Some of you know that at the beginning of November I took on a creative challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month along with other writers all over the world. The NaNoWriMo project takes place every November. It started with a mere 21 participants in 1999, and in 2016, there were 384,126 writers who had signed up. It was a daunting idea, but it had been in my mind to do since the spring of this year, so when October 31 came up, I called my buddy Ty and asked him if he’d do it too. I haven’t actually checked in with him since then, but somehow knowing I had a friend willing to jump into the crazy 30-day marathon-of-the-brain made it seem less…well, crazy. We realized that if we broke it down into 1665 words a day, we could try to hit bite-sized goals. To break it down even smaller, that’s only about three typed pages a day.
But you know what I found? Three pages a day is a LOT of work. There was one day early on that I erased an entire day. I thought I had a fiction novel in me, or maybe a play—these are ideas I’ve been playing with for almost a year. The challenge gave me incentive to start unpacking the steamer trunk of my concept, but I hadn’t thought at all about formatting a plot, it was really only a handful of conversing characters that I’d had in my mind at all. I quickly found out that in order to fill my word quota, I’d have to release a lot more than my story ideas. So I filled those pages every day in character reasearch, imagining settings and scenes, and a lot of journalling. Every single night, I thought, “This is it. I don’t have enough in me. The writing-spatula has cleared the batter of my brain from the bowl of my skull. I’ll probably have to give up tomorrow. If I’m clawing toward the daily goal like this, there is no way to get to the final number. No WAY!”
But the next morning I would start again…and by the evening, I’d usually get to my goal. One day I even lost all my words and had to make them up the next. I knew I couldn’t fall too behind or it would be impossible. I can identify as an obsessive at times, its’ true. Granted it was the worst writing I’d done in my life. I don’t think I’ve even got a rough draft at the end of the challenge. But I still feel accomplished. It was a stretcher, and I needed that just then. I am less convinced I’m a novelist now than I was in October or early November. But I do enjoy creative discipline.
I may still have a book about the subject in me….the groundwork is done, at least. But I doubt it will be complete fiction. Maybe truth with some magical realism? Without telling the whole story, the characters I was researching and writing, at least the ones captured my imagination most, were the famous artists Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Hepworth, Georgia O’Keeffe, Lee Krasner. I was reading about these ladies while I was writing about them. I only painted two paintings this month, since all my spare time was given to writing. But one medium always compliments another, when you break away from your comfort zone. Most artists and storytellers know this. Anyway, I believe I can see a shift in my painting through the process. After spending time with these teachers, I think I can see some of their influence in my work. I did spend a lot of time looking at pictures of their artwork and trying to figure out what made these amazing people tick.
I encourage others to try…if not trying to write a whole novel, think about how can you jump out of your comfort zone for a month. It’s not a long term commitment….but its enough time for some serious growth. If I can do it, you can do it! I will say the best part of December so far is not having to write 1665 words a day anymore…or write at all, if I don’t feel like it! Whatever will I do with all this extra time? 🙂