Monday, November 7, 2011

Own It

How's November treating you out there? I hope the Wrimos of the world are enjoying a productive NaNo month, and everyone else is appreciating their own sanity!

It only took me three days of NaNo this year to figure out that I'm not in the right headspace to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Sure, I probably could have pushed on and done it anyway, but I think it would have been counterproductive. I wouldn't have enjoyed it. And I doubt it would have encouraged me to write on next month the way it did last year.

So I stepped back and took a look at what I was really hoping to get from NaNo this year. The answer was pretty simple- not a lot of words; just a bit of my mojo back. The desire to write, to finish the story. The enjoyment of getting words on the page without feeling like it's all too hard.

And I can achieve that without needing 50K to do it. Instead, I'm going to make sure I write something, anything- or research, or plot- on three days each week.

In looking at what I really wanted, it got me thinking again about all the roadblocks we throw in our own path, and all the tricks we pull out to try to get around them. This year, for example, I haven't written much at all, and I had it in my head that writing a whole lot of words in one month would be the deal-breaker to fix that situation. I already know that this is a placebo. I already know that the only thing I need to do to keep writing is, well, write. I've been doing this for a long while now, and I know all my own mental tricks.

So why do I keep on falling for them?

I think it's because the better you know your own avoidance tactics, the more you begin to accept them. Sometimes, as long as you're being honest with yourself, that's okay. I'm a bit over six months pregnant and dang it, I'm tired. If I dawdle on the internet for an hour in the evening instead of writing, I'm not going to beat myself up over it.

But other times, I think you have to be realistic about where you are in your journey. It's all to easy to say, I haven't been published yet, so I'm just an amateur at this. Who cares if I write or I don't? Kristen wrote a great post recently about treating your writing as a job- because if you're at all serious about it, that's what it is.

I'd add to that and say that the further down the writing path you travel, the less excuses you have not to be professional in your approach- to combat your avoidance tactics, and get on with the job.

It's all too easy to say you're still learning as you rewrite that chapter for the twentieth time. It's simple to say that you haven't changed that one thing you hate in your writing (too many adverbs, telling-not-showing, bad punctuation) because you'll get to it eventually but you're focussing on other things at the moment.

At some point, though, you need to own your own journey. Take responsibility for your own abilities. Forget this idea that you have to put down your own skill level to be appropriately modest. Don't go around acting like a jackass, of course, but recognise where you are. If you've been writing for a good many years, if you're turning out work that you *know* is quality, if you're sick to death of people (not just your Aunt Flo or that annoying guy at work) repeatedly asking when you're planning to start querying your novel, then maybe it's time you took a really close look at what you still have left to learn.

The answer may be, not as much as you think. The answer may in fact be, nothing that finishing a book and sending it out into the wide world can't fix.

And the only person standing between you and that goal, is you.

Me? I'm going to remind myself of that daily from here onward, and I'm not going to make the same tired excuses to myself anymore. Time to get writing, keep writing, and finish what needs to be finished. It might not take me one month, but I'll get there sooner with words on the page than I will with none.


  1. Claire,
    I hear you. I'm not officially a Wrimo. I did get 23 K last year by riding on all the B&W group's energy. This year, I'm hoping for 20-30K but I won't be put out if that's not what happens. Right now I'll be happy with an much better opener since the Nov X got me so many great opinions that suggest I need a serious rewrite.

    IMHO, you deserve a break for being pregnant! Take care, girl! ; )

  2. (((Hugs))) this morning, Claire!

    I think somebody out there is trying to get the message to me loud and clear this morning. I just read two Awesome articles here this morning on this very subject.

    Sarah Callender's "Turning the Soil"
    Annie Neugebauer's "Be a More Confident Writer...".

    "I think it's because the better you know your own avoidance tactics, the more you begin to accept them."

    I couldn't agree with you more. Sometimes, we are truly our own worst enemy. I'm working on Inner Confidence this morning. Can always count on you to let me know, I am not alone.


  3. Go Claire Go! I, for one, am looking forward to a day when I have bookshelves filled with our books.
    Back to revising my query...