I'm not going to be making the 50,000-word count this year at the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) contest and it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. I should have known after the first week I wasn't going to make it. I was struggling to keep up the pace, but was deluded enough to think that after I caught up by day nine, everything was going to be okay.
Heck, the signs were there for me to read before the contest even started. I wasn't going to make it, but I didn't want to accept that I wasn't physically, emotionally, or mentally up to the challenge this year. Writing may look like a sedentary occupation, but it still requires you to be in good shape physically, or else you will get mentally exhausted from the struggles with your body.
I have talked about my physical problems elsewhere so I won't go into the messy details, save to say that I have a chronic pain condition. In mid-October I had to have some minor surgery, a hernia repair, and had not considered how much that would actually take out of me. I had conveniently forgotten that once you have a pain condition, not only will surgery aggravate the pre-existing problem, healing from the surgery will take far longer then normal.
There is also the radically increased chance of post-operative complications due to pain. Starting from the moment the freezing wore off after the surgery, I was unable to move because of the pain and had to be rushed into emergency. I am unable to spend more then a few hours at a time upright.
Since I have a laptop, I figured I would just prop myself up in bed and write away merrily, and much like last year be well over the 50,000 mark by the end of the third week. Well that time is fast approaching, Tuesday is the 21st of November and I've not yet even topped 30,000 words.
There's still a chance I could come up with over 20,000 words in the next ten days — it's only about 2,000 words a day after all — but if I do it, it will be strictly by accident. I'm no longer shooting for any particular word count on the project I'm working on; instead my goal is to finish the novel.
I was feeling really depressed this past weekend about not being able to produce the numbers of words a day I had last year while taking part in NaNoWriMo. I had even written a long whiney letter to a friend of mine complaining about it. I was afraid that because I couldn't do what I'd done before, I might be losing my ability to write.
At one point in the letter I had written about how aggravating it was that it had taken me four hours to write a simple book review. My friend had very patiently, obviously, read the whole letter and wrote me back to me remind of something that I'd forgotten. It doesn't matter how much you write or how long it takes; what matters is that you write.
As I was mulling this and some other thoughts over in my head, I happened to spot a chunk of rock crystal my wife had picked up for me a few weeks ago. It’s a really neat specimen in that you can see the striations that have gone into the rock's making. Literally hundreds of individual points of crystal have grown together to form one shape with a perfect point of clear crystal.
I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. Writing can develop with the same sort of structure as that rock – one layer of crystal building on top of another to form a final perfect shape. It doesn't have to be done all at once like a volcano forming an island, although that does happen on occasion.
Each piece of work you do is a unique and individual just like anything else. If you try to force it to be something it doesn't want to be it ends up rebelling and turning out opposite of what you’d hoped. You have to take what it gives you.
Last year when I wrote so much during November, it took me three more months to finish. At the time I was inclined to put my inability to finish down to not having a deadline to shoot for. Now, in thinking about past attempts at writing, I came to a realization about a bad habit I had developed with my writing.
In the past I have been so concerned with finishing that I would try to write the whole story as quickly as possible. Invariably I would run out of energy or my initial impetuous would dissolve, and the project would languish neglected and forgotten in my hard drive. In fact it wasn't until last year that I was able to complete a project of that size.
Although that approach was appropriate for something like NaNoWriMo, it is not conducive to me achieving my own goals as a writer. I need to break the habit of trying to rush through and finish a novel all in one breath and learn to pace myself so that I don't burn out my inspiration.
According to some beliefs there is a reason for everything that happens to you, but whether you pick up on it or not is your problem. When it became obvious I would have to take a disability pension for an extended period of time, I saw that as my opportunity to write on a full-time basis.
If I follow that logic along, it means the reason I've been given this extra dose of pain is to teach me how to slow down when I write. Although I appreciate the thought behind the lesson, I can honestly say I wish the Universe could have thought of some other way of letting me know.
While I may not finish the NaNoWriMo contest this year, I've learned a valuable lesson that's only going to improve my writing. To me that's even more of an accomplishment then putting up winning numbers.