Self-doubt is quite a forté of mine. I can criticize myself out of just about anything and while there’s value in being humble, there’s also a line to where that logic becomes a grand squandering of… I was going to say gifts, but I what really mean is the act of doing what makes you happy.
I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. I think in scenes and I frame the world around me in stories. I’m happiest when I am imagining things: it’s simply how I’m wired. So you’d think the act of doing what truly makes me happy would be paramount to anything else in my day to day life. In a way it is, and yet, for something so important, I’ve grossly neglected it.
So along came NaNoWriMo, an event I’ve been meaning to entertain (notice I didn’t say “do” or “participate in”) for years. Melinda had keyed me into it originally (a fact that would never surprise anyone that knows her) and every year after that she would ask me gently “are you going to do it this year?” and then follow up with an even gentler “I think you should”.
I won’t bore you with the usual excuses I came up with for not doing it, but I will tell you about the reason why I finally did. It’s quick, I promise. 🙂
I needed to prove something to myself.
That’s the long and the short of it. It’s so easy to define yourself in a sentence or, in my case, a word. But the sum of all of your parts doesn’t even come close to that definition does it? We are all SO many things, and thank god right? Being just one thing, or one concept, would be a pretty narrow scope to be captured in.
So this year I wanted to prove to myself that not only could I write, but that I was in fact a writer. I’ve been writing all my life, off and on and at my own pace. But NaNo takes that pace, your comfort zone and your habits and throws them completely out the window. So if you want to complete the challenge and you value sleep, you need write pretty much everyday… for the entire month of November.
So on November 1st I came to the keyboard with an idea that I liked and I simply began writing. I didn’t even have an ending (I always have an ending) and, like anything new, I had some stumbling to do. But eventually the words came and they didn’t (and later wouldn’t) stop. After I turned off my inner editor (and critic) I fell into a daily groove and for the first time ever I really felt like I was doing what I was made to do.
I say that not because I’m necessarily any good at it. Like anything, it’s a process and I have a long way to go. No, I say it because it felt right. The entire time, throughout to process it felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Was it hard? Absolutely! I already spend 8 hours a day on front of screen to help pay my mortgage and eat. To go home and spend 3 to 5 hours more seems obscene. But here’s the thing; it didn’t feel that way. Sure I was stretched thin at times (WAY thin somedays), but in the end, it was absolutely worth it. As I wrote before, I finished early and in truth, I’m not even done!
But that was never the point really, to finish the story.
No, the point was to write. It was to challenge myself to BE a writer. And it was on that level that I approached all of this. I’d have been proud even if I hadn’t reached my goal really. It was more the commitment to writing everyday for a month that mattered more to me at the outset than “finishing” the challenge. In fact, I didn’t even anticipate succeeding at writing fifty thousand words. In fact, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t. But once I allowed myself to dive in uninhibited, it all came organically, so if anyone deserves a trophy it would be whatever popped the idea for the story into my head.
Me? I’m just glad I did the whole thing! Every second I spent in November was a second of growth. I learned so much during that time, and not just about writing. I learned about my limits, the depths of my creativity, who really cares about who I am as a person, that I will probably always write in some form or capacity until I can do it full time… So much.
But the one thing I learned the most of all? That one is easy.
The one thing I learned the most is that I need to give myself permission to do certain things. Permission to do what nurtures me. Permission to partake in what feeds my soul.
It was this admission that lead me to see that I’ve neglected what makes me tick for a very, very long time. It was quite the eye opener.
So, if you are on the fence about participating in NaNaWriMo or if you are looking to comb the depths of what kind of writer you are, I fully endorse giving yourself permission to dive head first into the event. It’ll invoke just about every emotion you’ve ever had about yourself (as well as a few new ones maybe), but its so worth it. So go on and give your creativity a great big bear hug!
But don’t forget to save one for yourself.
That too, is worth it. Always.