Failing With Gusto

     NaNoWriMo is officially over and I’m kind of depressed. I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. This year was the first year I really tried. In previous years I started part of the way through November, already at a deficit, and when I never caught up I just threw my hands up and gave up after a week or so. This year brought new challenges, most especially having a 15 month old. I can’t remember if I tried to NaNo last year. I think I was too sleep deprived and depressed to even realize what day it was last November, let alone have the where with all to join a challenge. I also attempted to spend time planning and outlining my NaNo project. Previous years I’ve totally pantsed it.

     I’m trying to stay positive about my NaNo experience this year but I cannot escape the feeling of being a failure. I really had my heart set on finishing and having a winner badge, and enjoying some of the discounts that come with NaNo on certain things. Yeah yeah I know that is silly. In typical fashion for me I therefore feel like I wasted my time since I didn’t do everything perfect and end up a “winner”. That feeling is normal for me but is something I’ve been trying to get rid of.  I am trying to work on being less negative since it really doesn’t help achieve anything. When I have the negative thoughts I’m trying to tell myself that NaNo was actually super productive. It showed me how important writing really is to me. I have been feeling so anxious and antsy with no creative outlet. November was a much happier month for me creatively. Instead of sitting being bored at work I got my required stuff done and then wrote. Or brainstormed. So that when I got home I had a great idea. The unfortunate part was that I couldn’t quite seem to stick with my NaNo story. I got way more into writing short flash fiction pieces which I discovered during November of course. I also had some days I really just needed to zone out at night and get to sleep early. And my holiday knitting is now desperately behind.

     The biggest thing NaNo helped me with this year is showing me that I need to practice this. I can’t just jump into NaNo and write the Next Big Novel and become famous. I will have to just use my good looks for that instead. Ha! I kid. As far as writing fame goes, I can see now that writing every day is the important thing. If you want to be good at anything you have to practice it. Even with incredible natural talent you only become professional if you practice. You’d think I’d know this considering my life long musical practice. It’s hard to see how certain lessons apply to other aspects of life when you are new to doing them. I also do better when I have a bit of a competition aspect to things I do. So I found a challenge for writing practice by signing up for the 750 Words December challenge. I can use it to write blog posts, journal, or write creatively. I can access the website anywhere (work, home) and I’ll get badges! So if anyone out there needs writing motivation outside of NaNo, 750 Words is a great place to find some. And 750 words is a great amount to get a flash fiction piece started or add a good section to a longer piece.

     So yes, another NaNo is over. This year, however, instead of feeling like I’m done trying to write for another year, I’m getting ready to just keep going. To make every month a NaNo. Maybe the goal won’t be 50K in a month, but there will be a writing goal and I will keep writing. So that is a prize I haven’t gotten in years before.

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I Want To Be

The shower thought of the day was “You have to stop thinking ‘I want to be a writer’ and start going ‘I am a writer'”. I then realized after having this thought that I think wanting to be a writer is silly. Not for other people. But for me. It is. It’s silly. Growing up I always expressed myself creatively. I was in plays, musicals, took voice lessons, played piano, taught myself new musical instruments. I played games with myself in my head to get things like homework done. I pretended I was a world famous journalist whose important essay on geologic rock formations (or whatever) for my earth science class wasn’t really for earth science, it was for Time magazine (or whoever) and it was going to rock the world. I played that game with myself a lot. My writing assignments were for important magazines or books. And it made it so much more fun to do them.

Somewhere along the line I got it impressed upon me that being creative was not a career. Sure, you could have a fun hobby of that, but to be successful and financially stable you must have a real job. I also got a bit pushed into graduate school (that’s a whole other post) and while I wanted to quit halfway through it, I didn’t. I told myself I had to finish. And I did. But that didn’t stop me from hating what I studied and not wanting to have a career in it. Strapped with astronomical student loans that I didn’t really understand how large the payments on them would be, I have now been stuck in a career and job I sincerely dislike in order to make ends meet. Such is life.

So when I tell myself I can be something else, I feel stupid. I feel like a kid wanting a unicorn and to be a fairy princess for a career. Being a writer? Being in the creative arts for a career? Ha! That is for someone else who didn’t fark up their money situation like I did. That cannot be for me. It makes me die a little inside. Part of me that needs expression and fulfillment through creativity has been quietly crying inside my heart for that past 13+ years. I also tell myself I’m too old now to switch things up. I had a chance when I was a teenager, or even in my 20s. But now? In my 30s, I’m too old to make a change. I have to be an adult now. I have to be responsible. And how can changing careers be responsible? No no, I have to just let my creative urges be a hobby and just be happy with that.

But I can’t. I just can’t! Spending my days at an office job that is stifling my creativity and boring beyond belief is not a life I can live anymore. So I have to be the change right? Nothing will change unless I change it. I can’t just want to be a writer anymore, I have go out and be a writer. Or a musician. Or whatever. Obviously I can’t throw all responsibility into the wind. That would just result in more distress. It wouldn’t be fair to my family either. So it adds another piece to the change it up puzzle. How do I keep my day job and do something else with enough dedication that I may be able to make a career of it one day? This is a large conundrum. It’s the place where my eyes start to glaze over and there is a buzzing in my ears and I feel beyond stressed out and want to throw my hands up and give up. I think it’s the reason why NaNoWriMo became so important to me this year. And why the fact I’m failing at it is making me even more dejected. Somehow I pinned my hopes of changing my life onto completing NaNo. If I could really dedicate myself to writing (almost) every day for NaNo then maybe I can be committed enough to changing my life that I can actually change my life. I’ve already documented a lot of the hurdles I’ve felt here. Today adds more. How do I stop feeling silly and childish for having a dream and pursuing it? And why is that even stopping me? Who am I silly and childish to? My parents? Forget them – they had their chance to influence my life and they put up roadblocks instead of helping. My husband is supportive. So am I worried friends will laugh and go “ha, silly Rebecca, always wanting to do stuff she fails at.” If it’s true I keep failing it’s partially, if not all, because I keep stopping myself. By over thinking. By not living in the moment. By imagining the future and thinking it’s impossible. I just need to calm down. I need to stop trying and start being.

Easier said than done.

The Terror of Day Two

Day Two of NaNoWriMo was a bit of a bust. My first writing session on Day One got off to a bumpy start. I tried to attend my local NaNo event. Life and family came first though and I didn’t arrive till pretty late. There was barely anyone left there writing, and those who were mentioned their thousands of words written already and were mostly chatting. Loudly. And then the room we were in was also an area for used book purchasing. Suddenly, after maybe 45 minutes there, hordes of college aged hipsters (yes, hipsters) began to mingle and search for used books. Loudly.

I felt awkward and silly. I’ve always done badly with social situations. Really badly. I had gone hoping to introduce myself, jump right into the group, but once presented with the situation I felt so, well, ridiculous. Why? I don’t know. I may try to attend a future event, but arrive on time or only fashionably late instead of ridiculously so late no one else is writing anymore.

The writing I managed to do, a mere 500 words or so, I hated. Even as I was writing it I said to myself “This is not the tone I wanted at all. This is not the way I wanted things to start. This is totally a chapter I want way later into things but now I’m writing it at the start and it’s hard to not remember I wrote this and try to start again. AARGGGHHHH!!!!” I came home and wrote more. I got up to 2K words, and I did manage to jump back in time and do a new start. I actually felt really good when I closed the laptop for bedtime on Day One.

Then Day Two arrived. I brainstormed in the shower, which is really the best place to brainstorm. I came up with what I thought was a super amazing idea!! I wrote it in my Novel Brainstorming Notebook (also super important to brainstorming). Then I went out with the family for lunch. And we ran errands. And we got home. And I thought more about it. And I thought even more about it. And then I realized it was dumb. What a dumb idea. So cliche. So done. Like, lots of times done. Plus, I probably stole it from some book I read. Because I’m not capable of original thought.

Then bed time for the baby came. And I was free to write. So instead I browsed NaNo forums. I tried to find posts to give myself motivation to just write my stupid idea. I mean at least then I’d have my word count. Instead I just browsed my time away, till I was passing out tired. And I went to bed. Without any additional NaNo’ing.

I also chatted with a friend during the forum browsing. I told him how I was having anxieties and fear, imagining that my novel was so stupid no one ever wanted to read it. Let alone have it published so I could validate my existence with being a Super Famous Writer. I then realized I am constantly trying to validate my existence with things like this. I have to prove that what I’m doing isn’t a waste of time by having other people think I’m amazing. I do this at work. I drive myself insane trying to do extra work so that my manager notices and tells me what a good job I’m doing so I feel like my time spent there in the right way and my life is somehow meaningful. Now I’m doing it with this novel. I’m even afraid to tell people I’m writing it. I think my family would say they want to read it when it’s done. And then man, what will they think of me when it’s a pile of drivel?!

My friend said I should put the worries aside and just write the book I want to read. I’m still working on letting go of my perfectionism with this project. Now I also have to let go of the validation psychosis. I’m really just seeing how crazy I am. I guess that is sort of good. Maybe if I actually follow through and do this I’ll be committing self-therapy and be less crazy. Actually . . . doubtful. Okay I take it back. I’m not crazy. I’m a child of a generation that expects instant results and minimal efforts for those results and bases identity and worth on being able to be perfect without trying.

I can overcome this! But now I have to figure out, really figure out, what is the story I want to read that I can write for me? My current ideas and characters are riffs on my life. Characters closely related to how I am, the obstacles I currently feel in life. But they will get to overcome them. They will get to live in a world full of fantastical happenings they never even knew about, but get to be involved in, and love, because they open their minds to the possibility. When I write it like that it almost sounds cool. But the actual logistics are bogging me down. And my inability to write in the tone I want (comical and light and tongue-in-cheek) is really frustrating me. I guess, practice practice practice? I better stop this post then and go off to practice in my NaNo space instead.

NaNoWriMo’ing – 2013

This is my year. NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do it. All that self-doubt of the past is gone (alright not gone but shoved down by newfound hope). I need to write this book. I want to write this book! In past years I’ve gone into NaNo with a sense of dred. Every line had to be perfect. Every part of my plot needed to make 100% sense and be exciting. I didn’t allow myself room to make mistakes. To write a silly scene that I’d laugh at myself about later. I also tried too hard to make some big statement about my own life.

This time I’m going into NaNo telling myself that the entire thing may suck when I get done. But that’s okay. Because it’ll be 50,000 words of practice I didn’t have before November. And after November I’ll just keep going. I’ll perfect my story or start anew. I’ll go to writing events and classes (I’ve already signed up for one that I’m excited about) and hone my skills. Being a writer has been a desire of mine for a long time. I’ve never excelled at it though. I change tenses too much. I talk in a weird, 3rd person narration. And then I don’t. I have characters I don’t understand in places I can’t describe.

I’ve spent the past week or so really brainstorming. I’ve found some online blogs that really help. This post about character development really kicked me over the edge. I went from a uncertain but excited to “I can do this! I can go through these steps and make an awesome character from this!”. So now uncertain has pretty much vanished, and onto just excited I am.

I tried to stay up till midnight to get started, but having a 15 month old and Halloween I just couldn’t keep my eyes open by 11PM. I tossed and turned all night though, waking myself up thinking it was Saturday and I could hop out of bed and write until my son woke up or he was occupied with something. Then the reality that it was Friday set in. A whole day of work. Boring work. Work I don’t want to do at all. But that is a whole other post. Instead I am using the chance to kick off my blog. I made this blog ages ago. Then didn’t post. I re-formated it recently with a different template. Then didn’t post. I was again paralyzed by the power of perfection. I had to write a perfect post. A funny, amazing introduction that would skyrocket my readership with little effort. Because why not? Everything I have to say is amazing an insightful, right? I need to have that attitude, even if I’m faking it right now. Forget perfection. I can just write.

Write Write Write. Until I’m a little better than the day before.

My NaNo story is going to be tongue in cheek, futurastic, and fun. I will take some of my heart and put it in, but I also have this beautiful other world I want to live in too. And so, for a while at least, during NaNo, I will. I’m taking inspiration from Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde. Maybe even a bit of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Fleshing out the surroundings will be my biggest challenge. I need practice at descriptions instead of just thoughts and feelings. I’m going to make myself a list today of NaNo assignments. Each day will have a type of scene I want to focus on. Subject to change of course based on where I was going in the previous writing, or flow, etc. I also learned a big lesson this past week – I don’t have to write in order. Amazing! I’ve always tackled NaNo and story writing in a linear fashion. But I don’t have to. I can envision a scene at the start and then skip to a fight scene that will actually happen ages later. Because with the miracle of computers I can simply copy, paste, and move things around. I will be using Scrivener to keep myself in order. I’m excited to finish this year and be able to enjoy their NaNo discount too.

NaNo means way more to me this year than just writing a book. I’ve struggled most of my life with believing in myself and believing I can do whatever I want. But I can. If I want to write a book, goddamnit, I can. It will be work. It will be heartache. It will be time consuming and frustrating and hard. But, oh god, it’ll be worth it in the end.