I'm back! Kind of. For now... Anyway, I have reasonable justification for my absence - I have been being productive. *SHOCK*
1) The latest issue of Oh Comely (Issue #18 - how did that happen?) is out and I have a piece in it about my complicated relationship with meat. The photo is obviously and hilariously not me - I would never condone naked knife work. It isn't safe or hygienic in the kitchen and I don't even want to think about any other context. The issue theme is bacon and I haven't had a chance to properly read through the magazine but it looks as delightful as ever. I have some mega train journeying scheduled this weekend and I'm stocking up on high quality reading material. More on that later.
2) I weeeen, I weeeeen! I took my first ever shot at NaNoWriMo and I totally did it. 30 days, 50,000 words, 1 exhausted me. 311,409 people took part this year and 41,940 finished it which makes me one of the 13% left standing so I'm feeling pretty good. Admittedly, most of the time it felt like hell and it devoured my November but it was a very interesting experience and I'm glad I did it. I can't vouch for the quality of what I have written because a) I felt strung out most of the time and b) I haven't re-read a single word of it yet and it could be completely unhinged ramblings for all I know but I feel like I've learned a lot.
I strongly suspect that NaNo lessons are ones that can only be learned by doing but on the off chance that you are one of the lucky few who can learn from others mistakes and because I am smug and drunk on my own success, here are some of the things that I learned:
- The more you write the easier it is to write more: The various WriMo mentors and helpers and whathaveyou spend the first week alternately telling you to pace yourself, this is a marathon not a sprint, don't use up all your writing energy in the beginning, and to capitalise on your initial burst of speed and get out as many words as possible before the big slump in weeks 2-3. I found the opposite to be true - I wrote considerably less in the first week than any subsequent week and even struggled to meet the minimum target (1,667 words/day). It took trial and error to get up to that kind of speed and volume but I found that the more I wrote the more easily words flowed. In some ways it is harder to write 800 words a day than double that.
- Strict deadlines are awful until they're deeply satisfying: When you're on the wrong side of your word count you feel awful and everything is impossible and you just want it to stop but if you can get past it you feel like a god and every additional sentence is a gift. Also, if you are a person who never feels like they're doing enough (hello!) it's really nice to have an officially sanctioned stopping point.
- Routine is everything: Obviously this is a super personal one because I know there are plenty of WriMo-ers who write 1-2k in the week and then sprinted through 8k at the weekends but I cannot do this. My words will fill the time I have so give me four hours to write 2,000 words and I will do it but give me eight hours and I will also write 2,000 words much more slowly. This says bad things about me and procrastination but a steady amount of pressure and a regular daily process works for me.
- Find your limits and work with them: I cannot write more than 500 words an hour, I just can't, I am not a fast writer. NaNo are big on scary 'word sprints' where everyone gets on Twitter and writes 600 words in 15 minutes - I 100% can't do that. But now I know my limit I know how much time I need to find and clear for myself.
- The impossible isn't but you can't have everything: I didn't really believe at the beginning of November that it was possible to write 50k on top of a full time job but I thought I'd give it a shot because even if I only came away with 10k that still would have been a win for me. However, it turns out that it can be done! No excuses, it is possible. Nearly 42,000 people say so. BUT you (or, at least, I) only get two out of the three - i) a job, ii) 50k, iii) a social life and/or hobbies. There are only so many hours in the day and something has to give. This blog bit the dust and I've barely seen any of my friends in the last month.
- Hangovers are the worst: This is true generally but they are also the most massive drain on productivity. Drink with moderation, friends. For now, at least.
I think those are the main ones? I don't know. I'm not yet in a position to judge the long term effects on the quality of my written words or the discipline of my writing practices but I'm happy and I feel like I've achieved something tangible. I also think that there are many interesting and some critical things to say about NaNoWriMo as a cultural phenomenon but that is a story for another day.
Also, guess what? It turns out it is nearly Christmas! I'm psyched.
How've you been?