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NaNoWriMo – Day… Uh, About That…

I somehow got into my mind that while my husband was in the States fixing up our rental house, I would be here writing like mad. 7 days without our two-hour lunch breaks or our long evenings together = 7 days of 2 x the average writing time, right?

I’ve never been great at math.

The reality was that 7 days without him here to transport the girls to and from school, pick up groceries, straighten up the house, make me laugh, orchestrate the girls’ bedtime routine, make cocktails, or help me unwind = 0 usable hours to work on my book. In the short segment of time he was away, one thing after another went wrong including bronchitis popping in for a visit, and I collapsed in bed far too late every night without ever quite finishing everything that needed to be done. I haven’t worked on the novel since Day 23 when I wondered if I would even make it to 30,000 words. I didn’t.

I’m still weary and battling a throbbing prickle in my airways, and I know this isn’t the best time to evaluate how my first NaNoWriMo attempt went, but I still feel like I should give it some closure. Maybe I should acknowledge how amazing it is that I ended November with 27,435 more words than I started with, or maybe I should admit how disappointed I am in myself that I let the entire last week slip away. I could always wax poetic about that first day of writing when words flowed effortlessly and the whole endeavor felt like being at an all-night party. Alternately, I could express my relief that I can finally prioritize everything else I’ve been missing—catching up with you all, finishing the last chapter of our Highland Fling saga, sorting through this fall’s photos, channeling Mrs. Claus, playing piano, doing crafts with the girls, etc, etc, etc.

On the other hand, I might not need to bother with closure at all. The book and I are going to take a nice break from each other this month, but I fully intend to dive back into it come January. I’m unofficially extending my National Novel Writing Month for as long as it takes me to  complete a full 80,00ish-page manuscript. A book. The idea has always seemed unattainable, but now I have a month—actually, let’s just count the first three weeks, shall we?—of proof that I can unwrap a story word by word and watch the pages accumulate. Even from my sluggish outlook right now, the possibility is thrilling.

No, I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo.
Yes, I’m a little disappointed.
No, I don’t know if I’ll attempt it again in future years.
Yes, the experience was valuable regardless.
No, my book-writing adventure is not yet over.
Yes, I am excited to see how far I can take it.
No, that probably won’t be to the bestseller list.
Yes, that “probably” feels awfully presumptuous.
No, I’m not going to delete it.
Yes, I have a lot of hard work ahead… but now I know I have what it takes to write a book.

Just not in a month.


NaNoWriMo – Day 23

Part of the thrill of writing for me is slipping between words and reality and weaving the two of them into a meaningful tapestry. I could not create without this life that holds my attention firmly in its gaze, and I recognize that things will inevitably come up to keep me from the page. But really. This month has not been playing fair.

So far, November has given to me:
One laptop battery with heart failure,
Two sick daughters,
Three school holidays,
Four vomit-splattered rooms,
Five significant letters to write,
Six apologies by our homeowner’s insurance provider,
Seven days I’m going to be doing the solo parenting gig,
Eight thousand individual loads of laundry draped on radiators, furniture, and spare limbs to dry.
(That last one might be a slight exaggeration.)

After bidding farewell to the hope of 50,000 words and its shiny sense of superhuman accomplishment, I adjusted my personal goal to 40,000. After all, that’s exactly half of the recommended first-novel word count, and I could feel pretty good about writing half a potential bestseller in a month. However, I’m currently in the 27-thousands and wondering if I’m even going to make it to 30 before December accidentally knocks my free time into its glass of eggnog.

We shall see if I have any superpowers in me yet. I would love nothing more than to blast this month back into its lair of iniquity and emerge the victorious author, but if not… well, there’s always the eggnog


NaNoWriMo – Day 16

I’ve heard of writers who immerse themselves in the act of creating and find themselves springing to life. The mindfulness, the focus, and the giddy joy of prioritizing art infuse their lives with a kind of magic, and they luxuriate in it. I’m finding out that I am not one of those writers.

My usual motivation for writing—the sheer love of it—faded within the first few days of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been slogging through it since with varying degrees of satisfaction and frustration. I’m still forging ahead because this book dearly wants to be written; it’s been telling me so for years. I’m using my faint competitive streak to my advantage here, using a word count goal to keep me writing when I would otherwise quit after 300 words a day, and the thrill when (if?) I finish is going to be incredible. However, the process is just … not fun.

I’m not sharing this to be a downer or to complain about this opportunity in which I am voluntarily (and gratefully) participating. Rather, I just wanted to preserve an honest glimpse of my month as a novelist while I’m here in the muck of it. And now that I’ve done so… ::cue cracking whip:: …back to work!


NaNoWriMo – Day 11

I don’t have any good blog entries in me right now, but I wanted to say hi, to share a quick snapshot of my month as a manic writer.

Every day this week, I’ve run face-first into my perceived failure and thought I cannot do this and choked on the frustration of being such a slow writer in a daily race against my expectations.

Every day this week, I’ve done it anyway. I’m not behind (yet). However, the load of other responsibilities stacked unevenly on my head is growing heavier, and the weekend looms like a low doorway just ahead.

My brain feels fragmented, picked over, deflated drop by drop like the foam balancing on my vanilla bean cappuccino.

I love writing, but I can’t explain why—even to myself—when I’m in the thick of it, unable to see the forest for the words.

The process feels a little like this: standing in a room of sunbeams grasping for them one at a time, never sure if I’ve caught the right one or snagged a different one by mistake or simply grabbed a handful of air.

Air and light and particles of gleaming dust and failure and triumph and coffee… and now, sleep.


NaNoWriMo – Day 8

Today, writing a book felt exhilarating, overwhelming, possible, and im. Watching the word count inch upward felt empowering, frustrating, satisfying, and un. Reviewing thirty pages of completed text felt gratifying, depressing, heartening, and dis. And posting about my progress now feels rewarding, presumptuous, so very normal, and so very ab.


NaNoWriMo – Day 6

Good grief, writing a book is hard. I’m still on track, but I’m not going to tell you how many hours I’ve put into these first 10,000 words. Really, it’s embarrassing. I’m less than a week in, and life is already starting to feel frayed at the seams. The dishes are still getting done (thank you, Dan!), but this project has a gravitational pull big enough to leave formerly important areas of everyday life dusty and desolate. I’m not used to one thing taking so much priority. Plus, my brain is getting sore.

However, I’ve learned a few valuable things so far from this process:

  • Just because life feels over doesn’t make it so.
  • Pre-dawn morning is my best writing time. (Curses.)
  • One should never eat olives while researching insects.

You’re welcome for that last one. Now I’m off to take a hard-earned coma…


NaNoWriMo – Day 3

I got up this morning as the tips of the sky were turning to tangerine. It’s not easy for me, this early to rise business, but creativity is a heady incentive, and I always value the extra hours of writing time. Except, that is, when they can’t be used for writing.

Dan had an early work meeting this morning, so it was up to me to get the girls to school, preferably on time and intact. That is usually his job, and I had no idea the magnitude of parental responsibility involved. While showering, I fielded questions and issued instructions (mostly “Close the door!”). While drying my hair, I mediated arguments and tried to follow preschool jokes. While whisking on some mascara, I wiped noses and bums alike. Cher probably takes less time getting herself ready for the day. And once I was finally presentable, it was the girls’ turn.

There were two complete outfits to be chosen. Eight separate limbs to be wrangled into the appropriate holes. Socks to be removed, turned right side out, and replaced. Shoes to be found. Matching shoes to be found. Uniforms to be rebuttoned. Bags to be packed. Medicine to be administered, hair to be fixed, and faces to be washed. Two energetic little bodies to be bundled into coats and scarves and backpacks and corralled along the walk to school. We made it with five minutes to spare.

While I should theoretically have felt great that I accomplished the morning’s goals (on time? check! intact? check!), I mostly felt like life was over. I had gotten up so ridiculously, agonizingly early only to spend those hard-earned hours on the mundane. I felt like I had missed my shot at productivity for the day. I was frustrated at the girls for needing so much from me, and I was frustrated at myself for not being more efficient. Back home, not even my morning cappuccino warmed in a pool of sunshine helped. I budgeted, wrote lesson plans, and made some important phone calls, but I didn’t have the heart to write.

By the time I picked up the girls from school, I had given up on writing for the day and NaNoWriMo in general. My situation was clearly hopeless, so I brushed it out of my mind and took the girls to the playground. I pushed them on the swings, soaked up their school day stories, and kissed their windblown cheeks. We walked home kicking up fallen leaves and shared gingerbread bears before story time. It was so refreshing to see them as my sweet, vibrant little girls again rather than as competitors for my time.

I have a chronic disability when it comes to cutting myself slack, and I’m glad I was finally able to look it in the face. I had accomplished a lot of good things with my day despite the residual brain fog from Monday’s late night. No, I hadn’t penned another book chapter, but I that didn’t mark me as a failure—just as another one of the millions of mothers who don’t try to write novels in one month. NaNoWriMo could wait a day. I began to breathe more easily and smile more freely, and when Sophie lay down for her nap, I discovered I had a few words in me after all.

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