“I snuck out of the vine covered walkways and was greeted with 180 degree ocean views below the steep, rocky cliffs of…”
was about where I ended. Mid-sentence, mid-topic, on a roll to a pivotal point in what I hope turns into some sort of coherent story, was exactly where I was when I submitted my 50,666 words to NaNoWriMo.org for verification.
50,000 words on paper? Check. Complete story? Negative.
Before I began I thought nothing of the, what turned out to be, 84 pages of .doc text. When my friends would react with astonishment at the challenge I was voluntarily embarking on, my brain thought, “What’s the big deal? It’s not that much writing.”
Well, it was that much writing—at times. There were some days I opened my laptop on the train and just stared at it with fearful wide eyes like my grandmother does when I sit down with her to show her emails and photos online. At other times I was so engulfed in my story that the train conductor actually had to give a little “ahem” for me to notice I was the last one sitting on the train. But just one more sentence so I don’t forget my thought.
Throughout the process I picked up lots of tips and advice from other NaNoWriMo participants, friends who do and don’t write regularly, and the constant stream of pep talks famous writers send out to keep our motivation going—my favorite of these was one from week one where the author said something along the lines of, ‘you’ve started, you’ve got about 5,000 words on the page, and now you are trying to decide if you should sack it off while you still can and start over.’ I thought, “OMG! Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking.”
They are all, like, super psychic or something.
Yet through all this, the best advice I received was from the Français fille. She stumbled across a quote from Hemingway that she though I would appreciate. After a stubbornly difficult day of train-typing, I opened my email to read: “I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”
It dawned on me, ‘hey, he’s on to something.’ My easiest days of writing were those in which I was welcomed by a half-developed idea because I had been forced to stop writing mid-thought during my last session.
We are so trained in society to finish things: Finish dinner, finish a TV show, finish one project before moving on to another. Stopping mid-task is considered “a lack of discipline.”
I now see it as a little mind game I play with myself.
Stopping mid-way became the key to continuing on: Even when I had five minutes left to write on the train, if I knew I was getting to the end of a scene, I would stop—I will finish later when I have time to dive into a new scene.
Easy as that.
As I finished up on my last day, November 29th, I thought, ‘This wasn’t so hard. What made me think this was hard?’ I had come full circle. But I think that’s what I was meant to do.
The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to challenge oneself; to set a goal for something you have always desired to do, and to just do it. Without the deadline, pep talks and comrades, many of us would never even attempt the feat.
Yet in the end, I think it’s more of a personal journey than the one you put on paper. Many of us will never ever look at that story again, while others—like I intend to—will finish, re-write, re-write again, edit, change names, flourish the details, add in some fictional excitement, edit, proof, and eventually begin the hunt for a publisher.
But no matter what comes of our stories, we can all take note in our end-of-2009 reflection, that we did it. We wrote a 50,000 book/part of a book/random story/a series of incomplete random stories/a journal/or whatever else took the writer’s fancy.
In the end, we are all the shiz-nit!, right Caitlin?
And with that said, I have to go. We’re in the LIRR tunnel and I don’t want to get yelled at by the conductor again.