Learn what works for you — and then honor the shit out of it.

I wasn’t planning on participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. I participated in the previous two (only ‘won’ in the last one; the year before I stopped at 45k) and knew enough about myself, my writing, and my goals to recognize that, while I enjoy seeing my word count bar fill up, I don’t actually enjoy NaNo.

Oh, the first week is great. The joy of starting a new project, of  having a whole new world to explore and people to meet and stories to find out about — I love that. And, participating in NaNo has taught me some pretty important things, such as, while I may not like planning a project out down to its individual scenes, I do find that having a rough idea of chapters helps me cut down on ‘mistake’ writing. (You know, writing a good 1-3k to find that maybe half that, usually less, is actually useable)

I like that participating in NaNo bumps my word count up, so close to the end of the year. A lot.

And that’s it. That’s my list of things I like about NaNo. Word count, and new story. The word count isn’t even all that valid, because so much of the material needs extensive editing — and I don’t write that way, generally. I edit and tighten as I go, and maybe it makes me a little bit slower . . . but I’m also not rewriting the book from the ground up late on. Scenes, sometimes chapters, but rarely more than one third of the work.

Four years ago I had a really bad writing year, and I decided I needed to pay attention to what I like, what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and what things I might change to increase my productivity (because there are ALL THESE STORIES and time is running out). I learned a lot of things about my habits. I changed how I did some things, but the most important bit for me was to see what didn’t work, and why it didn’t work, and to work around. For example, a lot of writers will give the advice that one should write every day, that there should be a daily goal, whether it’s 500, or 1k or 2k. I write *most* days, but I also go a day or two without writing, and I regularly hold writing days on my days home from the day job. It’s not uncommon that I’ll get the bulk of my weekly word count in on those days.

I love writing; I hate having to commit to doing something EVERY DAY. Even things I love to do.

And then there’s knowing that anxiety is an asshole, and that I have to deal with that. So the second I skip a day (even if I blame for it!), when I’m doing NaNo, it opens the door for the mental bullying, and the mounting pressure of words I need to hurry up and write, before it gets away from me.

And then writing becomes a chore, and I’m tossing out scenes that aren’t quite right, that I know I’ll have to go back and fix. The material diverges in my mind — the story I’ve written so far, and the story in my mind, and the pieces do not match in too many places, and it’s all out of control and untidy and unwieldy, and it becomes insurmountable.

I want the pace. I want to regularly churn out 40k – 50k a month. This is why NaNo keeps seducing me — because if I can make it work long term for me, I can be happy with my progress levels, and I feel like I’m on the verge of hitting something that’s sustainable for me.

But the added pressure of the rest of NaNo does not work.

Hopefully next year I’ll remember this. Silly Jo.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Moon Rouge says:

    I know exactly what you talking about. I used to photograph dolls. Until today I am on Flickr, but not as much active as I used to be. One year I participate in group ADAD, A Doll(photo) A Day for whole year…. Some said it made them better photographers. It was not my case, but I sure learned how to pack-unpack camera gear fast! When the joy become the chore is the sign to check the reasons why do it at all, or the way it is requested. You will make even some days will be not easy. Hang in there! The best wishes!

  2. I have no idea what it is like to write fiction. I write poetry. and much of the time I am just the hand as an instrument of whomever is writing the poetry. and one day I could write three poems, especially if I am highly inspired, for instance these days in a magnificent new love affair. My problem is if I hit a two week spot where I do not write. It feels like dying a little. I still have to relax and remember what a friend once said – you are storing things from life during those periods. In any case my Muse is not fickle but she is very independent and knows her own mind. Just as I went decades before I wrote anything I have no control over when, how, or how much. The best I can do with that is to ask when the flow comes down crazy and I cannot write it until I am home or at least not driving, She will often hold a place marker for me if I have one line. That in and of itself is a crazy gift to me.

    You write magnificent stories. Whatever your process is keep it up. It is working just fine.

  3. Widdershins says:

    T’aint for everyone, that’s for sure. 😀

  4. Poppy says:

    I tried Nano one time and hated it. I didn’t like the idea that it was all about hitting 50,000 words and actual content doesn’t matter much. Sure, they offer the projects to edit after November but…yeah. This is one reason why I told a writing buddy (translation: role playing partner, lol) that I doubted I’d ever write professionally. Deadlines and me don’t play well. I get resentful and my creative juices dry up. Or rather, they curl up like a pill bug or retreat like a turtle head.

    Plus, I spend so much time battling depression that when I get a blessed break, I’m running around doing damage control and compensating for downtime with bouts of writing from creativity that seems to come flying out of nowhere. And always with Odin chuckling in the background. He seems to find episodes of hypomania amusing. Then the mania, then paranoia, creative crash, Odin makes this face ====>. O_O
    And takes off until I stop being a dragon.
    Rinse and repeat.

  5. lucywriteson says:

    Chuckling at anxiety being an asshole…word. I’ve found it’s a fantastic motivator, as well as the absolute best at sucking all life and joy and passion out of whatever it’s motivating me to do.

    1. Jolene Poseidonae says:

      ❤ And no warning as to whether it can be used as a motivator or as a motivation-killer, in any given moment. It's a huge part of it's assholery.

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