I am feeling rather emotional right now, so naturally I am taking pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). A few hours ago, I won my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote a novel in a month. It is 50,232 words, 101 pages, and totally flawed. Every sentence needs work. Every character needs a little more depth. The plot has holes.
But it is mine. And I have a weird relationship with it. During November, I wrote this novel in the morning between yoga and breakfast, skipping makeup for the day so I would have time to write 200 more words. I wrote this novel in the Chicago airport after we almost missed our flight home (thank goodness for weather delays). I wrote this novel in hotels while my boyfriend snored and I typed maniacally, not sure where the story was going, just knowing it was taking me somewhere that mattered. I wrote this novel in notes on my iPhone while I walked to get Dunkin Donuts at lunch.
I had a few goals for NaNoWriMo. One, being the obvious, was to pen a novel in a month and get
something anything down on the page.
My other goals were as follows:
- Fall in love with writing again
- Write every day (make it a habit)
- Find a little more of myself (lofty, I know)
- Shut off my inner editor
I am proud to say I successfully did three of these things exactly how I planned, while number two I struggled with a little bit. I did not even write 10 days in a row this month, but I did write when I could. I tried to fit it into each day and although I didn’t type every day, I did create every day. This book was in my pores for the past month. Who am I kidding — this book is still in my pores. I wrote the last sentence and was so, so excited to have finally done the thing I have wanted to do since I realized I was a writer. But even as I type this, my novel is open in a tab on my screen. I can’t let it go yet. It is my firstborn, and I feel like I have forgotten to feed it already. And it has only been six hours since I validated it and got my winner’s certificate.
There were days when I didn’t want to spend any time with my novel. There were nights when I had to set a timer to force myself to write for five, ten, fifteen minutes. There were also hours that passed when I didn’t check my phone because I was somewhere else; sentences my boyfriend said that I didn’t hear because I was tangled in the web of my story. There was so much magic in creating something that is totally mine, and yet not mine at all.
On the last day of writing, one of my characters did something totally unexpected. He left. He suddenly needed to be gone. I sat and stared at the page, so irritated that he had just done that without asking me. Then it occurred to me; I wasn’t really in control anymore. I had finally given myself up to something bigger. I sat down, reread the paragraph, and realized that he had done exactly what he needed to do.
Of course he did. Your characters always know better than you do.
That was one of my favorite moments of writing this book. I had a lot of moments that I was just so ecstatically happy that the words were flowing the way I wanted them to, and things I didn’t quite get 3,000 words ago were now making sense in the puzzle. Those were awesome writing gifts.
There were also times when I wondered why anyone ever reads anything I write, and if I could possibly fit more cliches into the pages. But I didn’t give up on my story because I am in love with it. And honestly, I don’t care if anyone else ever reads a word I wrote.
That is the most freeing thing a writer can realize. To be read does not make you more or less of a writer. What makes you a writer is writing.
So my baby sits in a document now, a manuscript finally finished and waiting for my red pen. It’s going to hurt; killing your darlings always does. I’ve never done that before, at least not to this extent. Editing this book will be more than Oxford commas, apostrophes, and notes here and there. I’ve always imagined editing a novel to be sort of like dissecting your insides, slowly and painfully. (Dramatic much?)
But I am not going to do that surgery until January. As hard as it will be, I have decided to let my child rest for the next month. I think some time apart will be good for us, and I can look with fresh eyes to the page in 2016. I am sure I will see more if I stare at it less.
For now, I am going to take some of what I loved about NaNoWriMo and bring it to my regular routine. The truth is, I wrote more in this past month than I have in a year. And I enjoyed it more, too. I learned that I do have time to write daily, despite a full-time job, a relationship, friends, and things like pumping gas and buying groceries. I guess I filled my hours with excuses for years, finding reasons not to have fun with writing and creativity. But guys — I made time. I made time for something I loved, purely for me, not for anyone else. And now, I have a whole new world and a family to spend time with in my mind. One that I created.
So I have decided that the “monthly goal” thing works for me. On a creative whim, I am going to try do a new project every month, whether it be on this blog, in my poetry journal, or just in an untitled Word doc. I’ve got a couple of ideas of things that I think would be fun already.
First challenge for the month of December — 24 Days of Grateful. From December 1 until Christmas Eve, I am going to blog daily about one thing that I am grateful for. The only rule is that I have to do it. The same way I made myself do NaNoWriMo. And that is what I am kicking off with (okay, it is two days early, but still). I am grateful for NaNoWriMo. Also for tea and the dozens of cookies I consumed while writing this novel. Also for my boyfriend and family, who patiently listened to me rant about fairies and plots and inane word counts for twenty-nine straight days. Sorry, guys.
So, here’s to the holiday season. I’ll be back Tuesday with the first day of 24 Days of Grateful. (Other bloggers, feel free to jump in if you like this challenge!)