My 500 Words

My 500 Words

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Remember this post? I made a plan, and life laughed in my face. This is why I’m not a planner. Nothing ever goes according to plan. For much of 2013 I wrestled with the pull to pursue a passion that doesn’t pay the bills and takes me from my kids and husband. I sat down to write and dirty dishes mocked me from the sink, dust bunnies marched at my feet, echos of my children’s laughter rang throughout the house, making me keenly aware of what I was missing. What was I doing? Wasting time, that’s what. Or so I convinced myself over and over. It was paralyzing, suffocating, stifling.

And then I stumbled upon My 500 Words 31-day writing challenge where the objective is to develop a regular writing habit by committing to write 500 words every day.

“This is all writing really is: showing up. Not worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process.”

I know this, of course. We all know that in order to accomplish anything you first need to show up. But when the only person holding you accountable is you, it becomes so much easier to not show up.

I think the challenge technically began on January 1st, but I didn’t let that stop me (nor should you). I decided to begin yesterday, and so I did. I showed up. I wrote 500 words, which is nothing. It’s a blip on the vast canvas set before me. But to think that it’s nothing would be to take two steps back. It is something. There are words where there weren’t before. They’re not perfect words, maybe not even the right words, but they’re there and the story is moving (inching) forward. That’s something. Truthfully, I could have written more. I wanted to write more. I wanted to burrow into the story for the remainder of my day and get lost but I couldn’t, which is why this writing challenge is a perfect fit for me.

So 2014 is about bidding adieu to my inner bully and chipping away at this goal. I can’t set a time-frame for a first draft – not yet anyway. All I can do is show up and write, no matter if it’s 5 minutes or three hours.

You can read more about the 500 Words a Day challenge here.

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Let’s write a novel

Laptop-with-blank-notepad

I’m writing a novel. I’ve been writing a novel for six years now. multiple novels. Some I’ve abandoned. Some I’ve stuck away with the intention of getting back to…when I can find the time.

And therein lies the problem. I’m not going to ever find the time. The time has to be created.

The last time I did NaNoWriMo Mia was two years old. The November after that I was working a miserable job that sucked the energy out of me. the November after that I was pregnant and sick. The November after that I had twin babies. We also took Mia to New York the week before Thanksgiving and we had family visiting the week of Thanksgiving, so I didn’t even attempt it. And I just spaced it last November (I also had one-year-old twins but I can’t play the twin card forever).

Okay, stop. That right there is why I have multiple novels started but not one full-length manuscript to speak of. Excuses. And, sure, some of them are good excuses but no matter which way I look at them, they’re still excuses.

I’m always going to feel pulled in twenty different directions. I’m always going to feel guilty for carving out time for writing. There will always be something more pressing, more demanding, more obligatory. So where does passion fall in line?

That one month that I did NaNoWriMo was probably the most productive I’ve ever been in terms of getting a full-length novel on paper. No matter the mess of a draft I was creating, it was a draft with fully realized characters, a solid plot, emerging subplots and themes…Okay, it probably (definitely) didn’t have all of these, but it was on its way to having all of them. They were all faintly sketched between the words I strung together when I wrote without over-thinking it. I had a daily goal, and I met that goal, and it didn’t matter that my words were clumsy, my plot haphazard, my characters two-dimensional. I had faith in the process of writing, in just getting the idea down; that “the first draft of anything is shit” (Hemingway), but the only way to the end — and THE END — is to get through it. I don’t think I’m alone when I admit that one of my biggest obstacles as a writer is losing faith in myself when that momentum of the beginning slides into doubt and frustration by the middle.

And now, finally, I am ready to get back to attempting a novel on NaNoWriMo’s terms — more ready than I’ve been since the first time I attempted it. Not only am I ready but I need to do this. It’s more than just satisfying some creative urge. It’s an attempt to shake this feeling that I’m not worthy, not capable, not good enough; that not only do I not have the time, but I don’t have the right to readjust priorities to make this happen. Because when I dig deep enough, that’s really been what’s been stopping me. Not new babies, or dishes, or laundry, or trips, or holidays with family. It’s the feeling that I don’t have the right to do this.

But I can make this happen. I can and I will.

writing a novel

It will take discipline, and organization, and determination, and a fierce push to carry on when I let doubt get the best of me. But I’m choosing to prioritize passion.

Annnnnd…then I remembered that I will be on deadline for two projects come November.

Hmm…

I know! I’ll tweak the rules. That’s allowed right? Rules were made to be broken and all that?

So, I’ve decided to stretch NaNoWriMo. My projects start at the end of October and go through December, so after crunching numbers and variables (just kidding. I don’t do math), I’ve decided to start noveling October 1 (I know “noveling” is not an actual word but I hardly think I’m the first to coin it). I’m giving myself until midnight on New Year’s Eve to complete a first draft. That’s three months, which doesn’t sound like much of a challenge when juxtaposed with NaNoWriMo’s ambitious one-month goal, but three months with looming deadlines and three kids sounds like a lofty enough goal to me. I’m proclaiming it publicly to raise the stakes of the game, to declare my commitment to do whatever it takes and hold myself accountable.

I’m also declaring it publicly to ask you to join me. No really, will you? I’d love to have you along on this journey with me. I’ll be posting updates a few times a week on my progress, and you can update us through comments, or links posted in the comments if you’re doing updates on your blog. I’d love to stop by and lurk cheer you on. Together we can share tips and strategies, ask questions, be sounding boards, etc. (I’m still going to play along with NaNoWriMo, mostly so I don’t miss out on those pep talks by well-known authors.)

Already I feel the weight lifting in just declaring my intentions, my goal. This clarity of thought preempts the messy, challenging days ahead, I’m sure. But for now I choose to revel in it. Choosing passion over obligation feels freeing.