So, I lost Nanowrimo.
It was inevitable, and I knew it by the first week. My brain was seizing upon everything else that I had to get done and shuffling writing to the bottom of the heap, and I was letting it. No real reason. Or a combination of reasons, none of them amounting to anything other than bad discipline. Something I need to work on!
Okay, I made that sound incredibly flippant, and it’s not. I’m still struggling with the discipline to write every day, to get these two projects done. Part of it is that it’s holiday season in the retail industry, and therefore work is busy and I get home exhausted. Plus I had a holiday to host. But that all came at the end of the month, and there’s really no excuse for not having built up a block of words before then, especially as fast and efficiently as I habitually write. It’s discipline. Or my lack thereof. Something I’m trying to rebuild one day and one paragraph at a time.
Nanowrimo is half the reason I developed discipline in the first place. When you start out as a writer you don’t come with deadlines, you don’t come with requirements, you come with an imagination and, hopefully, a pair of hands and maybe a pencil and paper or a computer, a typewriter, some way to get the words in your head, out of it. You have to go out looking for deadlines. For requirements. You might find them working for a newspaper, usually a school newspaper, or you might find them in writing contests. Or these days, in fan-fiction marathons and contests and give-aways and things like that. I found mine in Nanowrimo. It was great! It would encourage me to write every day and, what, 1,667 words a day? That was nothing. I could write that in an hour. And I did! For years. It came along just at the right time, it provided structure when I needed it, and now it’s there when I need to drag my focus back into the self-work spotlight. Like now!
Some years, working Nanowrimo is as simple as sit butt in chair, write X number of words dealing with scenes A-C, sometimes it’s not so much. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the spinning will wait, the leatherworking isn’t actually that important, my house is not a disaster area that needs scorched earth cleaning tactics, and that DVD isn’t going anywhere. This year I probably could have stood to remember that I didn’t need to bake ten potatoes and a sweet potato pie the size of a CPU for five people’s Thanksgiving dinner. I needed to sit my dumb ass in the chair and write, and I didn’t. Now Nanowrimo’s over, I didn’t win, and while I’m not beating myself up about it nearly as bad as I used to (you don’t want to do that, it’s unproductive and making yourself feel horrible is never a winning strategy) I am trying to use it as an impetus to dig deeper into what’s keeping me from getting this done.
My chief suspect is disappointment. High expectations and the self-esteem yo-yo aided and abetted, but disappointment is to blame for this. I published my first indie anthology, Black Ice, through Lulu earlier this year, and I didn’t do hardly any publicity at all. I was scared. No, wrong tense, I still am scared. I had no idea how to bring it to dead tree form. I had no ideas for how to offer incentive to buy the book, or at least, no ideas that I felt ready to bring to fruition. I panicked, basically, and I froze, and I posted on Twitter and tumblr and we mentioned it in Unspooling Fiction and that was that. Predictably, I sold maybe four copies.
And while that’s fine as far as not putting me in a spotlight I wasn’t emotionally or logistically ready for, it’s not so good for encouraging me with success, or bolstering my ego. Which also may not be what needs to happen. I had a lot of early success, and that screwed me up in the head for a good long while. But what I’m coming to learn with every successive year is that there really isn’t anything that’s good for not screwing oneself up in the head. We are, as a species, amazing for finding counter-productive thought patterns. If it were an Olympic sport among thinking species we’d take the gold every single time. So, here’s my counter-productive thought pattern: my first book release was a dismal failure, ergo I am a dismal failure, ergo I should just quit now and only make half-hearted attempts at writing because why bother do I really need to go on with this? I’m sure you’ve heard this before. I’m only slightly less sure you have the same thing running on constant loop in your own mind. Lots of us do.
So I failed Nanowrimo. And I failed at having a Breakout Novel success. And that’s fine. On my own time, then. But for the person I want to be, the writer I want to be, my own time had better be now. Butt in chair, fingers to keyboard, write X words and scenes A-C today. Nanowrimo taught me that discipline over ten years ago, and today it’s teaching me that I need to keep it up, no matter what my counter-productive thought-weasels are trying to tell me.