Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

End of NaNoWriMo

on November 30, 2012

Today is the end of NaNoWriMo, and I have not had the outcome that I had anticipated when I began the challenge. I began with high hopes that I would complete a novel by the end of the month, because it is something that I have repeatedly succeeded at before. Instead I ended up deleting the novel at 19,000 words and leaving it at that.

I feel more successful than I ever have during NaNoWriMo.

Before I began the Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing) after high school, I was ruthless with what I wrote. Wrong sentence? Delete. Flat character? Delete. Boring idea? Delete. Stupid plot twist? You guessed it: delete. If I did not enjoy what I was working on, the outcome was swift and remorseless. And I loved it.

At university I was exposed to many new ideas about writing that I had never encountered before. There was the idea that writing is not something for pleasure, but instead it is hard work that is mentally taxing. My prose should never be deleted, but instead carefully put aside in a file in case I changed my mind later. People who don’t write every day to a set schedule are pretenders who will never make it in the industry. Writing poorly is better than not writing at all, because you can just fix it later.

After a few years of this, the thrill of writing was gone. I no longer trusted my own judgement. As my marks improved at university, the friends and family around me told me that the quality of my work was declining at an equally steady rate. I was caught between an expert opinion that carried the authority of industry experience, and the opinion of amateurs that I secretly suspected was correct.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand writers block, repeat the above actions and you’ll be there in no time. When anything that you write will be wrong, it is impossible to find the confidence to push through and continue.

This month, while writing another novel that was going in a direction that didn’t make me happy, I finally paused and considered the ideas that I had been taught. Writing has to be hard? Rubbish. Every word is precious and needs to be preserved at all costs? Rubbish. Doing exactly what I want to do is bravery bordering on insanity? Rubbish. These concepts are all the petty miseries of other people, and there is no need to buy into them.

When I decided to break out of NaNoWriMo this month and trash my work, I felt liberated. I was no longer bound by the rules of other people to work in a certain way at a certain time. All the pressure lifted, and I switched from seeing my novel as stupid to seeing it as a story that had taken an early wrong turn and needed to be gently steered back on course. This was reclaiming my writing, my ideas, and even my beliefs. I can’t imagine a bigger success at this point in time.


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