PLAY 002: Half Way to Your Goal

[Half black & white] PLAY (NaNoWrMo): A spiraling staircase up, seen from below, reveals a the colourful silhouette of a person's head, with goals on its mind.

National Novel Writing Month is now half way through! If you’re one of those brave souls writing 1,667 words every day, stay strong! You’ve got less to go than you’ve already completed, so might as well just finish swimming to shore, right?

For those of you not NaNoWriMo-ing it, but playing along with your own goal, stay strong! Your goal was achievable, it was attainable, and it’s in reach, too, so don’t give up now. Giving up is a silly idea. You’ve got this and there’s not one person that doesn’t think you can make it (except for that guy down the street named Steve, and no one’s going to listen to him).

To help one another get over the hump and go sliding down the mountain to the finish line, here’s a convenient article you can comment on with any reflections you’ve learned so far. We’re all going to do full articles with all our reflections when this is over, but sharing a bit of misery and struggle as its happening has the wonderful effect of making each of us feel better, and importantly, not alone.

So share something you’ve learned, encourage one another on, and if you’re still waiting for your perfect moment to join the community—this is it!

5 thoughts on “PLAY 002: Half Way to Your Goal”

  1. What have I learned so far?

    I’m actually pretty good at writing non-stop for tens of minutes at a time. I’m not really having trouble hitting my word count, but I am having trouble with the—emotional?—state that’s waiting for me every morning when I look in the mirror and say, “Okay Luke, all that work you did yesterday—time to do it again.” Sitting down to write and telling my fingers to get typing is the hardest part and every morning I worry I won’t start. Then I struggle for the first little bit which eventually brings me to the really scary moment, the one where I tell myself, “You know what Luke? You’ve written a lot already. So it’s not 1667 words. 900 is pretty damn good. Why not go eat some breakfast, call this NaNoWriMo thing a bust, and be happy with what you’ve got?”

    It’s tempting. It’s real tempting.

    But, so far, I’ve pushed through, and by the end of the day’s session I’m finding the words are just flowing out of me (most of the time), almost to the point I don’t want to stop. (Of course, I write in the morning and still have a day job, so I have to.) But it’s an exciting development among all this exhaustion. I just hope I can keep it up. Fifteen more days; just as much before as behind…

    Whether these words are any good or not, I don’t know yet. But for the most part, I’d say they fall into the “not” column. I wrote 10.5 pages of pre-writing before I figured out where my short story should actually start. I guess that’s pretty good, considering at the start of this month all I knew was how I wanted the story to end. Of course, then I got stuck again between how it opens and how it’s going to close, but having crossed that hurdle once already, I figure I can scale it again and close that middle gap.

    Maybe?

    It’s definitely that voice in my head that decides whether something is good or not, the one that tells me my effort may not be worth it, that is my biggest hurdle. I went into this knowing I’d write a lot of not good stuff, but that was the point. Just get it out. Make it better later, next month once I have something to work with.

    I’m fighting a voice in my head. Anyone else? Got any tricks to just keep going?

  2. I have to agree with you Luke. The voice that said “Stop, it’s ok” to unfortunately won on some of those seven days. Once from work exhaustion, and another from being Ill. While I did end up playing catch up on my following days I can say the the added anxiety and frustration were most definitely not worth it. But my own challenge went well, and I’m happy to say, continues to go well, with it’s added bumps and hurdles. Most of what I have written has just not been that great. But while that knowledge might have given some extra strength to the voice that says I might as well use my energy elsewhere, this time it didn’t. Though I didn’t complete my first seven days perfectly, I did most of them, often going over my required 45 minutes. This made me decide to continue the challenge for the month, because it’s been fun and by george I think I’m getting it.

    I still haven’t managed to do a perfect allotment of seven (my longest streak has been four days in a row). But I’ve been figuring out that, for myself at least, what I’ve most needed to learn is not how to be perfect, but how to keep going after disappointing myself or making mistakes. Move onto chapter three even though I’m not happy with 2, like at all. Start again on Tuesday even though I missed Monday. Combined with getting back in touch with the joy of creating in the first place, I’ve found that starting gets immensely easier. I take it day by day now, trying to ignore the idea of streaks or thoughts of having to do it all again tomorrow. When I’m at my most distracted breaking it down into even smaller segments has also helped. Just ten more minutes. Then Ten more minutes after that, and so on. We’ll see how this approach carries me through to the 30th.

    1. Excellent, Madeline!

      I’m pretty sure you just described half a dozen different writing techniques I’ve read of over the years, but hearing about your first hand experience coming to those conclusions—it just means more, you know? Because I know you, I can picture you sitting there, writing, and coming to these hurdles and going through this process of pushing through.

      Your words have emboldened me! I shall tackle my own word counts with similar abandon! (Which is to say, “It doesn’t matter what the words are, so long as you sit down and write them.” These are shitty first drafts, after all. (I’m going to write an article in the near future about learning to accept that what we write in our first draft is “WRONG”.)

      I just finished today’s session and it went very well. (Even after a couple friends that were coming to visit today showed up—I was able to still keep going [Thanks for letting me write, Jim & Kait]!) I just came off a BAD week for writing, so I’m wondering what was different today? I realized I slept in, and that this past week I was going to bed late and getting up early. I was TIRED all week, and it showed in my ability to write.

      It’s obvious, but it’s important. We’re not just managing our time, it’s really our energy levels.

      Stick with it! The joy of creating is in there (the actual “writing” part is just the painful bit). But the pain juxtaposes well against the joy, and makes it all the more sweeter. ;-}

  3. I failed. But there is a lesson in that! My goal was too simple and too narrow to really be of any real use. Committing myself to a single act – that of sitting down to work on this stuff at least once a day – wasn’t really a goal at all. It was what I should, in theory, be doing already. Making the goal the end in and of itself is far too restricting. With NaNoWriMo, if you have a bad day (or a bad week!) that isn’t the end. You can play catch up. You can anticipate a day when you won’t have the time to work, and write ahead. One misstep isn’t enough to cause disaster. I didn’t leave myself any room to missteps, or problems that are beyond my control. I counted on having the time and ability to write (or what-have-you) every day, and I didn’t.

    So, I failed. Though I am glad to say that I have not given up. Much like Luke and Madeline, I’ve learned something I already knew: there are on days, and there are off days. Sometimes you don’t know which is which. I can sit down to do some writing and really hate the idea of being chained to my desk and struggle endlessly to get some words onto the page, just a start even, only to find my hand cramping up some time later because I couldn’t stop the ideas flowing. Other days, I can be as jacked up about writing as I want, and no matter how hard I push, the flow just doesn’t come. The work is still there, and hopefully its worthwhile, but I wasn’t in the moment, no matter how much I wanted to be.

    Aside: I think there is some of my contrarian nature in this experiment. I’ve always been resistant to setting goals… something about it feels alien to me. It seems foolhardy to set out to some arbitrary benchmark when there is no way to anticipate exactly what you’re going to run into along the way. “My goal is to write a story.” Great! *Then write the damn thing.* I don’t want to waste time filling out a worksheet or recording benchmarks, I just want to do the work. Of course, as we’ve seen, sometimes I fail at sitting down to do the work, so I’ll begrudgingly admit that there is value in goal setting.

  4. It’s six days post “NaNoWriMo Fog” and I have finally made my way back to the world of those not worried about 1667 words a day, and I have to say—what do y’all do with your time again…?

    As you’re undoubtedly wondering, yes, there is a musical about the Kingkiller Chronicles being written by the Hamilton guy. But between that thought and, “Have I eaten yet today?”, I can tell you that I was successful! I hit 50,000 words! (50,234, in fact, despite that number looking completely made up and making my self-conscious voice twerk.) I successfully completed 2 sections of Charlotte’s Journey, made a right ‘ol word-vomit mess of a fantasy idea, and completed a first draft of a science-fantasy story I’ve been thinking of as “Worthwhile Lives”. Which means not only did I hit the word count mark, but I am set to enter into Phase 2: Editing a short story (which I’ve already started by rereading the ~20,000 words committed to the story. It needs…work. But that’s what editing is for! Perhaps, when it’s all done, I’ll even throw this one up because, as they say, this truly is my “shitty first draft”).

    I’ll have a lot more to say about my experience during NaNoWriMo in an upcoming article, so stay tuned for that.

    How did everyone else’s month’s go?

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