I originally titled this post “Surviving” NaNoWriMo, but then something pulled me away from my computer, thus forcing me away and causing me to revisit this post for another day. Well, today is that day and I must say, I dunno what I was thinking by saying “surviving.” A writer doesn’t survive anything. Instead, they go through a very intense war that has many stages. First is the stage of deciding you’re going to war in the first place by deciding to write a novel. Some people plan and make outlines, which is a battle in itself. Then, the bloody endeavour of actually writing occurs. This is the second largest battle a writer faces and I would argue, not the hardest. Within it, the writing isn’t even the hardest part. You have to fight foes like Time Management or Other Commitments that are constantly trying to derail and interrupt the few precious minutes you prayed you’d have to use to write. Felons like Self Doubt pop up often and are actually immortal; no matter how many times you slay them, the ghosts of your own insecurities pop up repeatedly in the writing process. But, if you trudge hard and stay dedicated, the battle of writing your first draft can be won, despite these distractions and others trying to bar your way. If only you don’t think about the fact that it is only prepping you for the most difficult battle, the true test: editing the beast you just created. If you are willing to go through all of that, you don’t just survive as a writer.
I have conquered twice in my life and lost the war at least once. I attempted my first manuscript draft in the 7th grade and only got 100 pages in before realizing that story needed too much reworking and I wasn’t quite there yet as a writer. Then, as a freshmen in college, I started writing a new story that I had been outlining for almost two years prior. In six months, I had won my first war. Junior year, I wrote the sequel. And I had been putting off writing the third book of the trilogy for some time. Finally, I decided to try something I had never tried before: NaNoWriMo. Of course, I started late–on the 8th–but I am so happy to report that I completed it early: on November 25th, I hit 52,000 words of book three, successfully completing my first NaNoWriMo. Although the book is only roughly halfway completed (this series averages 120,000 words per manuscript), I am still so proud of this accomplishment.
I am proud of it because I put a goal before myself and met it. Despite being in school (for this semester, at least) and working, I was able to find time almost every day to write, even on the days where I worked 14 hours. I always claimed that I couldn’t write everyday because there was never enough time, but after joining NaNoWriMo, I was so surprised on how much time I was able to find when I truly put my writing first. Some days it was 10 minutes and only a couple hundred words. Three different days I wrote for multiple hours without stopping, one day reaching almost 7,000 words. But it was an amazing feeling to write as much as I did, only faltering once the holidays hit and I came home for Thanksgiving (a telling sign in itself, that it is harder to find time to write at home than when I am living by myself). I think the work is stronger for it, because I was constantly thinking about writing and the story I was crafting, even when I wasn’t actually writing. It is almost a habit I formed and I was given a confidence that I have never had before, in knowing that I can write everyday and I can find time to make this an important aspect of my life like it should be. If anything, I will always be indebted to NaNoWriMo for that confidence, as it is something I want to carry with me in the rest of my career as a writer.
NaNoWriMo: writing a novel in a month. I didn’t write an entire novel, but I did write over 50,000 words in only a few weeks. If I can keep that up, I have a lot of time to write a lot of stories. And I have a lot of stories to write. So here’s to forming new habits and embracing the repetitive war a writer undergoes with each new project. And here’s to conquering NaNoWriMo for the first time, but definitely not the last.