I’m cranky. And if you’ll allow me a small moment to have a little pity party, the crankiness is all because I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. So, like I said, you have to allow for the part where I’m all ‘woe is me’ because I’m fully aware I brought this pain on myself.
According to my page, this is my fifth time participating in the challenge. That equates to (as of today) two wins, two losses, one in process with potential to win, and, are you ready for this craziness, 176,266 words. So far. If I happen to pull off the win, add another 24k to that figure for a cool 200,000.
And that figure only accounts for the words written for NaNo. Toss in anything I did for clients, blog posts, articles, everything else and no doubt I’ve written well over a million words in my lifetime as a professional writer.
So it goes to reason that some days, no matter how badly I want to shape any combination of the available words in the English language, I just don’t have the creativity to form sentences.
Fun fact? When I looked up how many words exist in the English language it turns out the Oxford Dictionary says there are 171,476 available for use.
Less than the number of words I’ve written over the course of four and a half NaNos.
Anyway, today is one of those days where I have time to spare, nothing to do but write. But something inside tells me I should be penning words for anything other than my book today.
That something is one of two things: fear or exhaustion.
I’m going with exhaustion and here’s why.
Back in 2009 when I sat down (on my mom’s suggestion, BTW) to tackle the motherfucker that NaNo actually is, I had no clue how to write a book. I’d never finished one before. So I opted into the challenge just so I could finally say I crafted a long form fiction story and typed The End for the first time.
And then some. Because, since that month seven years ago, I’ve finished and published seven titles. Five fiction, two reference.
Some of those titles came out of my NaNo experiences. One of them in particular, Reckless Abandon, came out of a Camp NaNo in August. A year I actually lost the challenge.
But I won my own challenge.
As a kid I was always a procrastinator, floating aimlessly along some vast ocean of possibilities and never wanting to choose a path. How limiting, I always thought, to pick just one thing to be. Couldn’t I be anything, everything I wanted to be like everyone told me back then? Sort of.
Wheee! Never settle into anything! Stay in the background of life so you never really need to commit to anything! Skate by! Hooray for choices! So many shiny choices!
And then I woke the hell up. Because no matter what I’d ever done to “pay the bills” (or more accurately, what I did for work and play without a care in the world for the future) it didn’t matter to me at all. I met some terrific characters at all those jobs, in all those clubs, at all those parties, but the only thing that stuck with me before, during, and after that time in my life, was writing.
There are few months, let alone years, in my past where I didn’t write. If I let myself dwell on the number of trees killed and ink expelled for my love of words over the years, it would scare me on an environmental level.
Bottom line, no matter what else was in or out of my life – love, money, work – I always had writing.
Right before Matt and I got together in fact, I was dating a guy who asked why I was home on a Friday night, writing, when I could be out doing whatever was cool to do back in those days.
We broke up shortly after that question arose.
Because if you don’t get why I’m doing that then you don’t get me. And I don’t need to waste my time being with someone who doesn’t get my love-hate relationship with words. The place inside me that is words.
Once I finally found myself able to say The End on a long story I knew it was all I would do for a career for the rest of my life.
I got over the fear of turning my deepest passion into a career years ago. That’s an entirely different blog post, one I’ve probably already written so I won’t write it again. But, suffice to say, the fear is long gone.
Honestly, I think that moment came when I finished NaNo in 2009 when I came away with the rough first draft of a finished book. It all became clear, I realized I could actually do it. Not just dream about being an author but I literally just made it happen.
With a shit ton of support, love and encouragement of course but in truth this is a very solitary profession.
I don’t get to take vacations while other people pick up the slack. I don’t get co-workers unless I decide to write a book with someone else. And even then, it wouldn’t matter because words are constantly forming in my head. Wherever I go, whatever I’m doing, I’m always working.
Last night a friend came over to give me a haircut and we got to talking about jobs. Matt mentioned how crazy his work is while he’s at work but that he gets to leave it behind at the end of the day.
I had a bullet of emotions pass through me. Jealousy being the predominant feeling. A little bit anyway. Because I’m never “off” in this life. I am my job and vice-versa. Every conversation I have, class I take, person I meet, job I do, everything in my life is tied to the work I do. Because how else am I supposed to create fictional characters that feel real without soaking in all that life shit from actual real people?
And that’s the hate side of things sometimes. I can’t just go out every Friday, sometimes I need to slave to the words because I’m already at capacity. Instead of overflowing from collecting, I need to drain a little off the top. Or the bottom I guess.
Either way, it’s like a sick form of bulimia being a collector of information from the world and then using it to inform an entirely new world. Binge and purge.
People who get me understand when I disappear that binge-purge is likely the cycle I’m going through.
So now I’m in NaNo and I’m not sure I really need the word-count accountability anymore. I love my process. I like taking a day off to refill the cup then shoot it down the next day only to vomit it all out onto the page in grand fashion the next.
Writing everyday isn’t a problem for me anymore. But sometimes I need to mix up what I write.
Once I broke through my own proverbial glass ceiling – finishing just one - there was no stopping me to keep going. Using NaNo like I used to seems unnecessary. So I’m flipping it over to the B side and using the challenge the way I need to in order to type The End once again.
Character and story development has me just over halfway on word count. Funny. Even though I’m not thinking I need the NaNo challenge with this book I might just harness my third win anyway.
But I’ll never get to that point unless I force myself to love words today and go write some about my characters.
You bet your ass that means I’ll be copy-pasting all 1350ish words from this blog in at the bottom of my manuscript. December is for edits!
Just kidding. I won’t even cheat that bad.
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In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.