Another Year, Still Can’t Win

Well, it’s official. Another year in the NaNoWriMo losers club. But it’s a pretty awesome club, because you still have a ridiculous amount of writing that’s off your plate (about 30K for me), and you find that you remember: actually, you kind of like writing when you give yourself permission to focus on it. And, added bonus, the next month of your life doesn’t seem like such a soul-sucking drag. Because, my god, even creative writing can feel like such a bummer when you take the thing you love and let it become a job that makes you feel like a miserable failure every single day, because you love good books and in your heart of hearts you know that nothing you write will ever be good enough for you yourself to like it because you are a self-hating, self-pitying perfectionist and so you’ve basically contracted yourself to feeling like a failure forever.1

I think this year, what I got from NaNoWriMo is a reminder that writing really isn’t that difficult,2 and if you just sit down and do it, it’s done. Which is a reminder I need approximately once a year when the scale of writing A Full Length Novel From Nothing becomes overwhelming. Maybe that’s why I like doing this, even though I never win.

Another gift of NaNoWriMo was a reminder of just how quickly I can write 2,000 words. At a good clip, to the tempo of “OMFG I have to finish this,” I can write 2,000 words in less than two hours. That’s insane. Why in the world have I been procrastinating for so long? There’s no excuse for writer’s block.

The final gift of NaNoWriMo was that I did something I haven’t done in a long time, which is to do a write-through to create a really detailed outline. I usually plot from cards, and writing straight through beat by beat sort of surprised me. I feel like, as a writer, my intuition for how a story is put together have improved to the point that this is now a useful and viable thing to do.3 And now I’m kind of into the idea of trying different working methods that I’d basically written off, because what came out of that approach was really different and I found it really useful.

In any case, I will be spending this night enjoying the traditional failure beverage of NaNoWriMo and fretting about an exciting trip to New York tomorrow. But, to all the losers like me, I hope you had a great month too!

Happy NaNoWriMo! I really hope I’ll get to do this next year too, and maybe next year I’ll win! Or fail. Whichever.

  1. There’s no tone in text, so in case it wasn’t clear: yes, I’m laughing at myself, and no, I do not actually think that. Mostly.
  2. Not that difficult to do badly, I should say. But all first drafts are bad, so that’s really not a reason not to do it.
  3. I have no natural plot instinct, so this is kind of big for me.