This month I have taken on a challenge. I’ve challenged myself to write 1660 odd words of fiction a day. By the end of November I should have written 50,000 words. It’s called National Novel Writing Month and it’s exactly as wild as it sounds.
That’s a pretty big undertaking. Especially for someone who hasn’t written fiction for close to ten years. But in the past three or four years I’ve noticed something about myself. I thrive under pressure. About three years ago I signed up for roller derby, having not skated for 15 years, knowing nothing at all about the sport, and having not ever played a team sport or even exercised consistently, ever. I found it hard but I refused to let it beat me. At one point someone at work asked me where we found so many tough women to play the sport. My off the cuff, instinctive response was “people don’t know how tough they are until they try”. And I believe that.
So NaNoWriMo is me trying to be a writer, trying to reach a ridiculous word count, and trying without much of a clue about how to do it. The thing about trying is that you have to give yourself permission to fail. You have to accept that you’re winging it, that you’re not perfect, and keep a very firm sense of perspective. And, from my roller derby experience, you have to know that you will be knocked down. The only difference between a failure and a success is the determination to keep getting back up.
I know I’m not going to write a masterpiece in a month. It’s quite possible (even likely?) there just isn’t a masterpiece in me at all. People participate for a whole bunch of reasons, for me I wanted to break out of the idea that I don’t have time to write and, after a few years of writing this blog, I wanted to stop being a critic for a while and start being a creator. I know what I’m working on is messy and top of the brain stuff and in December I’ll take a look at it to see if there’s anything worth salvaging. I’m not looking forward to that bit, but I’m also not trying not to think about it too much. What I found with NaNo was the courage to start. I think I’m building good habits. I’m facing my crippling self doubt and giving myself permission to believe in myself. I’m experimenting with different things. And seriously, why not? If I get arrested by the Literary Fiction Police for what I pen on my own laptop in the privacy of my own home then so be it.
Anyone else out there participating in NaNo this year? And does anyone have any words of wisdom?