So, 321,227 writers participated in NaNoWriMo this past November.
I was one of them.
No sooner did the month end than a note from NaNoWriMo showed up in my Inbox, asking for my feedback. I’m not sure that they want to hear from the likes of me. Everybody loves a winner, right? Plug in your 50,000+ words and claim your winner’s badge!
Well, there are plenty more than 50,000 words in my Scrivener file, but I’m not claiming any prize. You see, if I can’t feel like I can call it a novel, it’s not a novel. What I have is a hodgepodge of words that is neither cogent nor coherent.
There is no beginning, middle, and end. Not all of the characters scheduled to appear are even on the page yet.
What did I learn about novel writing this past month? What new self-understanding will I take with me to my grave? Will I ever participate in NaNoWriMo again? These are the questions I’ve been pondering since December 1.
I’ve found that I am intrinsically motivated. No amount of external “feel good” motivation will work if it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. External deadlines and financial motivation work only for my nonfiction contract projects. In other words, if I’m not being paid and under the gun, other things in my life take precedence—no matter the guilt felt about not being up to the daily NaNo word count. No matter the deadline without teeth.
And I’m now thinking that’s the way it should be. Here was my November:
- During the first two weeks, my husband was out of town, leaving me a single parent. So our son’s martial arts, swimming, tennis, soccer, archery classes, and the season ending soccer party were all my responsibility.
- I taught my usual library classes at my son’s school and volunteered to give school tours to prospective parents.
- I volunteered for ScholarMatch, an organization founded by Dave Eggers to help disadvantaged high school students attend college. The college application deadline for California state schools was November 30.
- At the beginning of November, our school’s learning specialist suggested that our son was having Executive Function challenges, perhaps coupled with ADD, so I had to find, interview, and schedule specialists to deal with the issue.
- I watched the first part of Batman: The Dark Knight during a root canal. I cannot recall anything that was said except for the Joker’s description of how his father carved up his face. Finally “get” what that Heath Ledger guy was all about. I don’t recommend watching this movie during dental work due to added nightmare potential.
- We gave our son a birthday party that included building robots, launching water balloons over buildings, and eating a killer chocolate cake made from scratch—along with double chocolate chip cookies baked for the school party.
- Two different relatives visited for several days each during the first two weeks of November. Loved seeing them!
- We hosted my husband’s company’s off-site “get together” before the DreamForce conference.
- I was a single parent (again) during the weeklong DreamForce conference.
- We hosted Thanksgiving and then went out of town for the remainder of November.
- Oh, and I had my regular work to do.
Hmmmm, what’s wrong with this picture. I need at least 7 hours of sleep to function, 8 hours to function well. Something had to give, and it was NaNoWriMo. Sure, I’ve got words. But I want to feel good about them.
No amount of breezy encouragement, inspirational emails or pep talks
can get me to do what I’m not intrinsically motivated to do. No amount of camaraderie, “we’re all in this together” approach will ever push me forward.
On the Myers-Briggs test, I am a strong “INFP.” So that means:
It also means I deleted every NaNoWriMo email I received after reading the first few. Mass encouragement is not for me. Give me my writers group and my office without windows. Close the door, turn off the distractions.
And I will write and rewrite until I can call this scrambled puzzle a novel, but it won’t be on anyone else’s schedule. It will be on my own.