NaNoWriMo has started with more of a fizzle than a bang - I have a cold and have been feeling awful all week. I haven't given up, I am keeping on with my story; but my ME brain fog has kicked in and concentration is not at its best, which is frustrating. I'm seriously down on word count and not sure if I will make it this year; but I won't give up.
I decided to re-visit a post I wrote last year on the things I got from taking part in the hope that it inspires me and I get back into the groove. Turns out the lessons I learnt from NaNo are pretty vauable lessons for life. It has reinspired me and not just about writing. I hope it does the same for you...
It’s the final hour of NaNoWriMo and I can’t help feeling a strange mixture of elation and sadness. The one thing I know for sure is that NaNoWriMo has had more of an impact on my life than I ever imagined. It sound a little melodramatic; but I would go as far as to say that NaNo has changed my life, it’s opened up possibilities I had never imagined and revealed things I never expected.
What I’ve learnt from National Novel Writing Month.
Challenges are good – I started NaNo because I’ve been doing postaday and enjoying it, it seemed a natural extension of that. Most of my blog posts are between two hundred and three hundred words so I guessed it would be a stretch; but I thought I would just be able to manage to reach the required 1,667 words a day.
Don’t underestimate yourself – I thought I would struggle with the project, I had ideas; but writers are these amazing talented people who I can only aspire to be. Wrong! Writers are people who have the dedication and determination to sit down and write, every day. Just by writing, you are a writer. You may not be Shakespeare; but everyone has to start somewhere.
Great novels don’t pour onto a page – they need editing. I was under the misconception that there was no point in starting to write a novel until I could form the perfect prose. Wrong again! The more writers I talk to and the more books and articles I read, the more I realise that everyone struggles with the first draft, there are bits that flow and bits that don’t; but you don’t need to worry about them until you do your first edit (which notably I’ve not done yet, so I’ll hold judgement on that process!).
Go for your dreams – I have always wanted to write a novel; but imagined it would be something that would be impossible, painful and take years, I just didn’t feel like I could commit to it, at least not right now. Some people do write like that, it’s their process; but it doesn’t have to be like that. If it hadn’t been for NaNo I would never have attempted writing a novel, it would have remained permanently on my wish list. I’m so pleased I can cross it off now; but it’s been replaced by more dreams, writing more stories, hopefully getting published; but although they feel impossible right now, so did writing a novel thirty days ago.
Deadlines are important – it helped to know I had to write a minimum number of words each day, it was a target to aim for, certainly in the first week and it focused my mind, stopping me from procrastinating. As soon as I hit 50,000 after just the second week, I felt like I lost my focus again. Setting my sights on 100,000 was exactly what I needed to inspire me again. I want to use this in other areas of my life to help me achieve more.
I have more words in me than I thought possible – I imagined it would be a struggle to get to 1,667 words a day. Boy was I wrong! The words seemed to just flow out, my fingers have been whizzing across my keyboard much to the displeasure of my Mum, because the letters, specifically the N, E, S, O and A are now wearing off our joint laptop. As a touch typer this doesn’t bother me; but she is having issues. (I’ve just bought a pen to write on new letters for her!)
I have a deep need to write and specifically to tell stories – I have never felt so alive, so inspired, or so happy as when I write, especially when I can hear the characters in my head, see their faces. I feel compelled to tell their stories, to bring them into reality and it’s almost like an addiction. I get completely consumed and all I want to do is write. If I’m not writing I’m planning what I will write.
I write best when I have imagined a scene completely in my head – that’s when I truly feel the emotional connection. If I have a vague idea, it feels much more wooden and contrived. I’m not sure whether to admit this; but I’ve found myself in tears during some parts of the novel, because I feel like I’m channelling all this emotion. Turns out it’s hard to focus on a screen when your eyes are stinging with tears; but at least I can touch type, so I don’t need to see!
Writing is a skill, it needs practise – I believe I’m a better writer than when I started. I also know that I have a long way to go; but I’m excited about the journey and what I may discover along the way.
There is no such thing as perfect – if you spend your life trying to be perfect, all you’ll do is fail. All you can hope for is to keep learning and keep getting better.
Creativity breeds more creativity – the more work I’ve done, the more of my novel I’ve written, the more ideas I’ve had. It’s like one idea causes three more to spring up and they each inspire three more. I’ve had more ideas for different novel ideas in the past month than in my whole life. I suddenly see so much potential. I used to think it must be so hard for writers, they write one amazing book and then they are expected to produce another; but it is possible to have more than one interesting story idea.
When you feel blocked or stuck keep going – I, like most people, make excuses when I’m stuck. It’s too hard. I need to do something else. I’ll come back to it later. I’m just not inspired right now. I just need a break/snack/glass of water etc. Turns out that is just an excuse and if you keep going, if you push through, you will get past it. I found I would write some really awful things, I would then write some bad things, then came some reasonable sections and finally I would write things that I was pleased with. In fact I’d go so far as to say I pushed through the block and felt more inspired by the end of it and then didn’t want to stop.
The first, middle and last two thousand words are the hardest – I found this with both the novels I wrote, I felt like a terrible writer at each of these points. I wanted to give up, I questioned my ability, my sanity and everything else in between. As with everything this stage passed and everything went back to feeling okay and I felt full of hope.
There are greater depths inside you than you ever realised – I never believed I was capable of writing 100,000 words in a year, let alone a month. My friend told me that a Uni dissertation is about 6,000 words, so I’ve written about 16 dissertations or two masters! We all make judgments on our selves, deciding what we are and are not capable of. We’re wrong most of the time, we limit ourselves and we make ourselves suffer. Take away those limitations and you can do anything. I like the quote “If you can dream it, you can do it!” Words to live by.
There are new things in the world, you have to be open to them – sometimes you have to let go of old things to make way for the new and then be ready to embrace them when they come along. Up until a few months ago I was slightly addicted to a Facebook game, it passed the time; but I realised it was absorbing more and more of my time, without much return. I went cold turkey and I found other things to do. I also then had more time when NaNo came up. I could not have juggled both, and NaNo is much more fun and rewarding!
It is possible to find things that bring you more joy than you can imagine – I naively thought I knew what happiness was and how to find it. I didn’t think it was possible for me to discover something that would make me feel happier than I ever had in my whole life. I was wrong! I try new things a lot, I like new experiences; but I hadn’t found anything which gave me such a buzz before. I was wrong to assume I could predict my life and what I should expect. I had learnt that lesson about bad things; but not about good ones. I feel so excited about the possible joy and happiness that is waiting out there for me!
PS. I repeat words more than I ever realised, my typing is not as accurate as I think it is and now the words have been unleashed there’s no shutting me up. Plus I now have a fascination with word counts and checking how many I’m up to – 1,514!
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.