Month of thanksgiving and also, month of madness: the vaunted month where authors everywhere try to churn out a novel of 50k words or more.
I’ve tried it twice now, and I don’t think it’s for me.
I have at least two friends-in-Boston who might be doing it this year, and at least one friend from my crit group who is interested in doing it — I have to admit, the temptation to start up again is strong. But as my boyfriend says, “Nano is that abusive boyfriend who is no-good-very-bad for you and who you keep going back to anyway”, and I’m somehow oddly uninterested in being known as “that person” who cannot manage to learn from past mistakes.
It’s started me thinking, though.
Sometimes there is just a lack of perspective and far, far too much hubris involved.
Last year, I got terribly discouraged because it seemed like everyone was easily whacking out their word count within an hour and I was struggling with a wordcount in the low hundreds. Everyone, including the writers who are multi-published and do this for a living (which wasn’t too depressing); the college kids who flood the chatroom come NaNo (not that depressing either, considering I could have written ten novels in my college career instead of leveling up a character in World of Warcraft to max level as a hobby); and what was truly last-vestige-of self-esteem-killing — the under 18 teenagers who were tossing out words in the thousands that were good.
So I quit.
Clearly, it wasn’t healthy for me and I wasn’t actually going anywhere because I spent more time being terrified of being behind than actually able to write.
Not that I’m proud of quitting.
The spectre of quitting, of being lesser than haunted me for quite a while.
It was hard, terribly hard to admit that I have a horrible issue with stress. That I was under-performing by my standards to everyone, in all age ranges, in all stages of life.
Not to be overly dramatic, but it made me question just whether or not I was actually capable (or deserving? I don’t know) of being a writer. It made me wonder, if it took me ten hours a day to painstakingly etch out less than two thousand words — was it actually even worth it for my time investment? Put another way — was my world and myself benefiting more from my taking that time out to write, or would I just be doing everyone a favor if I cleaned the house, cooked more healthy meals, and volunteered in that time instead?
I had sort of the same reaction when I started reading all my food bloggers who started getting married, had babies, had cookbooks and memoirs out and had this visceral gut reaction against being left behind.
To a certain extent, I blame our society. Everything in media fills us with horror about growing old, about under-achieving for our age range, about the terror of being overtaken by the young nipping at our heels. Popular culture expects certain things of us, and if we haven’t managed that by the age that it deems proper — nothing can save you from the scorn, the disdain, the vaguely caring, mostly catty implications of being too old to have that sort of pipe dream.
Well, screw that.
I’m twenty seven this year. That’s a respectable number. I won’t care if there are 18, 17, 14 year old publishing books and becoming famous. I won’t care if other authors are juggling a day job, a husband, and three children. I won’t care for the stupid siren catcalls of popular media telling me that I’m just a washed up old nag gone too many times around the block with no new tricks left to learn.
Twenty seven. That means at least thirty, if not forty, fifty, sixty more years to live. Seventy and eighty more years if I’m lucky and if medical advancements and money says yes.
I have plenty of time.
This year, maybe I’ll do it differently.
If I do head back into NaNo madness, I’ll have a safe word.
I’ll remember that it’s a personal journey and the only person I should legitimately be competing with is myself, and perhaps not even then.
My day job right now is grueling in ways both mental, social, and physical. To compare the word count I have when I drag myself home from work after a confrontation-laden day to the word count I get when it’s the depth of summer, there’s no work, and I can just heat up pizza for dinner is complete folly.
I can only seek to live my life in a way that makes me happy and satisfied with myself at the end of the day instead of wondering where the hours went to. And I should gag and quell that stupid little voice that nags, incessantly, about how I haven’t found a way to cure cancer through my writing yet.
This time around, it’s about the journey, not the destination.