I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year. After all my months of preparation, all my excitement at getting started, all my certainty that this was the novel I was meant to write, I called it quits at the halfway point.
I’m sure I could have finished it, but things just started falling apart for me around ten days in. The story I carefully outlined wasn’t coming alive on paper like it did in my head. The doubts crowded into my brain, shouting at me and gleefully laughing every time I had a bad writing day. The story felt too technical at the beginning and I was missing some key background and research to make it stronger. The girl I so lovingly created felt snobby and rude and not at all the person I wanted her to be.
And it wasn’t just the process of writing that got to me, it was having the time. I know, I know, I know. You make the time. If I can make the time to read 10 books on average each month, I can make the time to sit down and write for an hour every day. Yet it was harder than I anticipated. It’s hard when you’ve spend over 8 hours of your day doing SEO content creation to go home and sit in front of the computer to bang out another thousand words. It’s hard when my nights are so short as it is, and I just wanted a few hours to myself, where I could zone out in front of the TV or with a book. It just wasn’t working for me. I came to terms with the fact that writing on a weekday isn’t possible. Well, okay, it’s possible, but I don’t want to do it. The work for which I get paid for (nicely, may I add), comes first. I have to meet deadlines and I’m still in the stages of proving I can handle this job and all the writing it entails. That will always come first. My fiction novel follows a little farther down the totem poll.
I think there’s also this weirdness about putting so much work and effort and time into a project that may never earn me money. I may write novels, but never be a successful novelist. (Successful, in my eyes, is being able to be a full-time novelist and not have to work dozens of side jobs to pay rent.) It’s the way of writers, though. It’s the way of anyone going forth with creative pursuits. Artists and photographers and designers. We all put so much work into our craft, because we have to. It’s essential to us. A world where I’m not crafting a fiction novel, either in my head or on paper, is a world I don’t want to experience. I love these stories I have buzzing around in my brain. I love thinking of characters and imagining plots and seeing some little thing when I’m out and about, and finding a way to put that in my novel. I love the entire process of writing, but loving something doesn’t mean your dreams will come true. Heck, even working hard at something you love doesn’t mean your dreams will come true.
NaNoWriMo 2013 wasn’t in the cards for me this year. I think I found it easier last year because I wasn’t focused on making a great novel. I just wanted to write. I wanted to just get 50,000 words on paper, no matter how awful or goofy they sounded. This year, I was more concerned with writing something I could be proud of. I wanted this novel to be one that changed the game for me. It wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t my time.
I want my writing time to mean something. I can write 1,500 words in one hour and every single word can be utter and complete shit. Or I can spend an hour and write 500 words that mean something. That propel the story further. That open my character up to the reader. That showcase the problem in an authentic way. I will always be a fan of NaNoWriMo, but perhaps it’s just not my path to take. Perhaps writing a novel in one month isn’t where I should be focusing my energy.
This weekend, I took two hours to sit down at my computer and start plotting out a new novel. The one that I truly wanted to write. The one that has been on my heart for years, but I’ve been too scared to really let myself sit down with it because I didn’t know if I could write it in the way I want to write it. It was two hours of just settling in, listening to my voice, and slowly making progress. If all I can dedicate my time to is two hours a week to writing, then that’s all I have time for. I want to write my novel, but I also know there is no timeline on when I need to finish it. I can take my time, research it fully, and get to know myself as a writer better. I know the saying is “Done is better than perfect” but sometimes, done slowly is better than done frantically.
I let fears cloud my vision too often, and I question myself constantly if I can really do this. Can I really write a satisfying full novel that makes people excited? I’m not sure. But I know I have to at least try.