This is part two of my thoughts on NaNoWriMo. For part one, click here.
The mighty chart of many words on multiple days during mostly mornings.
A) Writing daily for NaNoWriMo has helped build the habit of daily writing.
This seems simplistic and on the surface it is, if you do a habit daily then you will build that habit. The problem I’ve had in the past is that it’s easy to skip a day after five in a row and then do three only to miss another. Those missed days add up in the process of habit formation. Within NaNoWriMo these missed days have a quantifiable weight to them. I haven’t had a zero day but I did only manage 329 words on another, the lowest blue bar. My habit is to write each day, and doing that I’ve succeed. If my habit was 1600 words each day, then the days I miss that habit are even more pronounced.
B) Writing daily within NaNoWriMo has helped me write more.
Through the first 14 days of November I’ve blogged about 5,000 words. That’s pretty good. There have been other months, maybe back in May, where I resolved to post something each day and I was able to do that. Those posts were filled with pictures and book quotes whereas this month has more and better thoughts. I’m writing more because my thoughts are centering more on writing. It’s a self-feeding cycle, the more I think about writing, the more I write. The more I write, the more I think about writing.
This cycle is not uncommon and most recognizable to me when I’m actively exercising. This summer I ran my first half-marathon and also did a 10 mile Disney Race. In preparation for both of these events I was focused on running a certain number of miles, but this mindset of exercise bled into other areas of my life too. During this summer I was also eating better, riding my bike more, and taking care of my body. The more I thought about being physically fit, the more I acted on being physically fit.
C) Focus takes 15 minutes.
I’ve tried to optimize my day to write either in the morning or at night when our two daughters go to bed because those are the quietest times in our house. The other night however my wife turned on Our Idiot Brother, a Paul Rudd love-fest that I’m drawn to like a dumb dog. I tried to write during the movie but couldn’t mentally pull away from it. Finally I realized that my writing wasn’t going to happen in the living room and I shut down my laptop for the night (this was the 329 word day).
For me to focus then and do good work it takes me at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. I can then sit down and think about what’s happening. During the morning or evenings it means I close all my browser tabs, turn my phone over, and commit to writing words for a certain number of minutes.
It’s not just writing that is like this. I have a hard time doing anything with kids around because my powers of focus are so weak. I’m like the basketball player who can make ten shots in a row in the empty gym but not in front of a crowd. This is something I can work on to improve and something I can plan for when I do want to get something done.
D) Everything in my life should be proofed.
There are bad parts of this novel and there are really bad parts. There are parts that don’t fit chronologically and there are spelling and grammar errors that rival the efforts of my five-year-old daughter. For this project I don’t care. This is a private story and if it ever becomes more than that then it will get examined.
The bigger rule, about editing, deserves the attention. What in my life should I be proofing over? I can’t change something that happened in my day but I can change things so that doesn’t happen tomorrow. Do apologies count as proofing our life? My writing can be so filled with errors and need attention that it seems like my life must be the same. This question and possible answer needs more reflection.
E) Novel writing has revealed the power of little steps.
When writing my story I think a lot about other stories and one that I return to is The Hobbit. Hobbits are little creatures who aren’t the fastest, wisests, or best fighters in their fictional world, but through their little steps they accomplish great things. Even my 329 word day served as a little step toward the mountain at the end.
This is again like exercise but also like relationships. If I make little steps each day to be a better father or husband then I’m going to be a great one someday. If however I don’t take any steps, or take steps backwards, that’s like not writing or deleting words entirely. This is my favorite lesson so far, that daily little steps count.
F) Novel writing has led me to examine the things that take time.
“So why are you doing this?” asked my wife.
“To write a novel.”
“To say I did.”
My wife and I had this exchange. To say I did is a poor justification for the time I’m devoting to writing a novel. This post proves that there’s more to it than saying I did it, but it brings attention to the question, “Why?”
If I’m waking up early to do something, why am I doing it, what is the goal? Is it to be a writer? That’s scary to say. To say that I want to be a writer means that this blog and this novel are the efforts of someone who wants to write and will be judged and evaluated and determined to be a poor example of the craft. This is the point I’m least comfortable with because it might be the most powerful.
G) Novel writing has led me to discover online communities of brilliant people.
One of my favorite parts of the internet is that if you know where to look, there are wonderful people doing really cool things. NaNoWriMo is no exception.
F) Participating in NaNoWriMo has showed me how easy it is to get behind (or ahead).
The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write about 1667 words each day. If a participant does this then they will have a novel at the end of the month. For the fourteen days this month I’ve written from 329 up to 2,494 words. My average has been 1,487 which means I’m behind the pace. To start the month I wasn’t worried about getting behind, figuring on writing an extra few hundred words here or there to catch up, which I’ll do, but hasn’t been as easy as I first thought.
Where to go from here?
I’m almost halfway through the month with a total word count of 20,816. My novel feels about 60% complete which makes me nervous. I shouldn’t be past the halfway point of my story arc without being past the halfway point of my story.
I’m not sure what will happen next, my protagonist is facing both physical and spiritual challenges but while she’s mostly conquered the former, she’s not yet figured out the later. Oh yeah, my hero is a girl.
I chose to write about a girl because I have two daughters. I wanted to write this for them, not that they would ever read it, but that this would be how their lives turn out if this situation happened to them.