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On Quitting

2015 November 22


I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in mid-October, full of hope and a kind of brash confidence. After all, I’d done it before and successfully completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I didn’t attempt it last year because the memory of 2013 was too raw–I’ll always associate November, on some levels, with betrayal, with my world imploding. But this year, I was ready.

At least, I thought I was. Or I wanted to be.

Like I did in 2013, I took a short story I’d written that I liked and decided to use the main characters to form a novel. The problem was, as in the short story, I never quite figured out what I wanted to happen. And that’s my main problem with trying to write fiction–I never seem to know what’s going to happen.

In NaNoWriMo lingo, there are two kinds of writers: the planners and the pantsers. The planners sketch outlines and scenes before writing, deciding what they want to say and who their characters are before they begin writing. Pantsers, on the other hand, “fly by the seat of their pants,” sitting down to write without any blueprints and just seeing what happens.

With this year’s attempt at NaNoWriMo, I was trying to be a pantser when I’m a planner to the core. So each day I sat down to write, I found myself muddling through exposition and boring scenes, trying to figure out what it was I was trying to say. It never got more clear.

And then I had to travel for work. I was in the Pacific Northwest for a week, at a conference and then visiting a friend in Seattle. I wrote a page or two on the plane, but beyond that–nothing. Not a single word. It would have been difficult, logistically, to write more, but if I’d really wanted to, I could have made it work. But I realized the night after I got home, and I sat down at my computer to write, and instead spent hours responding to emails and catching up on blogs, that this wasn’t happening.

So I stopped trying. I decided it wasn’t worth forcing, though I’d been genuinely excited about the idea when I started. I hope to pick it back up and figure these characters out on my terms–planning, thinking, taking my time. But this month was not the time.

Instead, on nights when I’m not out with friends, I’ve been relaxing–reading, watching tv, and training for the 5k I’m running next weekend. And it’s been okay. Despite the initial waves of guilt at having given up on something I’d set out to do, I’ve enjoyed the break I gave myself.

This blog has been quiet for the last two months, which wasn’t intentional. Instead, it kept getting pushed to the bottom of my to-do list every day. Work has been really busy and between trying to work out consistently and maintain a social life and not allow my living space to devolve into filth, the blog has fallen by the wayside. And I’m not happy about that. But it’s okay. Because I know I can always start again, come back here to this space I’ve created. I may have fewer readers (sorry!) but I gave up on the idea of blogger stardom long ago, so that’s okay too.

We all hold ourselves to these extraordinarily high standards so often. Taking a break and letting ourselves recharge is just necessary sometimes. We will be okay. We will start again. And we might even be stronger than before.

One Response Post a comment
  1. December 8, 2015

    I can relate to this post on so many levels. It is VERY hard for me to give myself a break and/or not feeling like I’m letting something fall through the cracks or disappointing someone or something or myself. But you’re so right. Breaks are okay. It will all be there when we come back. It will always be there.

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