And, just like that, here we are, Week 4 of NaNoWriMo 2016.
I said before that I wasn’t sure why November got picked for all the challenges. It already feels like a challenging month. It’s fall, which, despite the very artistic climate, is still a somber time. It’s getting towards Christmas, so you can feel the excitement, and anxiety, starting to build. And, of course, there’s that, (for Americans at least), very large, busy, often stressful, holiday right at the end of it.
That seems the most frustrating thing of all. Right when you should be heading into the home stretch, you can’t relax just yet. The last challenge is still ahead of you.
That’s what it’s felt like for too long in my life. Like the moment I get one question answered, I’m reminded of all the others still up in the air. I can’t exult over even the smallest accomplishment because I remember the work still undone. All my progress feels like nothing because I haven’t made progress in “that” area.
Of course, the reason Nano is in November is the same reason why I have a hard time letting myself relax. The challenge isn’t about doing it when it’s convenient, when your schedule is clear and there are no distractions or other things to worry about. It’s about doing it when there’s every other thing to worry about, when you have to scrape for minutes to make your word count, and a thousand voices are telling you it isn’t worth it.
Nano is about writing a novel when it’s hard. Because if you can figure out how to do that…
In the same way, I know life is never going to offer me what my brain wants: a completely free moment, where all my questions are answered and there’s nothing asking anything of me. That’s never going to happen. There will always be unanswered questions. There will always be something else to do. There will always be a voice telling me that I can’t rest, that I haven’t earned it yet.
But I have to move past that voice. Past that thought process entirely, the one that says I have to “earn” things. Because that will never happen. I will never be good enough for my anxiety and my self-doubt. You can’t fill a bucket with no bottom, and that’s what those thoughts are.
So, you learn to write when the world tells you there’s no value in it. And you learn to lest yourself rest, let yourself celebrate, even when the world tells you there’s no point in it. Because there is value, and there is a point.
But there’s more to it than even that.
So often we treat things like self-care and, to an extent, things like creativity as interruptions, breaks from the “real” work. We might recognize their importance, but we see them as an intermission. A break, a breather, time to get things together, then right back to work, mister.
But I’m learning they aren’t. We are seeing, from the consequences of ignoring it more than anything, how vital self-care is. Like regular maintenance for your car. A good idea, but still something apart from the purpose of the vehicle.
But it’s not. It’s as much a part of the process as anything else, and I’m seeing it through the writing. Because creativity is not an intermission, it’s a part of the play.
I think most writers go in knowing what they’re stories are about. I don’t just mean the plot, but the themes, what the story is really about. The story I’m writing for Nano this year I’ve had in my head for a while, so I’m familiar with the premise, the big questions I want to answer through the story and the characters. But it wasn’t until I started writing it that I discovered what it was actually about.
I don’t know how often this happens for other writers, but it’s happened pretty consistently for me every Nano so far. I’ll start out with an idea, what I think the novel is about, and, through the process, discover it’s about a lot more than I thought.
That happened this week. I was writing a scene that I didn’t even have an idea for and didn’t even know I needed until that day, and in writing that scene I realized it was a thesis statement for the book.
Like I said, this happens a lot, but it still surprises me. And, just like last week, I was reminded why I need to write this book. Not just for the story itself, but for myself.
This month isn’t just about writing a book, it’s about what I learn while writing a book. And it’s why I know things like creativity and self-care and celebrating are not interruptions but steps in the process. Because they all contribute. They make you feel better, yes, but they also make you better.
Writing is how I process. Not just journaling, but fiction too. Nano is how I am figuring out the world, and, hopefully, putting something good back into it.
So I’m going to keep doing it. Because it’s good for me, not only that I have a creative outlet but that I understand life better. Because that will help me understand people better and that will help me treat them better and that… Oh, that…
That will change the world.
And so I’m going to keep writing. Even and especially when it’s hard. And I’m going to let myself rest and exult, even and especially when it’s hard.
Because if I can figure out how to do that, I can write a novel. If I figure out how to do that, I can do anything.
We are in the home stretch, and whether you’re still going strong or if you’re wondering how you’ll ever reach the end, know that I’m behind you all the way. You’ve made progress, you are making progress, and whether that means a whole novel or not, this has been worth it. Always.
Be good, Nanos.