Here I am, at the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month, and even though these are illicit words that don’t actually count for anything, I thought I’d take a brief time out to reflect on how the first half of this crazy goal has gone.
First and foremost, let’s take a look at my stats:
Total words: 21, 763
At this point I should be on: 25, 005
That’s a deficit of: 3,242
Keep in mind that I’m yet to write today, so hopefully that deficit will have decreased by tonight (or, alternatively, disappear altogether! Hey, a girl can dream, right??)
I have been writing every day, but I’m yet to meet the 1667 goal dead on. Some days I can barely type a thing (my lowest daily count being 303, oh the shame) and some days my fingers can barely keep up with my brain (my highest daily count being 4,064, woot). It’s been interesting and difficult and rewarding all at the same time, and here are some thing I’ve learnt so far…
Cubbins wants out of his cage like yesterday.
It’s been damn difficult to keep my inner editor – Cubbins, for those of you who are not familiar with him – in a cage, but it is getting easier. I find that if I tell myself that no-one’s going to read it anyway I’m able to get out of my own way, which is really important. I’ve got so many half and quarter novels and shorts sitting on my hard drive because I was scared they’d never be good enough. Most people don’t like to do things halfway: Either it’s great or it’s nothing. That’s how I operate in most aspects of my life, and it’s really stupid mentally to have as a writer (or as a person in general). Checking Cubbins into rehab for a month has let me start to finally believe that it really is okay to give yourself permission to suck. This first draft of L490…Oh, it’s bad. Like I’m-cringing-so-hard-as-I’m-typing-this bad. But it gives me a place to start. It gives me something I can later fix, because the ideas are there. The overall story is there. I know what I want to happen, and right now I’m just doing an appallingly stilted and cringe-worthy job of conveying that to my imaginary readers. But I know I can fix it. In most cases, it’s far easier to fix something than it is to make it from scratch. If I can just get words on the page than I know I can unleash Cubbins on December first to whip them into shape. So right now, no matter how hard he screams and claws at the walls…He’s staying in his cage.
Run like the wind, Bullseye.
I’ve never really given much credit to the effectiveness of ‘writing sprints’ (writing as much as you can in a set time frame) but I have to say, I’ve fallen in love with them over the last two weeks. They are much more manageable than my usual lofty and highly unrealistic goals (“I’m going to write non-stop from 7am to 7pm!!). I find that joining a sprinting group such as @FriNightWrites or @NaNoWordSprints gives me the extra motivation of wanting to report a decent word count. Even just announcing the sprint on my own and then tweeting myself my word count helps to keep me focused. If you’re struggling to get motivated in anything you are doing, I would suggest looking at it like a sprint. Iron as many clothes as you can in 22 minutes. Walk as far as you can in 31 minutes. Write as many words as you can in 37 minutes. Having that clearly defined start and finish really helps (and I like to have weirdly specific time frames because I’m super weird). Even better if you have a reward for yourself if you reach a certain target. I like to reward myself with pain for reaching my daily target, but maybe that’s just me…
Speaking of pain:
If it’s on a playlist called ‘STAB ME IN THE CHEST REPEATEDLY. IT WOULD HURT LESS’, I should probably stay away.
Oh, distractions. Unfortunately I don’t write in a bubble, which means that distractions are everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I can’t even unlock my phone without getting lost in my lock screen for like 10 minutes.
Ten minutes later…
I’ve tried to take some preventative measures to decrease the amount of things that pull my focus away from what I should be doing, but at the end of the day, I’m human and I have the attention span of an over-caffeinated squirrel. Which is odd, because I don’t even drink caffeine. Maybe it’s all that sugar…I mean I HAVE been eating a whole watermelon everyday…Plus like four punnets of blueberries…And mangoes…And bananas…So many bananas…
But I digress.
I’ve tried to minimize my distractions by giving myself the rule that I can’t watch TV, DVDs, YouTube or anything Thirty Seconds To Mars related (like ANYTHING) before 7pm. I don’t actually watch real TV very often, but I am currently binge-watching my way through 7 seasons of Buffy, 5 seasons of Angel and 6 seasons of The Vampire Diaries* and it’s all too tempting to think, oh, I’ll just watch one episode while I eat my weight in watermelon and then realize that I haven’t moved in the last six hours. I’ve actually found that by eliminating that kind of mindless and passive activity, I’m a lot more focused in general. I plan to keep this as a rule even after November – though live events are certainly NOT included in that category because if you try to make me miss a VyRT Violet I will end you.
Rather than TV/DVDs/Drowning in Mars, I listen to music. (So really, I still drown in Mars). However, I have found that even that can be problematic because certain songs – such as the ones found on my STAB ME IN THE CHEST REPEATEDLY. IT WOULD HURT LESS. Playlist** – are actually less helpful and more hurtful because they send me to that Feely place, and as we all know, I can’t function in that Feely place. For that reason, I’ve had to stick to either my carefully curated L490 playlist (which can still be painful sometimes because God is coming, save the children) or studio albums ONLY. No acoustic for me. Acoustic songs render me completely useless.
I’ve also had to let other things slide a little, such as the cleanliness of my house or the amount of physical activity I do. This kind of really sucks, but you have to make sacrifices for what you want. Sometimes you have to really focus on one aspect of your life even if the other aspects suffer a little. Focus on your knitting, as someone I know once said. If there was ever a time to have laser focus, it’s when you’re trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less.
Some days you feel so strong, then other days you’re just like…What the f**k am I doing?
Some days I really love the direction I’m headed in. I’ve gotten past that horrible beginning of the book where you have to make people actually care about what happens to these characters (can’t you just care from the get go??), which is always the hardest for me to write and always the part that gets the most Cubbinalized during the editing process. But that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and butterflies. Some days I still sit there staring at the blank page in front of me thinking… But what the hell am I doing?? Why do I think I can do this?? I can’t do this. I can’t. Moments like these are all too familiar, and they can derail even the most dedicated of dreamers.
However, I’ve learnt that if you just power through it, that feeling fades. You start to have confidence in yourself again and continue to make progress. I don’t know if this NaNo novel will ever see the light of day, but I’ve come to realize that’s not the point. At least not right now. The point is just to write it. Just to get this story out of me and onto paper. The point is to set myself a target and reach it. Just this morning my mum was laughing and saying that I’m conceited because I said I always get what I want, but I don’t consider that to be conceited (which may, in fact, prove my conceitedness). I do always (often) get what I want because I believe I can do anything I set my mind to. I believe that my body and my brain are capable of almost everything, if I can just stop my mind from telling me I can’t do it. I believe that sometimes you have to be your own hero, and if you want something in your life or if you want to change something about your life, then you damn well go for it and you don’t stop until you get there. Sure, some days the progress will be slow, some days you’ll take a few steps backwards and some days you’ll slide all the way to beginning, but as long as you never give up, there’s always a chance that the breakthrough is right around the corner. I’ve spoken about this before: We can’t be scared of failure. We can’t be scared of rejection. What we should be afraid of, what should be the thing that keeps us up at night, is the fear of not trying. The fear of giving up before it’s even begun. So many people do that, and I know I do that in so many aspects of my life. I mean hell, this is my first year participating in NaNoWriMo because for the last two years, I gave up before I even started. I let myself talk myself out of it, which is seriously ridiculous when you think about it. What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t hit 50,000 words?? Is the world going to implode? Am I going to get tarred and feathered?? Is the worst thing imaginable going to happen – that is to say, is Jared Leto going to cut his hair if I don’t reach that magic 50,000***?? No. The world will keep spinning. Sure, I’ll probably be a little embarrassed that I made a very public goal for myself and failed to achieve it, but no-one is going to care but me. The risk of trying may feel high, but the risk of not trying is even higher. If I’ve only learnt one thing from this experience so far, it’s the truth in these two statements:
Try and fail, but never fail to try.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when doubt, failure and fear all come knocking at your door.
These are the words that are pushing me forward. These are the words that keep me showing up every day, even when I’m uninspired and I’d really rather do anything except try to create something out of nothing. But I know it will be worth it in the end. Even if I don’t hit that lauded 50k, I’ll have pushed myself harder than ever and survived. Besides, if you want to have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.
Right. Enough illicit words (2124 to be exact). Time to get back to work on the words that count. I’ve made it through the first half, and we all know that the first half is the hardest. Isn’t that what they say, Tomo?
That’s what they say, Jared. That’s what they say.****
* Haha I didn’t think about that until right now. Guess I’m feeling all vampirey. But there are no vampires in L490 :p
** Yes, that’s a real thing. It’s the top tier of my Painful Playlists, which also include titles such as ‘Literally Kill Me’, ‘But Why Did He Think This Was Okay’, ‘Please No’, and ‘ASDFGHJKL’. Sometimes I like to be in pain. I’m sick like that.
*** WHY WOULD I EVEN SAY SUCH FILTH HE BETTER NOT EVER AND I MEAN EVER.
****Literal tears of laughter at the mere memory. Idiots :3
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to Jared and Tomo being dirty birdies on VyRT (hence the picture. And also I just wanted to remind you all of that night.)