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Morphing: from coal to diamond?

November 15, 2010

Goldsworthy River & Tides via Ask Dr Druid

It’s 6:11am on a Monday morning and here I am for the second week in a row, watching the world wake from my desk. It is all part of me re-thinking the way I approach writing, editing and publishing.

Last year, in addition to reaching the 50,000 word target to NaNo, I decided I wanted to establish a sustainable work ethic for my writing. It turned out, that was the last thing I learnt anything about, much less established. This year I went in with the opposite plan… I just wanted to write. In fact, I spent two weeks travelling through Malaysia and the only thoughts from home I took with me were fantastical day dreams of a month devoted to writing… where business could just, well, you know, take a back seat for thirty days.

Things change, and as I have discovered, they change quite quickly and you have to be malleable, adaptable and willing to run the gauntlet at the drop of a hat (thankfully I never wear high heels!)

I could have decided NaNo could wait with the business developments of the past week, but I didn’t. Instead I decided there was a time and a place for everything which needed to be done and for the first time this year I’ve made a decisive effort to put the jigsaw pieces of my life together in a meaningful way (rather than deciding all that blue sky was just too hard.)

It sometimes means working to a relentless schedule which drags me out of bed earlier than I want to be out (I’m talking 5am, which used to only ever be a good time to go to bed after a rocking night out). But it sometimes means letting go and taking advantage of circumstances as they present themselves (walking away from the computer Saturday night when our son amazingly went to sleep earlier than he has done in at least four years and my partner and I were able to spend the night together watching movies.)

For most of the year I’ve been a workaholic, not one who hasn’t always worked as productively or as effectively as need be. And this workaholism (or an addiction to busyness) has meant I don’t allow myself to turn off and have fun, or to give myself the time to devote to my family or to my writing. Anything unrelated to business had had to take a back seat.

Yes, I could beat myself up about it but I won’t.

You take the lessons, hopefully grok something from them and do your best to make improvements as you go. And as such November will be the litmus test of how to keep writing going and business ticking away, as work most unusual. So while it’s officially week three (and I have no idea what week that means – last week seemed to just be the week everyone hated their stories!) it’s week two for me on my new regime, as I work hard to make the pieces of my life fit together.

Am I succeeding? I don’t know, success of any kind is such a slippery beast, not to mention subjective at best. I know I have almost 30,000 of a novel-in-progress I’m still desperately in love with and on target to deliver, I’ve taken care of my needs when I haven’t been well (which meant saying no to everything for two days and screaming inside why this week?), I’ve edited – perhaps a little slower than normal, I’ve read my son a story every night and I’ve helped to broker a brand new phase of our business… in between struggling to go to bed at a sensible hour and rise at a less than sensible one.

Transitions are always difficult, yet this one seems much less painful than any of the others I’ve done in the past six years. Perhaps I’m over due for this new path and a lot of the hard work has already been completed?

November makes you tougher and I’m glad for it. These are the changes to routine I should have made at the start of the year, but the pressure cooker of NaNo is what is truly bringing them about (watch me morph from coal into a diamond in just thirty days!) Win, lose or whatever lays between… this will be my most wonderful NaNo experience yet, because I’ve learnt one very important lesson:  if I’m writing, I’m happy and everything else WILL fall into place.

What tough lessons have you learnt through your NaNo experiences, past or present?

Jodi Cleghorn does realise this is only the half way mark and anything can, and will change. Hopefully not though, the upheavals are giving her sea sickness alternating with vertigo. You can find more of Jodi’s musings, including daily updates of ‘The Lichtenberg Trust’ at Writing in Black and White or by following Twitter.
  1. November 15, 2010 12:37 am

    lessons learnt from past NaNos? Only write what you love or are passionate about. When the chips are down, you are tired, cranky, and are 1000s of words ‘behind’, you don’t want to face the page of a project you loathe, characters you can’t stand and a plot you have no idea why you are involved with.

    thats not to say that if you are writing what you love, that the words will flow easily – there are rough times there too – but its easier and the energy flows with less effort.

  2. November 15, 2010 3:53 am

    Totally concur with you there Annie – last year I wrote more words than any other year – but it ended up being a conglomerate of several projects. I HATED with a passion my story and the fact that I thought picking up the year before’s project was a good idea and continuing on, after having done nothing more than print off (and not read) what I’d done the year before. It wasn’t!!

    I wrote and wrote, around and around in circles… just hoping something would happen to release me. And the end came… and I hated every moment of it and felt like it was a month lost. The characters and narrative arcs still interest me, but I think I came to the conclusion it was too seperate stories than I’d tried to smoodge together into one.

    So perhaps its not a dead loss – but it will take something pretty special to get me to go back and look and even contemplate trying to tease it all apart to finish.

  3. November 16, 2010 2:14 am

    What I’ve learned from past NaNos is a bit different than Annie’s. I need to balance what I write between something that I really, really care about (I get frozen, can’t write it well, get discouraged) or writing something I don’t care about at all (a wasted month.) Happily there’s an in between!

  4. November 17, 2010 7:26 pm

    I have never done NaNo because it is too scary, but I would think if you didn’t have a passion for your story, you wouldn’t want to write it, and if you didn’t want to write it, writing 50, 000 words in a month would quickly become very very impossible.

  5. November 20, 2010 2:00 am

    Jodi, I like your insight: “if I’m writing, I’m happy and everything else WILL fall into place.” Your description of your experience with NaNoWriMo this year reminds me of how I felt last year and the year before doing NaNo — very very busy! I am feeling a bit sorry for myself because at the last minute I decided not to do NaNo this year. Instead I am working on revisions to the novel I wrote over the last three NaNo’s. The good news is, it’s moving along quite well.

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