When I was 12, I got into an argument with my brother. See, I had showed him my “book” I was writing. And I said I wanted to be a writer. My brother was an artist, in that he drew, sculpted, and painted. He told me “Don’t be an artist, you don’t want to end up like me.” We argued because I insisted being a writer wasn’t the same as being an artist. To me, it wasn’t.
I see now what he meant, but even so, I still think I am right. It’s not the same. It is, in some ways, you have to be creative, determined, and dedicated. You have to practice and work at it to improve. But at the same time, his art required a dexterity of hand I did not have. My work required finding words fascinating and enjoying finding the right one.
In college I took all the English classes, including the one creative writing class. I wrote a 40 page story for my Humanities semester project. I loved writing stories, often writing down my own little head fantasies. I was in high school before I found out other people didn’t do that – have little plays in their heads.
I went off to Video Game school, determined to learn a skill that could be leveraged into a career. But I never stopped writing.
I never finished writing though. I would write for a few days, then not do it for a month, come back and the story in my head had changed. So I would write and rewrite. I would get distracted by games or tv shows. Work and side projects. There was always something.
A few times, I managed to press forward and get a hundred or so pages on some story, but it would always have flaws that kept me from FINISHING something I was writing.
This was about the time I saw NaNoWriMo for the first time. That was it. That was what I needed. A tight deadline. It needed to be a constant pressure on me to keep.writing. So I tried it for the first time 2009.
Except my job went into crunch and I had barely enough time to sleep much less write. I tried writing on the ferry and commute, but at the end of a long day of work, I was spent. There wasn’t anymore *juice*. I got about 10k words written.
It was weird – how much I felt like a failure. I hadn’t even signed up on the site. There was no one who KNEW I was a failure, but I felt like – that was it. I wasn’t a writer.
The next year, not crunching, in a much better place, I decided to try again. I planned my novel, got all my characters ready. I was good to go. I was unemployed too. PERFECT FOR WRITING. Then I literally got a job, and won a trip to BlizzCon. In November. I ended that one at around 5k words.
Even more of a failure.
The next year I just ignored it. I wasn’t a writer. And I was going to BlizzCon again.
The year after that – I had just had a kid, are you kidding me?
Then in 2013 I thought, okay, surely I can do it this time. I even had a different plan of attack. I would write it in tweets. It would take about 100 tweets a day, but it was so doable. I loved tweeting!
I managed to make about 200 tweets. Wah wahh. BlizzCon again. Man, was that convention a real killer. I would end up 5 days behind without even TRYING.
2014 I had the worst year ever and just completely ignored it.
2015 I decided to write about 2014. Turn my pain into art. I got 2 days in and realized, nope, there wasn’t enough distance yet. Just thinking about it made me sad and depressed. So I killed that one too.
Then it was October this year. I still really wanted to give it a legit go. This year though, I needed to do something different. The planning it out and trying to write it thing wasn’t working for me. So instead of doing one long novel, I would write short stories. But more than that, if I got bored with one I would just BAIL on it. Even if it wasn’t complete. Just keep writing. Write the 50k words and be done with it.
So day one, I started with a writing prompt from pinterest. I had a little plan in my head for what I was going to write this short story for, then get on it.
4 days later, I was still writing on the same story, and it was going places I TOTALLY didn’t expect. A week after that (the 11th) I hadn’t written on it in a week. WELL.CRAP. But I had a free night, and I didn’t feel like playing WoW so I started hammering on it. By the end of the night, I was only a day behind.
That was the moment. Realizing I could write over 10k words in an evening? Oh yeah, I could do it. And even better, it was fun. I felt energized and happy. Like I had accomplished something.
I was more consistent for the rest of the month, writing every few days for long blocks of time. And I finished early. Nov 27th, at 4am, I finished the book and the 50k words. I hadn’t meant to stay up to 4am, it just kind of happened. (Gamers – it was 100% a 1 more turn thing.) And even funnier, I had written one long story. I never moved off the first prompt. It had gotten interesting and I was enjoying watching it unfold. I was entertaining MYSELF by writing.
I had done it. And it was like – my brain went – Oh right, no, I can do this. This is easy. This is fun. And it’s something I like.
I took the next day off writing. But by Monday evening, I was antsy again. I decided that while my first draft was “settling” over December – I would do it again. 50k more words in 30 days. And it doesn’t seem insurmountable. It seems easy. Totally doable.
So here are the things I learned from finally succeeding:
- Sometimes you can over plan.
- It’s more about staying the course of writing every day than writing the right thing.
- Writing the right thing comes in the revision stage. That will take longer.
- Sometimes you have to just write – [Ugh – explain this later] and move on.
- Sometimes you just have to write [And things happened – but they end up here.]
- DO NOT RESEARCH. It will kill your progress.
- Give characters stupid names. It’s fine. Replace them later.
- I write better in long blocks. I will get more done in a 4 hour writing session than 4 1 hour sessions.
- It’s possible to not know the answer to a question a character asks – and as you are writing their response you write out the answer. Without having known it. It’s super weird.
I decided to trust Stephen King and Neil Gaiman and let my work sit for a bit before the first revision. I am actually very excited about going back and rewriting parts and reviewing it. I also found my brain expects me to write. I can do it faster and easier now. Like this whole blog post took 30 min.
Maybe I am a writer after all.