Okay, so I’m a wildly competitive person. Particularly, I like to compete with myself—to reach goals that I’ve set for myself. Once I’ve achieved one, I quickly look onwards to the next. It’s a mindset which has helped me with many accomplishments I wouldn’t have achieved without it.
It’s also exhausting. And honestly sometimes purely detrimental to my creative process. You see, I used to view writing as purely for fun. I had stories I was hoping to finish one day, sure, but I never felt bad about not making progress. I just enjoyed them when inspiration struck. This wasn’t a way to finish projects, but it was entertaining.
Then along came NaNo — short for National Novel Writing Month, or the yearly online challenge in which thousands of writers around the world each pledge to write a novel in a month. Fifty thousand words of one, in fact—starting at midnight on November 1st and ending thirty days later. Between the years of 2005 to 2007, I participated a few times without reaching the goal; each time I fell short feeling a little bit like I’d failed. That wasn’t enjoyable.
In 2014, something changed. It was the first year I hit the 50k mark, and the first time I ever finished writing a whole, book-length story. Once I realised I could do that, something within my writing mind shifted. The goal-oriented side that already controlled so much else in my life took over.
The pros of this: I actually began to finish projects. Within the next few years, I published my first two books. I felt like I was on a roll.
But things changed. I became busier in the rest of my life, finding that putting so much energy into forwarding my medical career didn’t leave as much time or stamina for writing. At least not in the way that focused on word counts and daily targets. And because that was the way I thought I needed to do things, but couldn’t—I stopped.
Again, I felt like I failed as a writer.
The truth of the matter is I probably need to balance these two. I do want to finish things, but I don’t want to feel like I’m forcing myself to do it. I want writing to be fun. I don’t want to care as much about the quantity of the results, but I do want to go back to enjoying the process.
It’s about time for NaNoWriMo to start again. I wasn’t going to join this year, because I just started a new job. I won’t have the time, I thought—at least, I won’t have enough of it to be able to win.
Then I realised maybe I don’t have to. Maybe I need to learn how to fail, without feeling like it’s a bad thing. Perhaps I need to get back down from my high writing horses and just write. Who cares if it’s fifty thousand words in a month or five hundred. Who even cares if they make sense?
Honestly, all I care about is making writing fun again.
So, here’s to failing. In style.
If you’re also doing NaNo and, you can add me as a NaNoWriMo buddy. If you just want to watch, I’ll be blogging about my journey right here. Enjoy the ride—I know I will!