Past Results Are Not a Guarantee of Future Success

Dealing with NaNoWriMo (and every other kind of) disappointment

The map I am staring at for inspiration.

This is my seventh year of participating in National Novel Writing Month, also called “NaNoWriMo.” Writers challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, and I’ve done this successfully three times, including last year and the year before.

This year, I was really excited to participate. I got an idea for a novel back in June, and since then, I’ve been jotting down notes and ideas. Throughout October, I started fleshing out my ideas, the characters, the settings and story arc. This is called “plotting,” and I have not ever done such a good job plotting out my novel as I did this year.

When November started, I was feeling really gung-ho about my chances for the year. “You got this, kid!” said both my husband and my inner editor. When November 1 dawned, I said, “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit,” and wrote down the best first sentence I’ve ever written.

Fast forward twelve days. I have 13,000+ words, which might sound awesome but puts me about 4800 words behind where I need to be to finish by November 30. Not insurmountable but it is daunting, particularly because I don’t feel very motivated to keep telling this story. I still like the story in my mind, but it isn’t coming out exactly perfect, and that is depressing my motivation.

Today I realized that my prior success at this endeavor had left me cocky. In my mind, all 50,000 words would flow out in final draft form on the first day, and I would strut around bragging again about my successful month. But no, novels are still written one word after another, 50, 80, 100 thousand words in all. Nothing appears magically, nothing is final draft. It’s all crap, but you have to write the crap before you can even fix the crap.

It’s sobering. Motivation isn’t habit. Habit isn’t perfection, and neither is a good imagination. I have to write the words.

I also have to plan the menus, do the exercises, parent and connect with my friends and loved ones. All things which, disappointingly, require one foot in front of the other, every day of the week. I’m working on using the existence of my novels-past to remind me that the effort, the actual work, is what results in the pay-off, not the wishing it were so.

Okay, back the writing.

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