in a month seemed impossible.

For a little while, I felt defeated, unable to join my colleagues in what is our high holy holiday of the writing year. But then I thought about it and realized that the only thing worse than not participating in NaNo was participating in some sort of half-baked way that would leave me overworked, frustrated, and with a crappy unworkable novel. There are times that books don't work. I have tons of books I thought worked that I completed, only to realize after the fact they did not work. It is excruciating writing 65k of unworkable words. NaNo this year would have resulted in unworkable words for me. I am deeply grateful I realized this before I started.

 I think there is great value in wordsmithing with your colleagues. Writing is such a solitary activity that it is pretty excellent having a time when you can huddle with friends and do something together. But I also think above anything else, we need to be and do what works best for us in the moment. And be okay with stopping, slowing down, retreating, addressing life stuff so you can bring your best self back to your writing game.

So this post goes out to all those not doing NaNo this year. I'm with you, friends. We are in a different huddle and that is okay too.

It's okay, baby. I'm not doing NaNo either.

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