Sunday, November 28, 2010

On achieving personal goals

(This is cross-posted, with some omissions, from a post on my private blog, Zucchinis in Bikinis. If you are also a reader over there, my apologies - the other post is an expanded version of this one, so you need not feel you have to read both!)

Yesterday, I hit the 50,000 word mark on my NaNoWriMo novel, Frankie Loveday: Girl Detective. While the story is not quite finished (I have a chapter and a half, about 7,000 words, left to write, I estimate), once I exceeded 50,000, I officially achieved the NaNo target and was able to validate my word count on the website. For which, I got to download this:

A website button is nice, and the purple WINNER! flag on one's NaNo homepage is nice, but obviously, that's not what I did it for (or, I imagine, anyone else either). I did NaNo because I wanted to practice my writing, and also I wanted stretch myself, to try something that I thought would be difficult for me and would require logistics, commitment and perseverance.

Writing 50,000 words in a calendar month when you have three small children, a part-time job that you are winding up (which always means more work, ironically, as I try to leave things neat for the next person who has to deal with it), and various seasonal imperatives is not a doddle by any means. I made a commitment to myself that I would not do NaNo at the expense of my children, my household or my workplace, and one of my greatest satisfactions in getting to the goal has been that I did it without once having to put a child off who needed something from me, without stealing a single minute from employment time, and without ending up in a state of disarray in this house. (Well, no disarray greater than the norm, I mean!) I met my obligations and delighted in my children first, and NaNo came second, and there was no doubt that that was how it had to be.

So what has it meant? It has meant that I've watched virtually no television in November - I sat down with my big girls and watched an episode of the newest River Cottage series on Thursday night and it was the first time I'd watched the little screen since Melbourne Cup Day. I've also read far less fiction than my norm, played no games whatsoever, tried no new recipes, visited very few blogs and no online forums or community spaces, and Tweeted (and blogged!) far more minimally than is my wont. Basically, I have devoted all my leisure time to crafting this story that I decided I would write, and I have kept to my decision, all month, despite being tired and under pressure.

And oh, but it has been a wonderful, creative and empowering experience for me. I feel great about the fact that I've done it - that I achieved the word count despite all the factors that said I shouldn't be able to - and that the story I've written is one that I think has some merit, is not utter rubbish. I don't kid myself that it's publishable, but I am proud of it all the same, and I feel that I didn't sell myself short in what I produced. Immersion in my little fictional world has been enormously enjoyable and energizing for me, and, combined with the thrills of the season and the late-coming warmth of spring, has made November my best month of the year by quite some margin.

So that would be my reply to the Salon article of a couple of weeks ago where the writer exhorted people not to do NaNo because "the world doesn't need more bad books." My answer would be that not everyone does NaNo in order to be published, or to inflict their literary outpourings on the world. Sometimes, as for me, people take on a challenge like NaNo in order to practice doing something creative, to get back in touch with a side of their personality that's been suppressed, and maybe to test themselves too, to force themselves out of a rut and perhaps forcibly effect a mood shift with it. It's cheaper than therapy, anyways ;-)

Overall - NaNo was a great experience for me. I savoured it, I accepted the difficult moments and got past them, and I am very pleased that I made it. Best of all, my 7-year-old is avidly reading my novel now (it was written for 9-11 year olds, but she punches out of her weight with fiction) and she is loving it, and says she's proud of me. That's the very nicest thing I could ever wish to hear.

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