The secret for getting ahead is getting started. – Mark Twain
Everyone has a bucket list or a list of things they want to accomplish in life, right? I do. I’ve had one for a long time. It changes as time goes on. If you looked at it ten years ago it would have included items like “go to law school”, “become a landlord”, “get married”, “having kids (eventually)”. The one thing that has remained a constant but unchecked is “write a novel”.
As a kid my mom would sometimes have to take my sister and me with her to work on a Saturday or Sunday because she was on call. It was the early 90’s so computers weren’t everywhere yet but my mom’s office had a word processor in it. While my little sister would run around the floor harassing the staff for candy and things to do, I would park myself in my mom’s office in front of the word processor and type out stories. I remember writing on a story about a kid who could hear trees talking to him (and they weren’t always saying nice things). I had just gotten to the climax of my story when the damn word processor crapped out on me and lost the majority of my work because I didn’t press “print” (the equivalent of today’s “save”) every so often. It was a hard lesson for a young writer to learn. (Always save your work!) I don’t remember how that story about the kid who could hear trees talk ended but I do remember I rewrote it again and printed it out as I went.
My tenacity to write has been there from almost the beginning. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those in the know). I’ve attempted it one other time, six or seven years ago, and failed miserably. I got wrapped up in other things in my life, allowed myself to get distracted when I was supposed to be writing, and generally just did not have a plan of action. Life has always found a way to get way out in front of that drive to write…for every writer. Over the summer I read The Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemmingway’s first marriage. I found it almost unbelievable that he would go out all day long and write, as if he was going to the office, while he his wife was left at home and they were struggling to make ends meet. Then it dawned on me that he made writing a priority and like a slap to the forehead that’s what I needed to be doing, too.
At the beginning of this year, I set out to finish a novel. I toiled with something that amounted to a third of a book for about the first half of the year. In July, I took a “Summer Camp” challenge organized by the NaNoWriMo people and actually finished a very rough draft before the end of the month. I had done it…sort of. It needs a lot of work and I still think there’s more of it to flesh out but instead of diving back in I took the advice that Stephen King offers up in his On Writing and let it sit for weeks, okay months. It was perfect timing really, since we moved and needed to get settled I didn’t have much time to really get into it.
When I saw that NaNoWriMo 2015 was coming up, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to work on this project. I’d have a deadline, which is always a big motivator for me, and while I know I’m not going to be able to make this thing close to perfect in thirty days, I’d at least have a good chunk of work done towards that goal. As November got closer and closer though all those doubts and preemptive excuses started bubbling to the surface. “Ugh! But my birthday, our anniversary, and Thanksgiving are all in that month!” “Am I really going to be able to put something halfway decent together if I’m working for quantity over quality?”
I finally had to say to myself “Do you want this or not?” And the simple answer is “Yes, yes I do want this.” I can’t even fail if I don’t try but I’d rather fail than never make the attempt. So from now until the end of the month, I’m going to take time out of every day to work on my project and not concern myself with the results until the end because I want this.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2015? What are your biggest concerns or hurdles?