Accountability, failure, and the looming end of NaNoWriMo
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
There’s one day left, and I’m nowhere near the 50,000-word finish line – my first attempt at NaNoWriMo was a bust, at least in terms of finishing a novel in 30 days.
But I started out with a grander vision than just completing that word count; I wanted to try for the sake of trying, and I also wanted to learn more about the craft of writing long-form fiction. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, and I wanted to join a movement and be part of a bigger effort – I wanted to spend some time with my tribe and observe how other writers navigate the twists and turns of daily writing.
On those counts, I feel like I succeeded – tenfold – and next year I will do better, try harder and maybe not hit 50,000 words, but get a little closer letter-by-letter.
One of the most significant lessons I learned during NaNoWriMo was the enormous effort it takes to work on one project consistently. It’s incredibly hard to focus on one narrative and to build – from the foundation on up – a narrative arc, a workable plot, a character (or characters) with motive and motivation: in sum, writing a story is hard!
Writing a good story…well, that seems nearly impossible.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; it just means we have to be clear about our ambitions. We need to be honest about what we hope to accomplish. And while we need to be gentle with our creative natures, we must also give free reign to the drill sergeant that lurks within – we must order ourselves to the page, and we must hold ourselves accountable.
That’s what appealed to me about NaNoWriMo: accountability.
Today I feel like lowly assembly line worker, called up by the big bosses to explain why I’m falling behind on my widgets quota. I know they won’t like my answers – daydreaming, distraction and doldrums got in my way. While I fantasized about the boxes and boxes of perfectly aligned widgets I’d present to my higher-ups at the end of the month, I failed to actually work on that assembly line – I neglected to show up and do the work consistently.
I failed in implementation, but not intent and – thankfully – that kind of failure means I get to live on to write another day, whereas, at a real widget factory, I’d be given my last paycheck and shown the door.
The above metaphor misses one crucial element of writing – it should be fun. Sure, it’s work. Sure, it can be grueling and frustrating. Sure, some of us (the lucky ones) even get to do it for a paycheck.
But writing’s not just about getting paid or getting words on a page; it’s about an inner journey and a creative outlet and a way to tell the stories we feel compelled to tell. We write because we want to and because we have to and because, above all else, we didn’t so much choose to be writers and we were anointed at birth into the writer’s tribe. It’s not so much a choice as a benediction.
So to my NaNoWriMo brethren – good luck over this last 24-hours. If you’re close, then know I’m cheering from the sidelines. If you’re like me, and you’ve collapsed in a heap yards and yards away from the end post, then take heart – you’re not alone. You tried, and that already puts you way ahead of everyone who sat this one out.
Next year we’ll all saddle up again. We’ll be better prepared. We’ll get a little further. And we’ll manage to learn even more along the way.
Cover photo by ashley.adcox via Flickr
All original content is the sole property of Elizabeth Cutright and The Daily Creative Writer. If you are reading this blog on another website, it has been reposted without the author’s permission in violation of the DMCA. © 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
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- Participating in NaNoWriMo? (ctwesting.com)
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- NaNoWriMo Scares My Socks Off (daphneshadows.wordpress.com)