Sunday, December 1, 2013

Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Swimming....

I had a plan. I had a goal.

But things just didn’t work out the way I had intended.

For those non-writers out there, November is NaNoWriMo, aka ‘National Novel Writing Month.’ Writers buckle down and commit to writing a 50,000 word (or more) novel from start to finish within the month. In the end they have the notoriety of saying they are a ‘NaNoWriMo’ winner, and have a completed novel in their hands. The NaNoWriMo’s website has sections where you sign-up and log-in your daily word counts, along with online forums offering support, and links to other writers in the area who have signed up for the infamous writing month. On November 1st at 12:00am it’s READY, SET, WRITE, and you don’t stop until November 30 at 11:59pm. Word counts are logged and ‘winners’ are proclaimed. Public accountability is a great motivator, never mind having your own conscience pushing you on.

Yes, a novel can be written any time of the year but committing that month, along with others, to getting something done that most people only dream of doing has worked for many. Just look at the acknowledgements section of many books; they started out as NaNoWriMo books.

I had heard about this before, and the concept of being able to commit to something I am passionate about, writing, for a whole month, without distraction, was a bit of a challenge for me. I’m a mom, a wife, a full-time employee outside the home…I’m a busy momma. I always had the dream of ‘one day’ I would do it.

I had decided this year I was gonna do it – come hell or high water. I could juggle kids (who ARE getting older), home life, work life, and everything else that could come my way. I had broken down how many words I would have to write each day – whether writing five or seven days a week – to reach my 50,000 word novel goal. I plotted, planned and organized. I planned to take a day or two off from work, just for me and my writing. And I knew I would have to let things slide. Sacrifice, having a no-pain-no-gain attitude, and staying focused were all going to have to come into play. Writing takes time, commitment, drive, dedication and sacrifice – and I love it.

But I decided to start early, and made my goal to have my book – a humorous women’s fiction - I started in October finished by November. It wouldn’t be a true NaNoWriMo ‘entry,’ but it gave me a goal – a deadline. I was going to have my own ‘NaNoWriMo,’ but it would be over two months, instead.
But it didn’t happen.

What did happen was ‘life.’ Life happened; reality struck. To say the timing wasn’t right in relation to the stage of my life I am at right now is not an excuse. It’s reality. It’s the way it is, and was.

Some days I could write, some days I couldn’t. Family, health and a whole whack of other things had put a wrench in my plans – my schedule – and I was miserable. Self-doubt crept in, and I beat myself up about it – big time. Some might say I CHOSE to let that happen – that I CHOSE to let external forces get in the way of my one month of writing. Say what you will, but it was my reality.

I have a writing buddy – a mentor, if you will. She was, and still is, encouraging and supportive. She knew about my great plan, and whole-heartedly encouraged me. And the fact that I had told someone meant I was further committed. I couldn’t let her, or me, down.

And when the middle of November came and went, and only a quarter of my book was done, I was miserable. I tried and tried, but the calendar was counting down the days faster than I could write. I wouldn’t meet my November 30th goal. I admitted defeat and confessed all in an email to my writing pal. Despite how hard I tried, my own NaNoWriMo wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t giving up, but my dream of having it done by the end of the month was disappearing faster than the days flying by.

But I hated admitting defeat. I hated writing that letter to my pal. I wasn’t done. I wasn’t going to let anything get the best of me. So what if a month had passed? Big deal. So what if I wouldn’t get my book written in that tight timeframe. Books get written all the time, YEAR ROUND. So what if things didn’t go my way, when and how I wanted?

But I was wasting time beating myself up over my failed attempt, and I was mad - mostly at myself.

And when I get mad, I get busy.

So I started writing – like REALLY writing.

I had set daily writing goals when I was planning my NaNoWriMo, but this time was different. I had a fire under me, and I was being more realistic. When I had previously planned my writing goals, I think – no, I know - I was a bit overly ambitious. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I hadn’t expected the life-challenges I would have during that time.

This time I had doable goals. I put my writing buddy, the calendar looming over me, and everything else out of my mind. I wrote and wrote. One day I met my goal, and then the next. And the next goal I surpassed. And the next. And the next. Some days my writing sucked, and other days it flowed. But I kept going.

Then, to take it further, I advertised my goals on Facebook. All is said was: ‘Today’s writing goal – 1,500 words’ - that’s it. I’m sure that non-writing folks were wondering ‘What the heck?’ I had to put it ‘out there’ to make me even more accountable for my plan. But the comments and ‘likes’ I soon received not only from my writing pal but from others – writers and non-writers – was much needed. I was doing this for me, but I had to save face by honestly fulfilling my goals.

After this post is done, I will continue with my days’ goal of 1,000 words. And if I don’t make that word count – that’s OKAY. I will keep going.

But I learned a lot from my own so-called NaNoWriMo. Firstly, not to be so hard on myself.

Sure I didn’t finish my book on time, but I don’t consider myself a failure or a ‘loser.’ I consider myself….human. ‘Life’ happens to us humans. We can’t control what happens. But what we can control is what we do after all that stuff called ‘life’ happens. Like Dory from the Pixar movie, ‘Finding Nemo,’ says: ’Just keep swimming…just keep swimming.’

Just keep writing…just keep writing.

Thanks for reading! Lisa


  1. Yes, yes, yes. Keep writing. All of us face unique challenges, health, family, money etc. Each writer has their own personal mountain to climb.
    But the main thing Lisa is you did not give up. No, you did not. You revamped, and revitalized your goals and kept plugging away at your novel.
    I'm so pleased and proud that you dusted yourself off and kept looking forward. If you give up, you will always wonder -what if? However, you didn't stop. You figured out how to keep going and discovered what would work for you and your life.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Jodie - as much as we love to share our accomplishments, I think it's important to share our challenges and 'hiccups' along the way. Thank you so much for your kind, supportive words....and wise ones at that - needed that. Love to you, Lisa

  2. You are doing a great job Lisa.
    Sometimes I can write quickly, but more often it takes a lot of re-writing before I get the words to convey the things I really want the reader to understand.
    Hang in there. Determination and persistence go a long way towards getting a finished product. -al

    1. Thank you, Al! You are so right. It's getting there, one word/step at a time!

  3. NaNoWriMo is a good place to find other writers, support and inspiration and light a fire under you. But like you say, it's a good place to acquire a healthy amount of guilt too. Life happens, we can all attest to that. What has me intrigued is this book of yours - one day I want to be holding it in my hands, reading it. Keep writing!

    1. Thank you, Ryshia! Guilt is a tough one, indeed. But you are right, life happens, and we must get on with it! As for the book? Well, we'll see if my women's contemporary finds a home one day! Take care, and thanks for reading! Lisa