My novel is currently 81,625 words long. Which means that for the month of August I produced a total of 31,625 words. So…
The Bad News
I did not complete the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge. I came up 18,375 words short, to be exact. So while others in my cabin did cross that elusive 50,000 word finish line within the allotted 31 days I did not. *sad face*
The Good News
While I may not have completed the Camp challenge, I have gotten a significant jump on MY challenge: to finish this damned novel. My goal, after all, was to finish the novel in 2011 as part of my Big, Fun and Scary challenge for the year. I didn’t start out my challenge with specifics on how long it had to take or how long the finished product had to be. So I can still meet my personal challenge, and that’s far more important anyway.
This month was great for me in this regard because it got me doing what I need to do to finish the damned thing. First and foremost, it got me writing. Simply sitting down with the document and typing was a big deal for me after going so many months without even looking at the thing. And it wasn’t easy at first- I had forgotten a lot of what occurred during those first 50k words and I had to get back into the swing of things.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, it got me thinking about the story. My characters, their motives, the overall plot and what I wanted to accomplish. There are still a lot of things about this particular story that I don’t like and I’m pretty sure that should I ever permit myself to sit down and just read the whole thing I’d be pretty appalled at how far it is from any semblance of a finished product. But that doesn’t matter. What matters for me, since I’m not a professional writer, is that I get something out of this whole crazy adventure. And spending my time thinking about my story has been the only source of enjoyment in this whole thing. I like having my own little world in which I’m building things. It’s a nice break from worrying about work, household chores, and other activities of daily living.
Third, it’s gotten me to start to think of myself as a writer. That may sound strange to you, reading this blog in which I- you know- write. But what you need to keep in mind is that I am the most self-critical person on the planet. As such, I judge myself very, very harshly and usually against other people whom I have no business comparing myself to. For example, some of the other truly amazing writers I am regularly exposed to in Flash Fridays. I look at what you guys do and am amazed and when I look at my stuff it always pales in comparison. So I can’t put myself in the same category- can’t call myself a writer.
But I’m realizing more and more that if being a writer is defined by the act of writing than having this inexplicable compulsion to write, by definition, makes me a writer. It doesn’t matter if I ever get what I would consider good (and keep in mind with my critical nature that’s probably impossible). And it doesn’t matter if I ever get recognized by anyone else. All that matters is that I’m writing.
I went to college originally in order to be a writer. That was my dream, to write the great American novel. Needless to say, it didn’t work out that way for me. And now, so many years after college, I have a full time job and a family and many, many tasks and other interests which take up my time on a daily basis and keep me from writing. And you know what I’m realizing for the first time? That’s ok. This doesn’t have to be anything other than what it is. And more over, pushing myself to make it that is just going to suck any fun out of it anyway.
So I’m releasing my expectations. And I know, like anything else, I’ll have to release them every time I sit down to write. But if I can do that I might just be able to enjoy this practice. I might be able to finish this novel, in my own time, without feeling guilty for having not pumped it out in a month. I might be able to post a Flash Friday story without thinking of how much worse it is in comparison to someone else’s. I might be able to write without any unrealistic expectation of what it means for me to be a writer.
Wouldn’t that be nice?