Things I’ve Learned From Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo officially ended yesterday and I didn’t meet my goal. My final tally was 15,487 words, a little over half of my initial goal. And that is perfectly fine by me. This project got me writing again, and that was my real goal.

When Camp began, I started out working on a cozy mystery novel that I’d outlined, but four days into writing I realized that I didn’t want to write that story. Instead, I began working on a romance novel that I had last worked on two years prior. I’m a flip flopper when it comes to deciding what genre to write. This is an issue that’s kept me from moving forward. I’m also an overthinker, which is not a good thing. For the longest time I wanted to be a romance writer, but for various reasons I’ve talked myself out of making that leap. Mystery is also a genre that I love, particularly psychological suspense, and a genre that, once again, for various reasons I have talked myself out of making that leap. This past month I’ve learned that my hangups are all tied to one thing.

Fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of wasting my time. Fear of not picking the right project. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of what other people think. Fear that I might reveal too much of myself. And any other fear that crosses a writer’s mind every time they sit down to write.

Once I started working on the romance novel, the words began to flow. It’s just the first draft, so I gave myself permission to write the shittiest first draft ever and that seemed to do the trick this time. I’ve written quite a few rough scenes, some being pages and pages of only dialogue and some scenes that consist of long paragraphs of description. Either way the ideas are out of my head and on the page. At some stage they will be rewritten into a better second draft. And that’s the whole point. To get those ideas out of your system so that you can mold them into a structurally sound, cohesive, and, hopefully, compelling story.

Here are a few things I’ve learned while participating in Camp NaNoWriMo:

1. It’s okay to switch projects if you want to. It’s often said that you should always finish a writing project…no matter what. I get it. The only way to learn how to write is to write. The only way to get better at writing is to write, and that involves finishing your writing projects. But if what you’re writing is holding you back or keeping you from writing altogether, then by all means switch to a different project. You’re not beholden to follow someone else’s rules of writing. Do what works for you.

2. It’s okay to not write every single day. There are days when you just can’t write for whatever reason. You’re tired. Your job needs you to work overtime. You have hemorrhoids. Whatever. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It doesn’t make you a lazy ass. It doesn’t make you want it any less than the next writer. We are humans and sometimes it’s just not humanly possible to write every damn day of the week. If you have a day where something has come up or you’re just too freakin’ tired, go to bed, binge watch an entire season of Bosch, work that overtime at the job that pays your bills…it’s okay. Write the next day, even if it’s for only five minutes.

3. Writing in small bursts adds up to a lot of words on the page. Before Camp, I wrote down all of the tasks I do from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed each night. After a couple of days of tracking my activities, I was able to figure out when I had free time, as well as when I was wasting time doing less important stuff, like vegetating in front of the TV binge watching an entire season of Bosch. I figured out that I have one hour available each work day before I have to make dinner and then I have about two hours before bedtime to write, and I made sure that on most days I took advantage of that time.

4. The final (and most important) thing that I learned is that, yes, writing is hard and sometimes downright boring, but man I love it and I want to get better at it because it’s something I want to pursue. Yes I want to be a published author some day. Yes I want to earn a living as a novelist, even if it’s just a supplemental income. But I know now that whether I get published or not, whether I’m good at it or not, I will always be a writer trying to hone my craft. I don’t think I can imagine life any other way.