A Journey of Self Discovery, Pt. 2: Learning the Ropes

In my previous post, I talked about how a trip to the circus opened my eyes to new opportunities (clowning) and how clowning has helped bring me to writing.

About a year after I graduated clown school, my life was a bit stagnant. Too busy with school to do any clowning gigs, I would find myself knitting or reading in what little spare time I had.

But in October of 2009, I discovered NaNoWriMo.

I can’t recall how I found out about National Novel Writing Month — a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days that occurs every November — but I do know that something niggled at me to try it. I wrestled with questions of doubt for a few weeks. “Should I do it?” “Can I really write a novel?” “I’ve never tried something this big before.” “When will I find the time?” “I don’t even have any ideas.”

In the end, however, I signed up.

In the end, it was clowning that pushed me into signing up.

I’d never though of clowning before, but I tried it. Though I never mastered the art of juggling, I found I was decent at balloon animals and pretty good at face painting. And though I didn’t find the passion in clowning that Super Steve did, I did find the confidence to try new and different things.

After weeks of doubt, I finally said to myself, “Just try it. The worse that happens is you don’t finish. If you don’t finish, you find something else to try.”

Though I didn’t attend any of the regional events (write-ins, get together, parties), I connected with a lot of writers in the area through the NaNo forums and through Twitter. And by the end of November, I had lots of new friends and 56,000 words written in what is probably the poorest excuse for a YA fantasy.

Yea, it’s bad.

And even though that novel is abysmal, it’s still a novel. Granted, if I ever decide to revisit that novel it’ll need a lot of work, but the point is that I tried something and saw it until the end.

In the end, I learned that I really do have a strong passion for writing and so what if my first attempt at writing a novel was a train wreck? All that meant was that I had a lot to learn about the craft.

I didn’t just decide to try clowning and know how to face paint or twist balloons, I went to clown school and I learned those skills. Each time I use those skills I learn just a little more.

The same goes for my writing.  I didn’t finish my first NaNo with a masterpiece; I have to learn the skills to write and revise the things that I write. Post my first NaNo, I began meeting weekly with a great group of writers who constantly teach me so much. They’re inspiring and all around awesome.

This past year, I completed my second NaNo novel, a contemporary romance very loosely based on real-life events. I learned a lot about my writing habits — I can’t write in large groups that are prone to get too social. I can’t outline to save my life. OneNote is awesome. NaNo is fun, but I don’t need it to finish a novel.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved NaNo. The insanity is exciting in it’s own special kind of way, but I don’t need the excuse of NaNo to write. I can write outside of NaNo, and I do. For me, NaNo was a reason to try writing. I tried it. I found I really loved it. This past year I think I kind of outgrew NaNo, and I’m unsure of whether I’ll continue doing it every November.

Somewhere between NaNo 09 and NaNo 10, I realized that I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t want to just talk about being a writer. I want to write all the time, not just in November. NaNo is a very social thing, if you attend all the events. While I loved attending them, I didn’t get as much writing done at them as I did on my own.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that I was taking my writing a lot more seriously this time around. My novel, “Mouse Games“, is something I can see being published — provided I can ever finish revising it (something I am still learning how to do).

Some people dislike NaNoWriMo, and while I’m unsure if I will continue it for a third year, it’ll definitely hold a special place in my heart. What are your thoughts on NaNo? Love it or hate it?

5 responses

  1. Great Post!

    I think that is an important thing to note: the more we do things, the better we get at them. In the technical world, I am constantly having to learn new things and use them daily so I get to where they are 2nd nature. Yet, always be open to learning new techniques and ways of doing things–as the industry changes!

    You are doing great 🙂

    February 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

  2. Hive mind! I too am unsure whether I’m goin to participate in NaNoWriMo’11. I’ve gone through it three times; each a different experience which have taught me many things about myself, my habbits, and my style. I don’t want NaNo to work against me by waiting once a year to write.

    The part of me that’s the lazy procrastinator is starting to have a flame war with my responsible side when it comes to establishing good writing habbits. I don’t want the procrastinator to win out and rule for eleven months only to marathon a 50K+ word novel which leaves me mentally and physically exhausted.

    February 21, 2011 at 10:07 am

  3. I think I am going to do NaNo again next year, but I won’t be going at it full force like this past year. I’ll be sticking with the 50k that is the original goal of NaNo. i think I’ll try to be a little more social and have some fun, and maybe help out some of the first timers instead of sticking my head in the sand just to accomplish the goal.

    February 21, 2011 at 10:18 am

  4. Cid

    I’m with Suzan. I’m going to do NaNo this year, but my focus will be much more laid back and on the social and organizing things. NaNo has it’s place, and that is to help motivate people to do something new, bigger and greater than they have before, and I like being part of the ML crew that encourages others to do and be more. I don’t need NaNo, but I like it enough to do it again, and probably again. 😀

    February 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

  5. Nano taught me that I can write a novel. A shitty novel, but dammit I wrote 50,ooo words in a month. I know that I can write more, if I organize my time better and I will. I like NaNo and I’ll most likely continue participating because Word Wars? are probably the reason why I finished.

    February 21, 2011 at 11:11 am

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