I won National Novel Writing Month. I wrote 50,000 words in November. And you know what I learned?
Writing is hard, yo.
I can’t help but laugh when people say they want to be a writer so they can quit work. Writing IS work. It’s hard work. And creative writing is harder yet. For the past two years, I’ve built a world, birthed characters, and told their stories – all in my head, where they stayed safely contained until November 1.
Nothing could touch them there. Nothing could hurt them there. Sure, they couldn’t get out, but inside my head, they remained perfect, and I wanted them to stay that way.
I was too afraid to set them free and see what they might do.
At first, I thought it was because I’m not a skilled enough writer to tell the story that’s inside me. Then I thought it was because the story that’s inside me isn’t worth telling. And if my best idea isn’t good enough, if it will never work on paper, what’s the point?
But I’ve learned through November that no one – not even professional authors with published books under their belts – really believes they can do it, until they do.
It’s silly, if you think about it. When I was young, no more than 10 or 11, I wrote a full-fledged book – a mystery set in Scotland in the same vein as the RL Stine novels I was reading at the time. I did it then, and I was just a kid.
So why did I doubt myself at a 29-year-old woman?
I suppose back then I didn’t realize I could fail. And even if I did fail, I had years and years to make good on my dream of being a writer. Now, as I inch ever closer to death (sad trombone), the opportunities to take a chance on myself seem fewer and fewer. Failure is more real, more devastating.
So for November, I removed failure as an option. Every day (well, most days), I sat down at my computer and wrote 2,000 words. My last day, I wrote 7,500 words. Not many of those words are the right ones, and my story isn’t yet the one I want to tell, but I let my characters live. I let them surprise me. I let me surprise myself.
And I did what I set out to do. I did something I’ve been wanting to do for years but never had the courage to do.
I wrote a book.
Well, another one. Most of one. But it’s a start.