Yesterday I could’ve stopped writing for this year, if I’d wanted to.
Yesterday, at around 10 PM, I was done with the (first) 50k of my NaNo 2019 novel. I was, also, done with life—the weekend had been long, with a lot of people and even more food, after a taxing couple of weeks in a row—and I wasn’t sure whether I’ll wake up today ready to face another NaNo morning with a smile, or with a flamethrower.
But the force of habit—even if only 17 days long—was too hard. So, this morning, I wrote 600ish words, walked the dog, wrote 700ish words, read a few chapters of my current bookish companions, wrote 600ish words more, and made lunch. I guess it’s not such a bad life, after all. (It was a good walk, and an even better lunch.)
I think a part of the problem is that I’ve repeatedly stated, both here and to my people in person, that I’m going to finish this novel this November. Another part of the problem is that I’ve already done 50k in 17 days twice, now—once might have been an accident, twice could be actual skill—and I’m unwilling to let go of the NaNo challenge as of yet.
Challenge is one of my favourite words to use while describing NaNo to unsuspecting members of the public, friends, family and (even more often) coworkers. It’s an online challenge. An international challenge. A challenge to do something by yourself, for yourself—if you’ve already talked about NaNo to a few people outside of the writing community, you might’ve noticed that that’s the part which is a bit hard to explain. The only prize for commiting a full month to this writing thing will be the eternal laurels you’ll be able to rest your tired hands and mind on. (Weirdly enough, a huge number of NaNo writers are more than fine with it, myself included.)
Challenge is, coincidentally, one of my favourite flavours of internal combustion fuel, too.
That’s why I haven’t stopped writing today, even after hitting the most beautiful number I’ve ever seen, complete with opening the winner badge at the NaNo site, the virtual confetti, the downloadable certificate, the eternal bragging rights, everything.
That’s why, incidentally, I’ve spent the past 18 days not only typing prose, but writing this post series, too—apart from a few weekend posts which I’ve had to prepare in advance and schedule for various reasons.
It would’ve been so easy to give up. To rest my eyes yesterday night, after forcing another 900 words out of my auto-pilot brain. To give up on meeting the Nov 17th deadline last week, with some quality excuse. Skip a day of posting. Nobody would’ve thought twice of it. After all, it’s not easy, is it, to write a novel in thirty days? (Or the better part of one, in just over two weeks.) Everybody would understand.
Except for me.
There are a few ways for this post to end, there always have been, ever since this became the subject I’d decided on for today. (Yup, there’s no plan running in the background here—apart from having a title for the Final Post, everything else gets written following my gut. And my gut is a fickle monster, apparently.)
One is to end the talk about challenges—in a post where we’ve barely scratched the surface of this complex idea—with the notion that, whatever you do this November, you have to be able to look yourself in the eye later; you.
This goes for hurting your eyes, missing quality time with your partner, missing sleep, writting shitty prose, writing illogical dialogue, forgetting your MC’s eye colour, writing too honest scenes, writing overly long descriptions to boost up the wordcount, giving up on the story mid-novel, changing the direction of the plot whenever you feel like it, giving up, and not giving up. You’re the only one who gets to choose what you do this NaNo, because you’re the only one who has to live with it.
The other way to end this choose-your-own-adventure Monday post is by quoting one of my favourite authors of all time, LM Bujold, who gave this little gem to one of my favourite characters (mistranslated from memory): Tests are a gift. Failing a test is unfortunate. But refusing a test is like refusing a gift.
Ditto for challenges.
Sometimes, all you have to do is accept the damn thing, and follow your gut into the great, wide world of writing.
Photo by Ricardo Lago.