Obviously, I fell off the writing bandwagon. Hard. More like the bandwagon stopped for the night at a shady inn. There, instead of sleeping, I encountered some pirates, sang some sea shanties, and sailed to a completely different country where writing at length to rest of the world isn’t possible. Or at least, that would be the much more interesting turn I wish my life had taken.
A lot of things happened in my life while I was off the bandwagon. Some of those included moves, trips, and day to day life. The most important of these “things” was my decision on or about October 28th to finally stop saying, “It would be so much fun” or “I wish I had time for it” and commit to NaNoWriMo.
For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. The daily average for words was roughly 1,300 words, give or take. To me, that was about a two hour time commitment, depending on how much I felt I needed to research any given detail (side effect of a period novel). I work in retail, so the decision really wasn’t one to be made lightly. However, on that fateful day, I basically told myself, “Fuck it. No more waiting. I’m in. Let’s do this.”
I felt like two hours a day wasn’t much to give to my writing considering how long I’d neglected it. I probably spent that much time a day Facebook scrolling before bed, and attempting the NaNo challenge would probably imbue me with that habitual writing I once knew. It would allow me to work with the support of a group of friends and with a deadline pressuring me. The idea of people watching and knowing that a clock was ticking motivated me in a way I couldn’t motivate myself up until that point in my life since May.
On the night of October 30th, Mr. B related to me a reappearance of stomach pain that had bothered him every night that week. On the morning of October 31st with no relief for his pain in sight, we went to the ER. After days without sleep for either of us, I finally got to start NaNo on October 3rd. I started out strong with over 3000 words to help make up for my lack of writing, on day 8, I finally hit par, and then retail caught me by the wrist to drag me through the rest of the month.
In my head, memories of last month sparkle like a jarful of swirling glitter water for as much as I remember of it. I can see all these flecks of moments, nothing beyond the white flashes of light. Between the two retail jobs, I worked sixteen days straight. Overtime on a lot of those days. Day three into this stretch included a power outage, failure of backup generators, and me plastic wrapping open faced shelves full of cold food products. I worked the day before Thanksgiving in the bakery. I lost track of the number of pies I fetched for customers. I worked registers at my second gig the day of Thanksgiving. I literally held the door open for the surge of people in need of sales. I worked in the coffee shop the day after Thanksgiving, also known as the National Day of Caffeinating. If not, it really should.
At this point, I should have given up. Even as I pressed on, I recognized that I was chronically sleep deprived (I averaged five hours a night for the month), mentally a bit scattered, and physically depleted. It had been a long time since I had pushed myself that hard on all fronts. Not since college had I been that rough around the edges. Before my sixteen day stretch concluded though, I had to face my last major hurdle: The NaNoWriMo Deadline.
November 30th arrived. The 24th through the 26th, I literally had written nothing for my novel. I had however been making a comeback. I’d written some 4,000 words a day for the three days following Thanksgiving. I went to work that last morning and came home to stare down my last charge. I had 4745 words to go. And so I wrote and wrote and wrote. At 7 p.m., with five hours to spare, I validated my novel for my first ever NaNoWriMo win.
This November taught me a lot: about myself, about my friends, about my writing. Sometimes I fly away with the ideas, and I often forget that I need to actually click those keys to produce something others can read. Having people to report my numbers to, kept that bad habit in check. The Facebook group of my friends who silently cheered me on in text from hundreds of miles away proved to be a solid thing I could rely on when I got home after a long day of retail. They gave me that burst of motivation to kick myself into gear and get down to business. I knew that they were there help me to push through a lot my issues. There wasn’t time for reflection, and therefore relatively little time for the questions of worth to rise to the surface. Between work and the other work and the novel, I barely had time to do laundry, let alone mentally review how others might receive my writing. When I did feel self-doubt, my group was there to quash those thoughts immediately.
Writing is often a lonely art. While no one else can write your story for you, writing as a group, even just a loose Facebook group, really changed my perspective on writing. I had disliked talking about my writing in class groups, but working with a group I knew and trusted made a monumental shift in how I viewed a writing community. I loved getting caught up in the rush from having hit the daily goal or the cheers as I posted my words achieved that day, however few. I did my fair share of encouraging. I am really proud of what we all accomplished together. I don’t think I have been as proud of any of my achievements in the past few years as I have in posting my NaNoWriMo Winner Certificate to the group board.
So, I know I can work two retail jobs in the full height of retail crazy and write a 50,000 word novel at the same time. I can do that. It’s just absolutely one of the most astonishing realizations I’ve made about myself this year. I can do all that, push myself to that, and still not break. I suddenly feel like all the excuses I’ve ever come up with to not write before and after this will no longer have a place in my life. I can write 50,000 words in retail month. I can write without letting the fear of what the sentence says keep me from the page. I can write knowing I have fellow writers there to cheer me on.
Love and Lighting,
P.S. Yes, despite how absolutely silent and shut down I was December 5th, a.k.a. my first day off, I did my laundry. All seven loads. 😉