For the third year in a row, I will be participating in the April Blogging A to Z Challenge! Since this blog is a reboot of my previous iteration, my first two years of A to Z are lost to the void (I kind of regret that, actually, but there’s nothing to be done about it).
I’m not 100% on what my theme this year is going to be – my first year was kind of a scattered and narcissistic “all about me” theme, and last year was form poems – but I don’t have to decide until the theme reveal on the 18th (well, I don’t have to decide until April, but you know what I mean.
I love when I see this challenge go live – it makes me think about the upcoming Spring, and that makes me happy.
My Novembers nearly always start with a zero-word-count first day. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it falls on, whether or not I have work, whether I’ve planned or am pansting my story – I tend to start off pretty slowly, and that’s only become more true the older I’ve gotten.
So ending the first without my fingers having touched the keyboard was not shocking or worrying. By Day Three, I was caught up again, and maintained or exceeded quota through the 9th before finally hitting a wall. So, I consciously took a break – I posted about the dilemma I was having to the NaNo Forums and got some feedback, and spent the night reviewing the notes I’d made prior to the start of the month. Two days later, feeling refreshed, I sat down and plucked out a quick and easy 1,200 words.
And I haven’t written since.
Why? Typical stuff. I have other responsibilities. I have no time. I feel like death warmed over most days, and the emotional energy expended to create often feels disproportion from the satisfaction derived from forcing myself to sit down and create.
And… I’m okay with it.
And I’m not giving up.
There’s no way I’m going to hit 50k. It’s not going to happen, and please do not come at me with posts of encouragement about how I’m being defeatist in saying that. I know myself, my family, and my schedule. I’ll never catch up.
But that’s okay.
I’ve won NaNo before; I’ve hit 50k on November 30th before. I’ve also proven to myself – last month across two challenges, and in a previous iteration of this blog during the A-to-Z Challenge – that I can sit and create something everyday. I feel no need to prove to myself or anyone else that I can write everyday. I’ve proven it already. More than once.
But despite winning NaNoWriMo by word count, I’ve never actually finished a story, and I don’t mean I’ve never sat down and cleaned up a first draft – I mean I’ve never finished the first draft. I pushed myself to write everyday and I was generating words for the sake of words, and by the end of the month, I’d inevitably lost my interest in the story I was writing.* Forcing it made me resent it. Forcing it made me hypercritical.
This year, after allowing myself that two day grace period? Going back and continuing it was fun. It was enjoyable. And now, a week later – having written nothing in that time – I’m still looking forward to going back and working on the story.
NaNoWriMo has given me the impetus to sit and start a story, which is and always has been the hardest part of any project for me – initiating it. It gave me momentum to sit and crank something out every night for several days. I’ve got 12k or something I’m actually still pretty excited about, or at least having fun with.
Will I finish it this month? Probably not. Will it be a novel? Probably not, though I never really expected it to be (I’m not a novel writer; this year is a rare departure from Rebelling for me).
But will I continue the story? Definitely.
Will a finish it? Actually, yeah, I might.
Am I having fun with it? Yeah. Yeah, I am.
I hope you are all getting something worthwhile out of NaNo, be it a satisfying word count, a great story, a sense of satisfaction at meeting a goal, or just a fun hour or two to yourself each night playing in your literary sandbox.
I’ll update you as to where I am at the end of the month. I might not be at 50k, but I’m excited to see how far I’ll have come.
* There are two exceptions to this; one was my 2016 novel, To Catch the Falling, which I was really enjoying writing (though when I read it over a few weeks later, I realized that it was riddled with plot holes and so much, just, extraneous grabage); and by 2005 novel Thirst which was so, so rambling and melodramatic and self-indulgent and went nowhere, but man, did I have a friggin’ blast writing that thing. I’ve long since lost it, and I legit think about it regretfully every subsequent year during November.
I’ve never attempted more than one challenge at a time before. Moreover, I’d never attempted something that wasn’t a writing challenge before, and this October saw me do both (this was a really special month, you guys).
OctPoWriMo was not a wellspring of expertly crafted poetry. I was not fond of many of the suggested forms, but because of time constraints, and because of the lingering funk I was in when it came to creativity, I opted in to many of the suggested forms and prompts, even when I didn’t love them. I’d argue that was good for me; it forced me to be okay with what I considered to be sub-optimal writing — it kind of gave me permission to create something not up to my nearly impossible standards.
The poems that fell entirely flat (to me, at least), are the ones whose forms seem the most “gimmicky;” the blitz, for one, never truly felt like writing poetry (though, as I’ve said several times, I wouldn’t discount it as a writing or brainstorming exercise), and many of the non-traditional syllable counting poems didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped. Rather than count this as a failure, though, I’d like to walk away considering this a learning experience for me as a writer, discovering and uncovering a little more about what works for me (and what doesn’t) as a poet and writer.
What Inktober did, though, was interesting. I jumped on Inktober more or less on a whim, because I have never, ever, considered myself a visual artist. I’ve always liked doodling, but my drawings rarely ventured into more elaborate territory. People would sometimes compliment a drawing I’d done, but it never went beyond that — I never defined myself as an artist the way I did as a writer. As a result, I went into Inktober with no expectations — or, maybe the expectation of sucking. And because I assumed I’d suck — because I “wasn’t an artist” — every time my drawings came out with even an inkling of potential promise, it was a huge, positive surprise which kept me motivated to keep with it.
And at the end of thirty-one days, while I still have a long, long… longway to go, I can see very plainly that the stuff I’ve been producing sucks a little less. That giving myself permission to not be great and keep going anyway actually lead to me getting better.
I’m am spending my creative energies in November doing NaNoWriMo, as I have almost every year since 2002, and taking a break from (structured, challenge-based) creative endeavors in December (working on lowkey, low pressure personal projects) before jumping back in for another challenge in January.
In retrospect, even if I’ve not been thrilled with the all of the products of my labors in October, I’m proud of hanging in there and producing. And whether or not I win NaNo, and whether or not I reach 50k, I’m hoping to at least see it through day by day and word by word.
Here’s to a productive November, a recuperative December, and a creatively fulfilling 2019.
Tomorrow is October 1st – what?? Can you believe it? After the shortest summer of my life, I feel like the new school year just got underway, and now you’re telling me next week we’re issuing progressreports? What is even going on?
Anyway, I’m not mad, honestly, because (as we’ve established) fall is one of my favorite times of year, and one of the few times during the year I usually managed to eek out at least a little time to be at least a little creative. In years past it’s been NaNoWriMo – which I’m doing again this year, though in what capacity (I’m usually a Rebel), I’m not sure – but this year I thought I’d also try my hand at OctPoWriMo, which is October Poetry Writing Month, along with Inktober.* I know, when I get ambitious I go all out.
Challenges – especially challenges with a set start and end date – tend to work well for me, because they come with an established structure and deadline, and both OctPoWriMo and Inktober have resources that provide you with the opportunities for daily feedback and prompts as well (yet more externally opposed structure and a chance for immediate peer validation? Yes, please!)
Adding to that, this year my husband expressed interest in participating with OctPoWriMo, which adds an accountability/competitive aspect to it – I don’t want to slack off when I’m up against my husband (yes, I know it’s not actually a competition, but it’s a tiny fire under my ass, so I’ll take it).
I’m excited to start creating, and sharing with you all – I’ll be doing daily updates throughout OctPoWriMo on my side blog, Rarely Tidy Writing, though I’m not sure if/how I’ll share my Inktober progress (I’m still feeling a little self concious about my drawing abilities, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.)
Who else is participating in any creative challenges this October?
*I’m not an artist – like, I don’t draw, can barely handle stick figures – but I want to. Inktober will basically be barely decipherable sketches in Sharpie, but I’m hoping it will at least lead to habitual drawing, which might someday lead to me actually getting better.