Forgive me if this feels rushed. It’s one of those spent-a-four-day-weekend-taking-it-easy-then-realized-on-Sunday-night-that-I-haven’t-blogged situations.
NaNo, of course, is going well. Almost surprisingly so. After hitting 50k over a week ago, I’m still going. Which is good because this story has been dropping major hints that it is not going to be done just yet. I’m actually starting to wonder if a 100,000 word first draft is in my future. I’ll keep you posted.
Nano always manages to surprise me. I’ve done it for 7 years, and still I’m never quite prepared for it. But, oh, is it always worth the ride. I’m learning that I’m never done learning with this process. It’s something that you master, bit-by-bit, but you never fully master it.
The first lesson, though, that Nano taught me was how to fail.
This is my 7th year doing NaNoWriMo and my 6th completing the challenge. I failed my first year. I started with good intentions, but I fell behind pretty soon, missed my quotas, skipped days. Until eventually I realized the amount of writing I’d have to do to catch and by the end of my second week I gave up.
And that felt like failure at the time, but I’ve come to realize it was just delayed success. I really mean that. Because I learned a whole lot, and I know that the lessons I learned in my first year are the reason I was able to come back and win the next. And then next and the next and so on.
I learned all the ways I can make excuses. All the different strategies I can employ to convince myself that “later” is my best option. All the math I will do to try and figure out how much I can write tomorrow to make up for not writing today.
And, in turn, I learned how to not let myself give into any of them, to not take a single excuse, and, to instead, sit down and write the words.
I learned that minimum effort won’t do it. Not for me. I have to show up those first couple of weeks and drop more words, get ahead of the curve so that when the end of the month rolls around and I’m flagging I don’t have to feel guilty because I’m already ahead of the game.
In short, I learned how to show up. I learned what that means. What I have to do in order to do that. I learned that showing up is all that matters.
And I learned that failure is never really failure if you learn from it.
The thing I never tell people about Nano is that I almost wish they would fail their first year. Because it makes it so much easier to succeed your second. You will learn far more from your failure than your success that first time out.
So, to everyone out there who tried and couldn’t this year, whether it’s Nano or something else, it’s okay. It’s okay if you petered out. It’s okay if you made excuses and put things off. You’re okay. Learn from it. Learn how easy it is to take the easy way out and learn how to close the door. Learn what your excuses sound like so you can recognize them next time.
Most importantly, come back. Show up next time, next month, next year, and try again.
So go ahead and fail. Fail your first time. Learn. Fail once more. Fail better.
Then show up and try again.