Steps In Between

Celaine Charles ~ My journey as a writer ~ Author site:

A Little NaNoWriMo Self-Discovery (3 Things Learned)

Taking on my first NaNoWriMo adventure was life altering in three critical ways:

  1. It taught me endurance and self-discipline
  2. It taught me to take risks and to trust the writing process
  3. It left me breathless and wanting at the same time…which is something like feeling alive

Let’s start with Number 1: endurance and self-discipline

I am not the most organized person in the world, and those who know me are laughing right now, nodding in full agreement. However, I work a day job. If I planned to write 50K creative words in one month, then I would need to schedule it in. I kept hearing the advice of other professional authors saying things like, “write a thousand words a day…” and thought, if they can do it, I can do it.

I set my alarm for fifteen minutes earlier and I only pushed snooze once! That was the ticket. Then, I did all my other morning routines faster. I set alarms on my phone for every small increment of time, and just moved on until I was ready to go earlier than usual. Then I took the extra 20-35 minutes of extra time saved and sat down to write.

I didn’t think I would be able to write on demand like that. In fact, I had never written in the mornings before my day job. I always believed my creativity would be rushed or stifled. To my wonder, NO SUCH THING!

Did I have better mornings than others sometimes? Yes! Did I look back and realize that some of what I’d written in the wee hours of the morning was dribble? Yes! But did I also surprise myself with creative and powerful ideas that may never have occurred after a long day’s work? Yes! Yes! Yes!

NaNoWriMo taught me that writing under the clock was hard, but it was also doable when I bent my back in its direction and leaned into the stretch. I found fluidity and many times beauty in the work I created in those small pockets of time. In addition, my mind continued to work on ideas while I was away from my desk. And if my words weren’t so beautiful, upon return, they were easily fixable because it was just a draft.

This leads me to Number 2: trusting the writing process

As an author, I know there is a process in this craft.

  • Prewrite/brainstorm/plan
  • Drafting/drafting/drafting again
  • Revising until you feel dead inside, and then one day, alive again
  • Editing to a perfect polish, finding beta-readers, more editing, then sending it to an editor
  • Publishing process (don’t even get me started – long, exhausting haul)

I know all these steps above. As a teacher, I encourage my students to follow them. But still, for some reason when I write, I seem to want to do the first four all at once—the first time through (insert shaking head). I want my work to be magically and perfectly polished in the first draft, even though that’s not possible. And I know that.

Reminders needed and welcomed!  

NaNoWriMo certainly taught me to trust the actual writing process. For this new project, I was only drafting. I had to remind myself (and others in case [God forbid] something happened to me, and they came across my computer documents) that it was only a draft. A first draft! It wouldn’t be perfect. It wouldn’t be polished. It wouldn’t necessarily make sense—yet! That’s the idea.

Writing a draft of a new story as a one-month challenge is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be a race. And it was. And when I reminded myself of the step I was at in the writing process, I freed myself up to just write.

And finally, step Number 3: breathless and wanting

Writing in my office, alone, can be isolating. Writing during NaNoWriMo, in this crazy whirlwind month of November, with millions of other writers from all over the world, felt invigorating! It was this universal sized family of supportive writers who were there, regardless of each writer’s talent, or achievements, or successes, or failures. We were all just one team out there encouraging each other on.

Every word on the page is one word closer to “the end” which is, I believe, the ultimate goal.

Participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge has surely left me breathless, exhausted, and a little loopy (quite seriously), but it has also produced a draft of a story that has possibility!

Now, I want more!

I want to make something out of this incredibly sh#&&y (and that’s okay) first draft. Even if the entire draft gets changed and rewritten, my time and words will never go to waste. I am a stronger writer because I have simply written more. And the more I write, the better I will become (fingers crossed).

Summing Up:

NaNoWriMo wasn’t for the faint of heart. I had no idea what I was getting into before diving in (and I will prep a little more next time—Preptober, I hear it’s called), but though this adventure I learned three amazing things about my author-self:

  1. I have more endurance and self-discipline than I realized!
  2. I need to trust the writing process (and stay in one lane at a time)!
  3. I have come alive in my craft again…breathless and wanting at the same time!

For me, it’s been a pretty invigorating experience! I am so proud of my 50K + words in my draft.

I hope others out there have learned a little bit about themselves, whether they hit 50K or not. Some writers may have had a similar experience to mine, or maybe completely different, or even the exact opposite. That’s okay. We are all unique and creative in our own ways. There is no one way to write.

Action Required:

Tell me something you learned about yourself as a writer (if you participated in NaNoWriMo) in the comments below. And even if you didn’t participate, what do you already know about yourself as the writer you are now or the one you want to become soon.

Happy Writing (because at least you’re writing),

Celaine Charles, November 28, 2021

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Categories: fiction, Thoughts on writing...

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