So, I just finished Nanowrimo around 51, 029 words, according to their word counter. It’s been a wild experience, and I’m actually kind of surprised that I managed to pull it off, despite a lot of (personal) obstacles in my way. Here are some lessons I learned during the writing process.
1. I’m really bad at being consistent
If you look at my stats, there will be stretches of days where I don’t write a single word. It’s not necessarily for lack of trying, however. I’ll sit at the computer staring at the blank Notepad, and I’ll type a paragraph in an hour and just give up. Then, there will be days where I’m writing 6,000 – 10,000 words in a day. I’m on fire and excited and this will last for a while until it dies out again and I go back into writing hibernation.
I’m not sure how to either mitigate this or work around it. I’ve noticed that the days I sit longer at the computer, I’ll actually type something, even if I hate it. But I don’t know if I should embrace this cycle instead and spend days I’m not writing planning what I want to write. It’s a learning process, trying to write (somewhat) full-time that I’m frankly not used to.
2. I love Notepad over Google Docs
Google Docs is awesome for writers – everything is in the cloud, and as long as you have an internet connection (well, a reasonable internet connection anyway; ask Milk11 about trying to use the KCLS computers to work on her story), you can work on your stuff. I know for a fact that during the dead stretches of his job, my friend David works on his writing with Google Docs. And I’ll admit, it’s terribly useful.
But there’s something about Notepad that is just amazingly simple to me. I usually maximize it, so that all I can see is the window bar at the top and blank space below. It covers up my Chrome tabs and other distractions. There’s no blank space or margins. You just start writing and over time, your entire screen is filled with words. It’s incredibly Zen for me.
There are times when I wish I used Google Docs more, especially in times of finding myself without my laptop, but overall, the ability of Notepad to cover up everything else on my computer so that I can concentrate solely on my writing has saved me several times during the Nanowrimo process from reading something online instead.
3. I don’t feel changed at all, and I don’t know if this should disturb me or not
One time, while traveling in Korea, I had a near death experience. Despite the excruciating pain, I was strangely at peace with the idea of just dying. After the experience, I didn’t feel any kind of new lease on life. I acted the same way I did before. I felt kind of cheated, as if a near-death experience would automatically turn me into a more grateful, awesome person.
I came to two available conclusions: (1) I’m already a pretty grateful, awesome person (unlikely), or (2) there is no such thing as easy changes in life.
I feel the same way after Nanowrimo. To me, Nanowrimo was a rite of passage. Half-way through, ten thousand words behind with no end in sight, I was sorely tempted to give up. However, the one burning drive was to say, for once in my life, I did it. I completed Nanowrimo. And so I persevered. And don’t get me wrong; there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment, but I had expected some kind of enlightening experience, as if the Greek muses themselves would come down and visit me as I typed that 50,000th word.
Instead, I feel very much the same. Happy, but also relieved and slightly exhausted. Before Nanowrimo, I would stare at the stack of note cards sitting on my desk where each one has a kernel of an idea to write about, and fantasize about success and fame and fortune and whatever my wild imagination could think of. Maybe with Nanowrimo, I was hoping to find the glorious secret of writing so that I could find success and fame and fortune and validation, that maybe if I finish, I could find that nirvana truth of writing that must only be earned through hard work, sweat, tears, and possibly blood. In the end, that is the secret. Writing is hard work, and it’s continuous, tedious, and a lot like grinding in World of Warcraft.
I suppose the one thing that has changed within me is that when I stare at that stack of note cards, I’m no longer filled with fantastical dreams of my name in proverbial lights. I think to myself, there’s no secret. You just have to sit down and do the research and write. I see long nights of writing while my wife sleeps next to my desk. I see frustrating afternoons staring at Notepad, wondering how to even begin. And, of course, I now have much more realistic expectations of what to get at the end. I no longer write for fame and fortune and validation.
I write because if I don’t write these stories, who will?