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On nanowrimo, and fantasies of being a Real Writer

As I put aside a horrible book after getting halfway through tonight, I realized that such books are encouraging: if that piece of crap can get published, surely I have a chance?  And I do have a chance.  I write well.  I’m not going to play falsely modest.  My fiction is quite readable.  The only problem with it is that it is rarely finished.  I don’t mean polished, I mean finished.  I lack the gene for sustained effort.  I certainly have a fear of failure as big as the Ritz.

So, for the second time, I am trying NaNoWriMo.  I’m having a damned good time, I’m enjoying my characters and their antics, and I’m well ahead on word count.  I think I may even finish, though I don’t want to jinx myself by saying for sure.  On jinxing, I learned an important lesson in 07: as soon as I share my work, I stop.  So this year, not even the Spousal Unit is getting a peek.  He knows the basic story, and we spent several hours making the science less cringe-worthy, but he hasn’t even gotten to read the first chapter.  It’s working well.

As the process goes along, I have what I am sure are typical fantasies: editing my work, sending it to agents, getting a contract, getting published.  It’s nice at first, but then I tremble.  I have found, over the years, that being a published writer is like having children: the more I hear from people who have done it, the less appealing it becomes.  I don’t just freak out over deadlines.  I don’t talk about my little problems a lot, but I am a delicate snowflake.  I’m retired because I couldn’t hack the simple day-to-day of facing people and pressure.  Make of that what you will; I’m simply grateful the SU has a good job and an understanding disposition.  So.  Traditional publishing is probably right out, unless I want to go back to a life without sharp things in the house.

Luckily, there are new options.  Amazing, fantastic, wonderful new options.  The one that stars in my current fantasies is self-publishing straight to Kindle.  I have no illusions of riches; I know better.  I do have illusions keeping my rights, publishing at my own pace without pressure from editors and publishers, bringing in a few dollars, and finally, keeping my sanity.

Since my retirement, I’ve struggled with a sense of uselessness.  I am crippled in ways frustrating and basic. The SU continually supports me, and reminds me that my losing ticket in the genetic lottery is hardly my fault.  He’s right, and certainly his love makes it easier to cope, but I still want to be useful.  I want to make things that bring in a tiny bit of vegetarian bacon.  Or veg sausage, as that’s actually much tastier.  I want to regain the power I once had as a self-sufficient woman.  If you’ve ever been completely dependent upon another person, you probably know how terrifying it is.  I require fruits of my own hands.

Which brings me to NaNo.  I did not set out this year with the idea of publishing.  I didn’t expect to start out at all–I just caved to peer pressure.  So many people I knew were beginning their novels on the first and talking about it within twitter-shot, I was becoming envious.  So I sat down, right on November 1, and just started writing.  I was delighted to see the ideas come, and watch the characters develop voices, but most surprising was the sense that I was doing something useful.  I realized that, if I could finish, if I could edit, if I could sell, there might be something in this besides satisfaction.  Those are a lot of ifs, and I’m trying to take things one day at a time, but the feeling is nice.

I am cautiously optimistic.

3 Responses to On nanowrimo, and fantasies of being a Real Writer

  1. Thank you for writing this. I absolutely resonate with your dilemmas.

    I know how terrifying it is to be completely dependent on another person; my husband has made it possible for me to build my writing career. And slowly it’s becoming a paid profession. I’m a self-published author because I could not face the cruelties of the publishing world. Plus, I wanted to do it my way. I’ve had (almost) complete control over how I’ve promoted and supported my own book and I could not do it over again under the thumb of a publishing house. I’ve made reams of mistakes along the way, but it’s all mine. I own the mistakes as well as the fulfilling parts.

    Best of luck with your NaNoWriMo journey. I truly hope you come out the other end with more self-belief. I know at times NaNo can seem like a huge entity—more important than your individual journey—but don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s really for you. I believe NaNo was created for exactly your situation. And its goal is that you end up with more self-belief. In some ways, that’s even more important than the actual words you write for NaNo. Because there will always be more to write. But without self-belief, it can be hard to even feel like writing it.

  2. Kim Switzer says:

    I have that finishing problem, too! Slowly but surely–and oddly with a lot of help from things I’ve learned doing NaNo for a few years–I’m getting closer to that elusive “The End.”

    I’m putting together something that I think might help some of us with that. It’s going to be an online sort of cheering squad type of group (well, not quite as idiotic as that sounds, really). It’s going to be all about encouraging each other to reach whatever writing goals we set for ourselves, and I’m thinking it will be a month-to-month sort of thing, so each month you can set a new goal based on your own needs, etc. I don’t have the details worked out as I’ve just started scheming about this, but would you want to be kept informed about it when it’s up and running?

  3. Cat says:

    fearofwriting: Thank you so much. It is great to hear from someone who has walked the path I am contemplating!

    Kim: You bet, I’d love to hear about it.

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