This post is a confession of sorts. It is also partially a discussion on a personal affliction I share with many authors and creatives, and well, quite frankly-lots of you out there. Again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
For those of you who are blissfully unaware why many of your novelist/writerly/author friends look upon November with the side-eye of unease, I'll peel back the curtain. You see, many years ago, an event started that was meant to help people realize that if they just wrote X number of words per day, by the end of a month-any month-they would have 50,000 words. A decent first novel, if you will. The event was dubbed National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (or NaNo). Groups were formed all over the country and all over the world. Support groups, if you will, for writerly types (in some circles these are called writer's groups). In fact one of these groups played a large part in me getting one of my books, The Treachery of Rainbows from a fleeting thought in my head into a physical book that you can hold in your hand.
NaNoWriMo, overall is a good thing, I think. And while it does have the ability to foster and motivate those creative urges, it has the power to do something else. For me, it can instill or amplify the crippling doubt that comes along with writing. Some have dubbed this Imposter Syndrome. That may or may not be the accurate term in this instance, but it's a familiar one that bears little explanation.
You see, around September or October, I get really excited for NaNo. The aforementioned book, The Treachery of Rainbows was drafted during the NaNoWriMo of 2015. I hit the mark that year. Over 50K in my word count for 30 days. AND, I had the first draft of a novel that I wouldn't look at again for another 3 years (but that's besides the point, really). So, you see, there IS some excitement, a hope if you will, that each November I will come up with the next great novel, or at least the draft for one.
My ambition is high. As my Mamaw used to say when she warned me about putting too much food on my plate, "Be careful that your eyes aren't bigger than your stomach."
And, it seems-or at least these last 4 years-that my eyes are bigger than my NaNo stomach.
This year it would be quite easy to blame pandemic fatigue. After all, it's hard being creative in the middle of a worldwide illness unparalleled in over 100 years. And that may be part of it.
It would be easy to blame the fact that I'm nearly 90minutes away from anyone in the writing group that sparked the energy and magic in 2015. But, Discord/Facebook Video Virtual write-ins have stripped that argument and quite easily nullified it.
I could also blame the tools. The Freewrite Traveler with it's odd little 'typing like the keyboard buffer is always full' quirks, but I'm sure that's not it either. And besides, it is a piss-poor craftsman who blames their tools.
No, the problem is me. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.
I had been working on an idea for a book. The book is to appear in a box set on Magic and the Mafia that will be release early in 2021. And I really like the idea for the book. The book will also contain some seeds that will blossom in another book that I've got in the hopper.
And despite the excitement, the tools, the support network, and the fact that one of my best friends is an author and my roommate, I still sit her on November 22nd, with only about six-thousand words written n that story.
Like the colorful onomatopoeias that adorned every fight scene in the 1960's BatMan TV show, I see myself getting punched squarely in the jaw by Adam West, or the Ghost of NaNo, if you will.
I look at the calendar and look at my word count and think Damn. Well, if you're going to suck, at least suck in a spectacular fashion!
Don't get me wrong. I don't think I'm a bad writer (nor do I think I'm a splendiferous writer). No, I'm squarely in the 'Decent writer who pens stories that people seem to enjoy reading' camp.
But that doesn't really stop the doubt from creeping in as the days on the calendar advance whilst my word count does not.
I was talking through this last night with my girlfriend and came to the realization that I believe I had alluded to about 7 times already. The project I had started was too big for me. Too big for where I am in my life right now.
I realized I had a couple of options. The first being to contact the curators of each of the three box sets/collections that I'm due to appear in next year and let them know that I am a terrible person and am sorry, but I can't do the set.
This, while the easier of the options, sets myself up for many repercussions that I think are probably worse than the doubt and imposter syndrome floating through my head right now.
Another option presented itself in that discussion. It's something that I initially was hesitant to vocalize, but looking at it after a fresh night of sleep, really makes the most sense, and speaks a little to my growth these last few months.
That option is this, stay in the box sets. Stay a part of the collection, but don't put as much food on my proverbial plate.
Nobody said I had to write a novel for these sets. This was just my own hunger, possibly my hubris, talking. Honestly, it's silly to think that if it took me 5 years total (about of year of that actively working) to get The Treachery of Rainbows into a readable book, why should I expect to get decent books written and edited in a matter of months.
I'm good, but I'm not a full-time author. Not yet anyway.
So, I have decided that for each of these sets, there will be a short story (possibly reaching the 'novella' page count-who knows?). I have decided not to have a word count goal for these stories. I want to write something that is long enough to tell a full, stand-alone story. The story will be set in the world of one of the full length novels I am working on. It will introduce some of the mechanics to the world, and may give some of the backstory that the books will allude to.
Going to bed with that decision, and a belly full of bourbon, made for a wonderful wake up this morning. I felt lighter as I sat down to the keyboard.
I have also realized that as much as I wanted to pen all of these stories using my newly arrived Freewrite Traveler, I will be writing them on my trusty 2015 MacBook Air. I have no doubt at all that I can incorporate the Freewrite Traveler into my workflow in a very productive and meaningful way, but changing the tools in the middle of building the house makes for a very shoddy finished product.
And, that my friends, is about where my head is at, currently.
Oh...and about NaNo? Yeah. There's no way I'm going to hit 50, 000 words in the next 8 days. The math doesn't work out. It's OK. I'm not upset about that. I feel like the point of NaNo is to help you grow as an author; to find out what works best for you. And I feel like I've done that this year. So, yes, technically I'm failing, but not really. I am fully confident that I will have a solid draft of a story by the end of the week and that with some editing and polishing, it will be one I am quite pleased to put my name to, and hopefully one that the other authors in the collection won't be embarrassed to be tied to (but I'm saving that anxiety for another day).
If you are participating in NaNo, know this--I believe in you! You don't have to write a great first draft, you just have to write. Period.
If you are friends with someone participating in NaNo, maybe just give them a hug and let them know you believe in them. We writers are swimming in doubt more often than you may know.
If none of these apply to you, then huzzah--to you (and to all) I say --Have an awesomesauce day!!