November 2 and my word count is zero. Yep.
And I’ve been planning on writing a blog post about NaNoWriMo 2013 for about a week now…
Well, we all have to start somewhere.
In a sense, though, I have started because I am taking the rebel route this year and finishing the book I started last year instead of starting a new one. Because of this, I am not going for a “win” this year with 50,000 words.
And I am not even setting a goal of finishing my book.
So why even “participate” if I am not really participating, if I am not even setting any goals?
Because, to me, one of the primary purposes of NaNoWriMo is that it gives aspiring writers a framework to build solid writing habits, and this is something I am in terrible need of this year.
I’ve been a professional writer for years, but it has been technical writing. Honestly, I find it difficult to even call that writing. Most of what I do in that field is layout design, photography, and cutting and pasting. But I’ve always considered myself a writer, it’s just been many, many years since I’ve actually done any real writing.
Last year, during my first NaNoWriMo, I finally felt like I was coming home to the craft I’d been neglecting for far too long. I was writing fiction for the first time in over a decade and I was writing a lot and almost every day. I was building all those good habits I’d been neglecting for so long: daily work, writing even if I wasn’t in the mood, working through blocks and deadspots, staring down the smug cold stare of the blank page and making it my bitch…
It felt good. And the community of writers online, who were all in the same place I was, going through the same things I was going through, added just enough encouragement to get through the tough spots. Writing is usually a very solo and sometimes lonely art, and I loved the community feel that NaNoWriMo (especially the Portland Facebook Group) brought to the experience.
In 2012, things went great. I jammed through my 50K and finished somewhere in the mid-60s. I didn’t finish the book, which was a goal, but it was firing along nicely and I was still working. Then, in mid-December, the next big project came along and I had to set the novel aside for while, but I was fired up and knew that I’d pick it up again, soon.
Then another project, then another project…
In the spring, I decided it was time to get back to work. My break had been long enough that continuity was going to be an issue, so I was going to use NaNoEdMo (Novel Editing Month) in March to re-familiarize myself with the draft so far and get some red inking in to prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo in April… Life got busy, more photography and video projects came rolling through… No editing, no writing… Not even any reading.
And now it is November again, and here I am.
So I will be a renegade in 2013. I will participate this year, but I will have different goals, and the primary one is to build better writing habits that are sustainable while working on other projects. Because of this, I do not want to drop everything and jam through to 50K or even just the end of the book, if that is (hopefully) closer than 50K words away.
I fear that if I set that goal and saw that it was unattainable that I would just bail on November entirely, like I did last Spring when things got busy, and that is exactly the opposite of what I want to do this year.
I also cannot drop everything for one project, and with the heavy demands of my family on my time (I am something like the on-site, full time social worker for my extended family, a role that is my “day job” right now), I need to work on making writing a part of my life most days, not just for insane spurts a couple months out of the year. So even if I could drop everything for a mad NaNoWriMo rush, doing so runs counter to my goals.
A few days back, while trying to find time (see, that is the issue I am trying to fix here) to write this post, an old friend of mine, Mia Marshal posted a great post on NaNoWriMo, about what it has meant to her and on why she is not participating this year.
In essence, Mia explains that “NaNoWriMo… taught me what it means to be a writer.” It taught her the discipline one needs and it gave her the tools she needs and the experience she needs to be a full time, professional writer. However, for her, because she has learned these lessons, now she is in a great place where:
…what I used to call NaNoWriMo, I now just call writing. At some point in the last two years, 50,000 words a month became my new normal, and it’s why I now call myself a writer.
Recently, I found myself in the mind blowing position where I needed to get some business cards printed up for my photography and video work. Not because I wanted them, but because people kept asking me for one. However, at the end of the day, I still consider myself a writer first, so I put that on my new cards, as well.
But Mia boils it down to the brass tacks. I can call myself a writer all day long, and I can consider myself a writer, because I used to do that thing and because I want to do that thing again. But until I can make NaNoWriMo every month, and not a crazy, burn everything except for writing experience but a natural, intergral part of what I do most days, then it doesn’t matter what is on my card or in my heart, because I am not doing the thing that I am claiming to do.
So my goal for NaNoWriMo 2013 is not a word count. My goal this year is to develop the discipline and tools I need to make writing a regular habit, a near daily part of my life, whether or not it is writing 1,667 words per day or not. And yes, I do want to finish last year’s book. But, if I succeed in my goal, it doesn’t matter if I finish it by the end of November or not, because I will finish it. And I will edit and rewrite. And I will start working on the next one after that.
A few years ago I started posting a Photo of the Day on Rubble. I stopped doing that a little over a year ago, because I felt that I’d achieved my goals with that project, which was forcing myself to work on photography every day.
As I wrote when I ended the Photo of the Day:
When I first started the POTD on February 13, 2011, I was in a very different place in life than I am right now. I was in a rebuilding phase and, as a part of that rebuilding, I wanted to put more focus on photography as I moved ahead in life.
Well, if the main goal of the project was to inspire me to take more photos, that is a mission accomplished.
Beyond accomplishing the goal of taking more photos, it also made me a better photographer. When I started the POTD project in early 2011 I was someone who enjoyed taking pictures. Almost three years later, I am going pro, and a big part of that is because I work on it every day in one way or another. At this point, I don’t need an artifical framework to force myself to do this. It now just who I am and what I do.
Starting a similar process with my fiction writing? That is my goal for NaNoWriMo 2013.
It is November 2 and I still haven’t re-read my draft from last year, so that is where I am starting. Organizing my notes and re-reading the existing draft. After that, I’ll either continue working towards finishing that draft, or I’ll start a complete re-write, depending on what I find over the next few days. Either way, it will be a little time before I break zero on my word count.
But this is good. Because I am doing it and not just thinking about it. It’s been too long since I’ve been doing and not just thinking about it, and I look forwards to getting to know my characters again. I’ve been away from them for far too long and, I promise, it will be different this time!
A Bookkeeping Note…
For the last year or two, I was posting these sorts of posts on my Rubble blog. However, over time my plans for these blogs have changed and evolved. At one point, Rubble was going to be my blog for all things arts oriented and this was going to be my blog for personal stuff, whether it was posts about family oriented issues, pictures of the kids, or just self-indulgent navel gazing.
I suppose that over the last year, I’ve come to realize that posts like this one are probably more in the self-indulgent navel gazing category rather than in the arts category.
Well, that may be a bit harsh. But as my artistic and professional life has evolved over the last year or so, so has my plans for these blogs. I was originally going to write a series of articles on my son’s special needs and dealing with life with a son with ASD and other such things for this blog, but I really don’t have the time now to do such a thing (oh, and it also turns out that ASD was a mis-diagnosis).
So one reason to move these posts from Rubble to SE2 is so I’ll actually have stuff to post here! But still, they are more personal and I want to, from here on, at least, keep Rubble for other sorts of less personal posts.