Make Up Your Mind ~ Is this a game, or something More?

Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine. –Margaret Atwood


The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply. — Will Self

Image courtesy of Armin Hanisch via

Image courtesy of Armin Hanisch via

Five days into NaNoWriMo. I had passed 25,000 words (due to a lot of hours from my husband Jay right before he left the country).

I was about 25% of the way through my story, according to the four-part outline I worked up the month before, and I enjoyed a speed of ~ 1200 words/hour.

2,000 to 10K is a terrific– and terrifically inexpensive– introduction to the type of prepwork that let me believe this was even possible.

I have been writing since high school, over 20 years, now. This was the first time I had an entire day for composition, and it was also probably the first time I would have known what to do with it.

I dove in on day-one and didn’t slow down for five months.

(Okay, technically I slowed down, but that’s just because of “real life” not from any hesitation or writers’ block. This is my point.)

By contrast, in my first NaNo endeavor, this five-day mark was the time I wanted to quit. I was making or passing my 1,667-word/day minimum, but I wasn’t sure I could maintain the pace.

I wanted to quit before I failed.


The idea of really trying and not making it terrified me.

I don’t remember anymore what I expected. Looking at it now, I can see that whatever word-count I got would be more words on a story than I’d had before– but the risk of not making goal seemed to be taunting me.

It was as though I was afraid that failing would mean I wasn’t cut out for this. This noveling thing. And since I knew with a wordless knowing that I had to tell this story, the risk of failing felt like the pall of death hanging over all.

Sticking it out proved some important things to ME.

  • Noveling is WORK
  • It is worthy work
  • That I am capable of.

Practice what you want to perfect.

Consider what you are doing– what you spend your hours on– as practice.

I fell into noveling (and NaNo) not knowing more than I had stories that I wanted to tell.  Writing was a mystical state that had rules and laws that I vaguely saw or could recognize, and that I wondered about very much.

I didn’t know if I could “make a living” in this alternate reality, but I was drawn to it– the way I’ve heard some people describe being drawn to Alaska, their whole lives.

I am still learning about writing. Still delighted in discovery– of other authors and of my own abilities. And rather than cringe at my “old” stuff, and worrying about how this will look in X-number-of-years, I am thankful for marked growth, and the reality that varying levels of skill don’t have to destroy a story.

~ ~ ~

When we decide that this story needs to be told– that we are the only ones who can rescue it from the netherworld of imagination and “potential”– we hang on.

If the last eight years of noveling have taught me anything (and believe me, they have), the loudest thing I’ve heard is about endurance. If you’ve got the trajectory right and you keep moving, you will eventually reach your destination.

My point? I am simultaneously working on my first and fifth novels (hence the slow blogs).  I started the first novel eight years ago, the fifth just last year. Both will be finished this fall. Lindorm Kingdom I plan to self-publish, and I’ll experiment  with shopping Dazed and Bemused around for a traditional publisher.

This is a huge deal that has been years in the making, and there were weeks when I didn’t think I’d finish one novel, let alone two within a year. But it’s real.

footprints in sandI am not yet holding a book of my own, but I am closer than I’ve ever been, and just as good, I’ve seen what time can do, however incrementally.

For you other writers, be encouraged: Now isn’t forever,  and the now we choose today can help us toward the future we’re wishing for. We are doing this writing thing because we are actively choosing to live the life we desire. We are those taking action, rather than those being acted upon.

We, my writing friends, are the interesting characters that others wish they had the nerve– or freedom– to be.