|| I started November with a decent plan for NaNoWriMo that allowed for a 25k personal goal, with the easy addition of an extra 25k as a stretch goal. I wrote a novella a couple years ago that was begging to be at least a trilogy, with each volume needing to be right around 25k words. Perfect! It’s Space Opera, I already know who my characters are, (including a super badass Admiral who doesn’t so much ride the line between protagonist and antagonist, as she just fucking owns it), I even know where the story needs to go! Usually I have a start and an end, but everything in between is as much a mystery to me as it will be to you, Dear Reader, excepting the odd scene or two that will haunt me forevermore until I awkwardly shoehorn them in. But I digress…
I blocked out Saturday morning, November 2, to begin. I got up early, strolled down to my friendly neighborhood Starbucks, caffeinated up and…
Banged out 645 painfully painful words. I started the morning needing 25,000 words for the month and felt like I finished needing 26,000 words for the month. Yes, that’s right, they were so bad that I felt like I was starting at a 1,000 word deficit. I thought about them the rest of the day and realized that I was guilty of that most grievous of NaNoWriMo mistakes, I was editing as I went and thinking too much outside of the here and now of my writing. Armed with these new insights*, I tried again that evening and…
Just couldn’t do it. (Goodbye Nike endorsement. *sigh*)
I realized that the problem wasn’t necessarily a mechanical one, it wasn’t in how I was approaching the work, it was a heart problem; I wasn’t feeling the work. So. WTF was doing? I had to take a step back and I ask myself that most terrifying of writerly questions, “why am I doing this?”
Let me tell you friends, the answer I was expecting was neither “habit” nor “obligation,” but that’s exactly what my lizard brain’s brain smarter cousin popped up with. And, unfortunately, it did make sense. The biggest difficulty I have with writing, at least the physical act thereof, is finding that sweet overlap of Time and Creative Energy. Since NaNoWriMo is the ultimate in prioritization to make sure that at least the Time happens, it makes sense that I see it as a ready opportunity to get back in the game.
The difficulty though is that you need at least some amount of Creative Energy too, and that’s where it becomes important to note that I do not write for a living– I write for fun. I write as an escape. I write as a release. I write because I have stories bopping through my head and I happen to think I’m decently good at getting them out. But I also have to be realistic. I’ve been doing litigation support for fifteen years now, specializing in trial work and complex discovery. It’s challenging, often rewarding, and can be wholly, completely, and utterly exhausting.
As a friend once put it, you can’t write with a full head. And friends, I tell you what, my head has been plenty full already this year. So walking into NaNo with a head full of work and my tank of Creative Energy so low that the “E” stands for “existential,” it was time to bow out. And bow out I did, taking the entire month off save for my initial 645 word debacle. I signed up for the python programming class I’d been looking at doing for years, I relaxed, and I let my Creative Energy tank refill. It’s been, in a word, glorious.
Indeed, in the runup to NaNo I re-read my novella and found that while the first 20% is boring AF (gah), and the last 13.3% is way too slow (dammit), that middle two thirds is actually pretty awesome (yeah!). It was a bit disheartening at first, even if I knew where the next stories needed to go, but now I know what I need to do to fix it (*crosses fingers*). It was taking the month off from writing, with the story once again fresh in my head, that let me make the intuitive leaps necessary to fix it.
The November break also means that I can begin working on another awesome project too: the long anticipated sequel to Brass Automaton! That’s right kids, Mark and I are back at it, ramping up the first draft of Brass Queen. I’m excited too, and looking forward to once again writing with the reckless abandon that only a mashup between Snow White and Terminator can bring. Finally, for all my #WritingCommunity friends, I hope the words flowed if you NaNo‘d, that they still flowed if you didn’t, and that your creative energies are full and blessed regardless. You all remain the very best.
*Narrator: But they weren’t new insights. Indeed he does this shit every damn year but still has the unmitigated gall to counsel others against them on Writing Twitter.