Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Learned About Life From NaNoWriMo

I'm back!

Yep, I've been gone for over a month. I'm sure you're all wondering why. Well, I was participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I had to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Although I did write the 50,000 words, I didn't actually finish the novel, so don't start asking when you'll find it in paperback at your local bookstore.

As I worked on my novel, I actually discovered a lot about myself and even a few things about life. And as this the place where I muse, here are my musings about life from NaNoWriMo.

1. When you start to get bored, throw in a love scene. One night I was struggling to get my 1667 words to keep me on track. I was bored. I wasn't enjoying what I was writing. I didn't feel like anything interesting was happening. I was about ready to tear it up (or backspace it all). Instead, however, I decided to throw in a kissing scene. Now, it was a very tasteful kissing scene, don't worry. But it boosted my word count and pushed me over my 1667 words for the evening.

What does this have to do with real life, you ask? You may not have a significant other in your life, or your significant other might be in a land far, far away, so a kissing scene may not be in store for you. But I'm sure you love to do something, right? That's the kind of love scene I'm talking about. Spend some time doing something you really love. If that's crafting, do that. If it's writing, do that. If it's cleaning, um, do that then. Just spend some quality time with that activity. I think it'll boost endorphins almost as much as kissing does.

2. The rule of 400, 900, 1667. I discovered this strange little rule early on in the writing of my 50,000 words. The first 400 words would be fairly easy to write. The next 500 were pure torture! I couldn't think of anything to write. Every time I'd check my word count, it would only be about 20 more than the time I checked it before. Then, somehow, after I'd hit about 900, the next 700+ words were easy sailing.

Here's how I believe this can be applied to real life: It'll get harder before it gets easier. Isn't that something that some aged wisewoman would say? Seriously, I can see it embroidered on a pillow. But it is so true. But maybe, more precisely, I should say, "It'll start out easy and then it'll get harder and then it'll get easier." Sometimes we set out to do something, and it isn't so bad. We think, "Hey, I can totally handle this!" And then we get trucking along, complacent in our ability to accomplish the task and, dagnabit!, it gets hard! We want to give up, because there is just no end in sight to our troubles. And then, miraculously, after a while, things get easier again. Perhaps that is the Circle of Life. Or, as I call it, the rule of 400, 900, 1667.

3. Sometimes you can find jewels in big, huge piles of garbage. Some nights I'd be writing just to get my 1667 words done. I knew what I was writing wasn't very good. I wasn't sure where my plot was going or what motiviated my characters to act. And I'd end up with too many words that were probably (almost certainly) going to be completely cut from my novel. It was word garbage. Big, huge piles of it. But, again, almost certainly, I would discover something new about my characters or I'd write a line of dialogue that I loved or the next part of my plot would suddenly pop into my head. They were teeny, tiny jewels, or sometimes not so teeny, tiny, but they were totally worth going through all of the garbage I had written before.

We all have big, huge piles of garbage in our lives. Some people have literal piles of garbage, while others have more metaphorical piles of garbage. But I really do believe that we can find moments in those pile of garbage times that are jewels. For me, my big pile of garbage time has been from July 2008 right through today and on 'til April. In this time, TSH has been home for about, oh, 4 months total. In that time, the oldest son started preschool, the baby started doing everything, the oldest graduated from preschool, the oldest started kindergarten, and the middle child started preschool. I've worked full-time. I quit my reading endorsement when I just had one class left to take. The air conditioning in my faithful steed went kaput. It has been quite...exhausting. But we've had so much good in our lives. The baby is the sweetest little boy and he's so much easier than the other two were as babies. We were able to buy a house with the help of my brother, so we didn't have to live in an apartment anymore. TSH's bonus finally came through and I bought my beautiful new (to me) Ford Fusion. So many tiny jewels that have let me know how blessed I am. Oh, and, hello! I finished 50,000 words of my novel in 30 days!

So, I said I learned a few things, and I think I learned more than these 3, but I'm going to stick with just these for now. Even if you never write a novel, I hope you find some wisdom in these. And if you do decide to write a novel, you have to do NaNoWriMo. It's the best legal high you can get!


Bonnie said...

Well said! I wish I could put my thoughts on paper like you do. Maybe that's why you are the English major and I'm not. Anyway, I could be in charge of getting that quote on a pillowcase for you!

HeidiPie said...

Congratulations! Those are some great analogies. They are so true.

Annj said...

Wow! you are good at writing. I really hope things work out so you can do it full time.

amanda said...

Challenges, pressure, deadlines, those lovely things that push us to do what we would otherwise stretch out to our convenience. Thanks for sharing what you've learned. Excellent reminders.

Nicole said...

Hello? this thing on? It's been so long since I stopped by I feared my "leave a comment" box might be broken. But here I am! Hooray!!!!

I'm not sure I'm ready for a novel yet-but I am ready for a few writing deadlines. But I may need to borrow some poetry books. :)