NaNoWriMo, Round 2 (or) Stuff I Keep Learning

Generally speaking, I lack discipline. I’m constantly late for things, my house is a mess despite promises to keep on top of those pesky dishes, and I haven’t blogged since I got back from Europe despite numerous assurances to myself that I would.

The one time I do have discipline? NaNoWriMo. This is year two, and I’m currently sitting at 42,511 words. I’m feeling good (or at least not feeling like I want to lay down on the icy pavement and never get up again). When I did NaNo last year, it was a big deal. Up until that point I had never finished one single piece of long-form writing I’d started. I had pretty much given up on the idea that I was capable of writing a novel, deciding that instead I was only capable of thinking about writing one.

But then I did it. And after you do something once that you never thought you could accomplish, it’s surprisingly easy to do it again. Well, maybe not ‘easy’, but certainly not the insurmountable vortex of self-doubt and terror that it was the first time.

NaNo continues to teach me about just how much time I really have in my life. Last year I figured I was primed to do it – my work commute was all of 15 minutes, getting me home by 5:45. I lived alone, so I had no distractions. I buckled down, I let it become my life, I swore to myself I would finish. And I did. But this year was different. My commute is an hour, I live with someone who would probably appreciate it if I actually speak to him in the evenings (although all he ever asks me now is “Have you written yet today?”). Life is busier, things are things, stuff is stuff. I didn’t have a story in mind, at least not the way I did when I started last year, with pages of notes and a carefully constructed plot arch. But I had an idea, and I just figured, with a little bit of encouragement, why the hell not?

And that’s when I discovered that I have time to write for an hour a day. It doesn’t matter if I’ve got less time in the evenings or other responsibilities, there is always time to write. Always. I didn’t realize how much time I spent not writing until I started using that time to do it. And it doesn’t matter that I don’t necessarily have a plan, because I’m proving to myself every day that I can still sit down and write. I can keep a story going, no matter what. As one fantastic quote goes, “If the muse is late for work, start without her.”

I used to spend a lot of time sitting around for inspiration to strike. I even did that last year, setting my mind on NaNo months before it happened so there would be plenty of time to allow inspiration to flow into notes and ideas. But this time around, I’ve realized that if inspiration doesn’t show up, it’s your job to make it. And you can absolutely make it.

So once again, I’m learning lessons from NaNo, and if nothing else, I think that’s what makes it worth doing. Because ultimately, it’s a lot like life – you can either sit around and think about what you’ll do when the circumstances are right, or you can make your own circumstances, and make it happen.

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