For the month of November, I participated in NaNoWriMo, a month-long writing adventure designed to push wanna-be novelists into creating a habit of writing by giving them thirty days and a goal of 50,000 words. And I did it – I wrote 50,057 words and have an ugly shell of a pretty decent story in need of major revision and renovation. I’ve never written anything that length, usually because I get bogged down in trying to make my words sound (right / beautiful / elegant / fill-in-the-blank). The 50,000 word goal was scary at first, but after a week I already had managed to write more than eleven thousand words. And that’s when I began to think that maybe I could actually write a long work. In order to do it, though, I didn’t permit myself to go back and re-read (and therefore edit) what I’d written. I didn’t delete anything. I only took two days off from writing during that whole month and both of those were school days with other evening events tagged on top.
I learned that writing is a lot like running. You just have to do it. There aren’t any tricks that make it easier, except continuing to show up and do it again. And slowly, those miles / words build up, and before you know it, you’ve come a long way. (I have to confess that it’s hard to stop looking at the ‘word count’ at the bottom of the page while I type this.) I also learned that it’s actually pretty cool to immerse yourself in a month-long task. I’ve been wondering what other goals might seem more manageable if compressed into the time frame of thirty days.
But in order to write that much, with a more-than-full-time job and full-time family, I had to give up some things. Some were easily to push aside than others, like waking up at 4:45 a.m. to run so that I could have a longer block of time in the evening. The early morning wakeup call was pretty easy to let go of – too easy in fact.
It was more difficult to give up watching movies and HBO shows with Dan, something we do a few nights a week with the small amount of time sandwiched between the girls’ bedtimes and our own.
And the strangest thing of all for me to give up was reading. I read all the time. I often have several books going at once. I love to read: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, juvenile and young adult, magazines, articles online. But to reach that crazy writing goal, I had to – and I mean had to – let go of reading.
This past weekend was my first non-NaNoWriMo weekend in four weeks. Lucky for me, it was also a very chilly, snowy weekend. One of my daughters also had a cold, which allowed all of us to lay low as well. And so, while I didn’t get a run or a movie in, I did read. A lot. I started and finished reading two books, and then Sunday evening, I started two more.
I was hungry for words. Maybe after all that output, I needed to devour a hundred thousand words or so to replace what I’d written. Sitting near the cozy fireplace, I read and read and read. Sometimes I was alone, other times members of my family of readers joined me. Sometimes Lucie the cat cuddled nearby as well. One of the great things about reading, as opposed to writing, is that, for me at least, reading doesn’t require nearly the time commitment as writing. Ten minutes here, five minutes there. For me to write, though, I need a block of time that is relatively undisturbed – and rare in this busy woman’s life.
Meanwhile, though, I’ll continue to show up for this blog and refocus for the revisions that await my novel-in-progress, in addition to trying to catch up on the other areas of my life that have recently been neglected. And most happily, I’ll immerse myself completely in the beautiful words of Marquez and others. But don’t worry. I’ll come up for air in about thirty days.