As you might know, I have been making progress with my Starchild series by scrapping my old drafts and staring all over again. I decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo for July because I really love the custom goal tracker. All year I have been focused on pushing through everything and not losing sight of my goals and 2019 has had a lot to say about that.
The list goes from petty shit like equipment failure to the bigger things including several deaths in the family. Every month has been nail biting and full of plot twists–which sound like the sort of thing that can get the creative juices flowing but the truth of it is that in aggregate everything has served to gunk up the works of my creative and emotional self. The last time my life was this full of drama I locked myself away, stopped doing the things I enjoyed and lived in a state of constant depression where the biggest achievement of the day was when I could get out of bed and take a shower. It took years to dig my way up from there and I felt incredibly weak for having been unable to do more with myself.
This time around things are different for a variety of reasons. I don’t think that our challenges always make us stronger or wiser–often I think we become more brittle in return for our strength–but I think our challenges give us knowledge about what to expect around the dark corners of our lives. I don’t feel like I’m okay. Most days I am really not okay but I appreciate that it isn’t an inner failing. Finding headspace to immerse myself in a fantasy world is challenging because I feel like there are so many actual problems I need to address and there’s this little fear inside me that is wondering–what’s next?
With all of that in mind I set my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo low–20,000–in an effort to give myself permission to succeed. Most years I am eager to set my goal as whatever I achieved before plus extra but it made it really simple to hate on myself for failing to reach my goal. The vanity and the egotism would always appear concealed to my eye because when I failed I would berate myself harder than anyone else could and when I succeeded I could never take anyone’s compliments because I was convinced that I should have and could have done more. I set my goal low not out of some effort to have a “win” but rather to give my work a chance to become what I know it can become.
Its not that my struggles this year have given me some sort of magical perspective, like anything that’s bad for you, I knew that my goal setting had a dark side and I accepted it because I rationalized that I could take the self abuse I would inflict on myself if my goals were too lofty and I failed. Mainly the project has a life of its own, a pulse of its own and because I created it I have to fulfill my role. As NaNoWriMo has become bigger and become an engine for writers to work toward publication I have struggled more and more to want to be involved in the process. There’s a toxic quality to this idea of pushing and pushing ourselves. I’m not suggesting that NaNoWriMo is toxic but rather than the carrot on a stick that is publication can make it easy to take on toxic attitudes towards our work and ourselves as an extension of that work. I appreciate that they’ve offered writers a way to set custom goals in order to make it possible to use the month as a chance to reconnect with your own writing process.
I’m a little over half way to my goal but I haven’t felt the pressure to pound away meaningless words in an effort to reach my word count. This has helped create a thoughtful revision process and allowed me to slow down and try to let go of my outer world so that I can reconnect with the inner world where the story lives. The biggest challenge that setbacks create is that tension between what you think you should be capable of and what you are currently capable of. Overcoming that tension has required me to downgrade what I think I can do from what I know I have been able to do to what I am currently capable of doing. It doesn’t feel good but I am finding that I am regaining momentum forward.
Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? Are you dealing with creative blocks? Write me a comment about your experiences.