Yes. We are halfway there. And for many of us doing NaNoWriMo, we are living on a prayer.
It’s the start of week 3 of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo for the veterans) and I’m looking at my word count.
I have an entry in my calendar that I put there in October. October when I had lofty goals of hitting a word count I’d never hit in a month. October when I was younger. October when I was naive.
That number I wrote in my calendar was 37, 500 words. That would be half of my word count goal for the month. Doing the math you can see my goal was 75,000. I was an idiot. And here’s why.
Doing the math now, I have to do roughly 4,000 words a day. I have had, this month, only one day that I passed the 4K mark and that was a day I wrote an hour in the morning and three hours in the evening because, you guessed it, when I’m on a streak I can hit about 1000 words an hour.
My average word count per month is about 23K on a good month. That number is going up based on a kick ass course I’m taking through genreCRAVE, but even so, to shoot for THREE TIMES my best month was a little…ambitious.
I could (and have) quote(ed) some platitudes about shooting for the moon and landing in the stars, blah blah. But that’s not going to help me here.
You see, I had an awesome idea for a story. And here’s where I fucked up.
I had this awesome idea for a story over a month ago. Only it wasn’t really an idea for story. It was an idea for a story element. And as I have learned, 14 days in to my 30 trek to the center of my darkest night, you cannot craft a novel on a story element. You actually need the whole freakin’ story.
The whole story, the think that makes this element integral (and not just a literary construct), came to me Saturday evening whilst driving a back ass country road in north central Ohio. It hit me so hard that I really wanted to pull over and start writing then and there. But as I had people waiting on me, I picked up my digital recorder and excitedly transcribed the ideas to the device instead. The irony here is that it is that very device that is, in fact, the plot device I mentioned earlier.
Weird how the universe throws that back at me all the damn time!
Here’s another irony.
I have been sitting on a story idea for at least two years now about a motivational speaker who doesn’t believe a word he says. He is this great example of positivity, but his own life is shite. It’s loosely based on how I seem to be really good at motivating people and then basically being a couch burrito in my own life. Hey, write what you know, right?
So, when I found myself unmotivated to continue this story I had in mind for NaNo with this kick ass plot device, the universe gently reminded me of this other story I had. And by gently, I mean that as I was going 68MpH on one of those roads where you crest over the hill but the road drops out quicker on the other side and it feels like your car is going to go airborne, and your stomach most certainly does and it’s like a mini-roller coaster. Yeah, that kind of reminder.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am happy as balls that I figured it out. And that I realized I could adapt the old story and make the new story work. At lunch yesterday, I changed up the flow of the original story idea, changed the meet-cute around, came up with a better blurb, and basically phoenixed the shit out of a story that I was about to shelve, resigning myself to trying to bang out sixty 1000 word blog posts for the rest of the month (I still think I could do that and it would be RogueNaNo AF, yo).
So, now I ‘m going to do something that I don’t think enough people do during NaNo.
I’m going to take the pressure off of myself.
I’m going to realized that the 75K goal, while awesome, was not realistic and was adding a layer of pressure and performance anxiety (that was for you, Jamie) that I just don’t need in my life.
NaNo is cool. I love the support. I love the energy of being at write-ins and seeing all of the creative juices flowing. But here’s the thing…hitting a word count doesn’t make me a winner.
Getting a story lined up that I am actually excited to write again makes me a winner.
So, I’m not going to stress out about trying to hit 4000 words a day until the end of November. My work schedule for my day job just got stupid busy, so I know that’s not realistic. And I don’t have the $300 it would take to hang at the diner every night for the rest of the month, so I’m just going to follow the advice that my best friend gives me almost every day.
“Hey, man, you do you.”
The first time she said this too me, I thought it was just some cool little line. Almost like a throwaway verbal response. And then I started thinking about it. Well, lets be honest. I started overthinking about it, because that’s what I do.
I realized that as a new author (not a new writer, but that’s a post for another time), I was looking to her and to a couple of my other friends/mentors who are also published authors and I was trying to walk the path they walked. And while there was some success with that (some of the mechanics will work no matter what your ultimate end-goal is), the truth is I wasn’t actually doing me.
Now, I’m going to be honest, every time she says that to me, I usually reply with “Oh, I do. Every day.” Because, well, sometimes I have the brain of a 12-yr old boy and it often defaults to the dick-fart-boob-everythingisaboutsex setting. And we laugh.
But the truth is, I haven’t been doing me every day. snicker No, I mean aside from that.
In regards to NaNo, there was still a part of me that was throwing that word count out there for others to see and be all oooh, way to go you studly author dude. What bullshit that is. I mean, not the studly part. I’m totally studly. No, what I mean is the part about not being true to myself as a writer.
I have no doubt that I can buckle down and crank out the words. I really know I can. But that’s not necessarily true to who I am at this point in my career. At this point in my career, I’m the guy who takes at least a month or two to crank out a story he’s really proud of.
I’m the guy who wrote a kick-ass sci-fi novel last November that is sitting on the shelf calling out to me and the other Argonauts and waiting for the freaking wax to fall out out my ears so I actually go back to her and finish her (or she finishes me). I’m that guy. At least for now.
Will there be a day when I am the 5K or even 10K a day writer? Oh yeah. You can bet your ass on that. I’ve seen that guy in my dreams. I know he’s there. For now, though, he’s Future Writer Todd.
Writer Todd, the now Writer Todd, isn’t quite there yet.
And that’s OK.
I give myself permission to do me. To be true to the man I am today. To be the writer that I am today. And to do my best to be better than the writer I was yesterday. To be better than the man I was yesterday.
I think that’s probably the true gift of NaNo. And it’s certainly the true gift of this seemingly simple advice from my BFF. The freedom to be me.
And also to do me. Because, you know, 12-yr old boy brain still needs a good laugh.
I don’t know what the word count of this little random meandering is, but you can bet your ass I’m going to add it to my NaNo word count anyway. And hey-if it helped in some small way, cool. If it didn’t, that’s cool too. It just means it probably wasn’t meant for you at this time.
Alright peeps, I’m heading off to get ready for work now. And by work I mean the job that feeds my belly, not the one that feeds my soul. One day those will be one and the same. Unfortunately today is not that day.
Until next we meet, Happy Wording!