Reflecting on #NaNoWriMo

December will be here in less than an hour, and my NaNoWriMo project has been a tremendous flop this year. A piece of me is gnashing and wailing and grumbling about, unsettled that I missed the mark for the first time in three years. 

A larger piece of me, the part always (always always) searching for silver linings and happy ending and the good in all things -- is perhaps a smidge happy. I did not write 50,000 words of novel this month. I did not even write half of that novel. Almost, but not quite.

I did, however, meet daily with over twenty young writers. I encouraged, cheered, and consoled. Together, we wrote and shared and became this fantastic thing -- this extraordinary community of humans working together -- and I am so much better for having experienced their enthusiasm and sheer joy in falling into a story. They reminded me of the brilliance in writing what you love, just for the sake of writing.

I spent time with friends and family. I played table top games, traveled, and shared important conversations. I read. Oh, how I read. So much more in one month than I have in quite a while.

And I wrote. Almost daily. I struggled through words and pages and chapters of muddled story. Two different stories, in fact. After the first idea went sideways, I kicked it aside and jumped into the next shiny idea and rode it until it sputtered and faltered, and then pushed it along wearily, counting down the days until December would release me from the pitiful wreckage it had become.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I was utterly bored with the story. Writing had become a competitive obligation and not something I addictively turned to each day with my normal full heart. This feeling is new to me; every year I've participated in NaNoWriMo in the past, I've been in love with the writing, typing away until the screen went blurry and my eyes refused to remain open even one second longer.

Am I sad that I didn't finish a NaNoWriMo novel this year? Of course. It's in my nature to beat myself up over failed obligations, even self-imposed ones. Especially when I feel it will disappoint my students, who cheered me on just as much as I celebrated with them. But more than that, I'm glad for what I've learned about myself as a writer. I'm immeasurably thankful for the group of young writers that gave so much of their time throughout November, and I'm eager to work with them in December to help them revise and publish their stories.

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And I'm excited about tomorrow, as I tuck away my time-sucking social media habit and pick up a fresh journal full of possibilities and begin writing each day just for me, exploring poems and vignettes that my soul is aching to put down on paper.

For the next thirty-one days, I'm working on building my daily writing muscle by participating in Linda Urban's Write 30 Daily invitation. I won't be following the hashtag or tweeting about my progress. I won't be interacting with anyone through FaceBook or Twitter to share my writing successes or lack thereof. It's a hiatus, of sorts -- inspired by Linda's challenge, but modified to meet my own need as an artist to sit inside myself and have a think or two on my own.

I may blog occasionally to reflect on my process, but other than that, I plan to enjoy my own little respite from the loud and busy world, and fall into some stories of my own.


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