One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2017 was to actually finish the novel that all English majors have in progress somewhere on their computers. Mine has been on my computer in bits and pieces for a little over 5 years. My goal: reach a make-or-break point where I would either a) let it go along with my English major dreams of novelhood, or b) actually commit to making it happen.
And so I decided to actually do NaNoWriMo for real this year, and got my wordcount up to about 30,000 – about 20K short of a “win” – but still significantly more output than I’m used to generating in a month.
Here are the lessons I learned that you didn’t ask me to share with you (but I am anyway, you’re welcome):
1. Stop being precious. (Also, “Get the hell over yourself.”) Once I finally accepted that the first full draft of this thing wasn’t going to be publishable after a tweaking, it was amazing how much more quickly I was able to write. Accepting that there would be rewrites (and, silver lining, opportunities to get things right in the future) was amazingly freeing.
2. If you haven’t written the thing, you can’t figure out how to fix it. Specifically re: fiction, I’ve always loved how the characters will inevitably take you, the writer, places you may not have expected to go. You can have all the notes about how to write the thing that you want, but until you write the thing, you will never get to those places.
3. Everything is use it or lose it! I wasn’t writing a heck of a lot over the past couple years because of depression, and everything I liked about my writing voice and style went kaput in the intervening time. It’s been a hardscrabble process getting it back, and it’s not exactly the same because I’m not exactly the same person, but it’s still mine, and that’s worth a lot.
4. You are indeed the only thing keeping you from going pro. (Also, “Get the hell over yourself” part II, different connotation edition.) In the artistic circles I run in, The War of Art is pretty oft-referenced. Finally I gave in and read it, and discovered a book about how to Life through the lens of how to Art, which is 100% up my worldview. (I recommend it to you.) The big thesis is that the only thing stopping any artist from going pro is your own resistance – and that the more resistance there is, the more necessary your creation of that art is to the development of your soul. (Spoiler alert: all of this is true.) There is in fact a bunch of self-generated bullshit (read: resistance, see above) you have to push past to even get to 30K. Which I did. And which is insane. Which will be even more insane when(!) I finally finish Full Draft Numero Uno of this beast in three weeks. (It will be awful. It will be glorious.)
So, in conclusion:
1. Yay, development of my soul!
2. Yay, progress!
3. Yay, good writing habits!
4. Please somebody nag me around Christmas and make sure I’ve finished this thing!