24 November 2013

dr. wordlove: or, how i learned to stop worrying and love my writing

Well, folks, I reckon this is it ... writerly combat toe to toe with the urge to quit. Now look, folks, I ain't much of a hand at making speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is going on right here. 

Writing can make us all a little ... erm ... loopy. Don't worry:
we're all in this wild word war together.
Anybody who's a fan of cinema knows that this is a pretty direct (and poorly done) rewrite of Major Kong's speech from Dr. Strangelove. And you may be wondering why I'm doing it. Well, it's simple ... this month is chop full of writing challenges (writing combat, if you will ... which I will). Some of us are going strong. Some of us are floundering. Some of us have pretty much given up. This post is a pep rally. A last minute, last ditch effort, pulling up the boot straps and charging the hill rally. Because I'm right there with you ... I'm writing there with you.

It might not be going great ... but I'm doing it.

And I got a fair idea of the kinda personal emotions that some of you writers may be thinkin' this month. Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human beings if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelings about writer combat. I want you to remember one thing ... the words in your head are a-countin' on you, and by golly, we ain't about to let 'em down. 

Anyone who's been following either this site or my Facebook page over the past 24 days knows that at the beginning of the month I took on three different writing challenges: NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo, and the November PAD Challenge. Let me tell you, briefly, how those are going:

NaNoWriMo: Behind Enemy Lines
NaBloPoMo: DOA
NovPAD: Missing in Action

Yep, I'm about three days behind in my novel word count. I basically quit NaBloPoMo (though I think I did that for good reason). And my plan for my "poems a day" is to basically sit down between now and the 30th and write poems ... because so far I think I've written one, and I didn't particularly care for it.

Many writers this month are thinking of themselves as failures because they're in a similar--or maybe even more flooded--boat. Maybe you started a novel, then stopped, and haven't picked up a pen since. Maybe you started the PAD challenge and ran out of steam halfway through. Maybe you meant to take on a challenge and didn't, or forgot, or quit before you even got started. Maybe you think you let your words down. I'm here to tell you that you didn't. Every writing victory is a writing victory.

Maybe that sounds circular. And, in a way, it is. But I think many writers think, "If I don't write 50,000 words of my novel in November, I'm a failure." Or, "If I don't write 30 poems, I'm a failure." Or, "If I run out of steam with my blog, I'm a failure." But writing 50,000 words or 30 poems or a blog post every day isn't the only way to be a victorious writer. Did you write 50 words today? That's a victory. Did you think about a poem you've been wanting to write but don't know where to begin? That's a victory. Did you make plans to pick up your blog posts next month, or in the new year? That's a victory, too. Writing is a war filled with many small battles. You win one small victory at a time. Stop trying to win the war in one fell swoop. It can't be done. We're picking our way across a battlefield. So ... pick.

I tell you somethin' else ... If this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important "promotions" and personal "citations" when this month's over with. That goes for every last one of you, regardless of your race, color, creed, or genre. 

Here's a personal citation for you: You're a writer, and you're awesome. Whatever you're working on this month, it's important. Whether you finish or not, you started, and that's important. Whether you write 50,000 or 75,000 or 250 or 10 words this month, that's important, too. You're doing important work. You're winning small battles. You're piecemealing your way to a won war. So you're awesome.

Here's why I stopped NaBloPoMo: It wasn't productive for me. In fact, it was draining, and the more I tried to do it, the more it hurt. After thinking about it, I don't even know why I said I'd do it! Those who have followed this site for a while know that I'm big on not biting off more than you can chew when it comes to your writing, blogging, or website. When it comes to an editorial calendar in particular, I'm as much for writing once a week as I am for writing three or four or seven times a week. I'm for it as long as it works for you. And you know what? I know that writing 7 days a week, and 30 days a month, doesn't work for me. I know I have to have time to think about posts and develop a schedule and work with it and be flexible. I need to be able to postpone a post if I need to. NaBloPoMo is about giving love to your blog, and getting in the habit of writing. But you know what? I've already established that habit. And I do love the Jungle ... but I hate writing a post for it every day. So I stopped. And that, for me, was a victory.

So stop trying to force yourself to be something you're not. If you're a poet who doesn't quite get novels but thought you'd give NaNoWriMo a shot, stop banging your head against the wall if it's not working out! It doesn't make you a horrible person, or a terrible writer ... it might just mean NaNoWriMo isn't for you! If you're a novelist who thought, "I should be writing more poetry," stop tearing your hair out if you can't come up with anything you like! Maybe you're better at noveling than you are at poeming. That's okay! That doesn't make you a horrible person, or a terrible writer ... it might just mean poetry isn't for you!

November is a crazy month for writers. We all bite off a lot, and for some it might be more than we can chew. Guess what? The plate is still there. You can spit it back out and save it for later. (A little gross image-wise, but still ... you can do it.) That doesn't make you a failure, or a horrible person, or a terrible writer ... it makes you human. We're all writing warriors. But sometimes even warriors need to take a rest. So take a rest. Pick it up tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. Or next June. Whatever. Stop beating yourself up. Remember, we're picking our way. Pick. Stop chomping, and chew. Stop running, and learn to crawl. Slow it down. Or put it on the shelf. Pick. Win. One little battle at a time.

Now let's get this thing on the hump ... we got some writin' to do.


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  1. This is particularly helpful and insightful and I love how it translates to other areas in life besides just writing.

    You're awesome, Khara...keep fighting the good battle, (at your own perfect pace).


  2. A dose of Khara wisdom just when I needed it! I "failed" the October memoir challenge this year, after plugging away and finishing it last year (and loving it). Just couldn't get up the steam to do it this time. We have to pick our battles, right?


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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