If I must fail I will do so in public

Today was the First of Novem­ber, and there­fore the first day of NaNoW­riMo or Nation­al Nov­el Writ­ing Month. The chal­lenge is to write a nov­el of at least 50,000 words entire­ly dur­ing the month of Novem­ber. It’s a some­what ambi­tious under­tak­ing and there­fore tempt­ing not to talk about it until it’s done for fear that I might announce the project and then not fol­low through.

But the flip side of that impulse is that not telling any­one what I’m doing gives me an excuse not to fol­low through. It leaves me with­out account­abil­i­ty. If I fail I can sim­ply pre­tend I nev­er started.

Well, today I wrote 2,137 words of my nov­el. In a project where I need to aver­age 1,667 words per day I’m call­ing that a good start.

It’s an inter­est­ing part of the project. Since I’m writ­ing the sec­ond nov­el of a three-to-five book sto­ry arc before I’ve writ­ten the first nov­el, the begin­ning of the nov­el involves a lot of expo­si­tion, basi­cal­ly lay­ing down some of the back­sto­ry. I’m writ­ing a recap of a sto­ry I haven’t told yet. It’s very fun because I have to have a lot of the details already worked out.

I have writ­ten some of the sto­ry of what I hope will be the first book, but only a few frag­ments. I have a lot out­lined and I have a time­line of events going for­ward and back hun­dreds of years from the events of this sto­ry. Many of the details seem to fill them­selves in.

At the close of this day, I’m observ­ing some­thing fan­tas­tic. Though I have only start­ed, I have fin­ished the day with a sense that I have accom­plished some­thing. This is a sense I haven’t felt in months, per­haps years. What­ev­er I’ve done has been, I don’t know. Per­haps the way to put it is that I haven’t done my own work since I moved out of my stu­dio; cer­tain­ly not since I moved out of San Francisco.

I don’t know what will become of this. There are 29 days to go in Novem­ber and I have no illu­sions that even at 50,000 words it will be fin­ished. I sus­pect that even if I get the whole sto­ry out it will still need a lot of expan­sion and flesh­ing-out. But that’s not what mat­ters. What mat­ters is get­ting the writ­ing done and see­ing if I con­tin­ue to have this sense of accomplishment.

One Reply to “If I must fail I will do so in public”

  1. I think I feel the same way
    I think I feel the same way about los­ing weight. I mean the part about the pub­lic state­ment. Maybe that’s part of why Weight Watch­ers works. I say it with trep­i­da­tion, but it’s time I do the same thing. I’ve been say­ing in my head that I’m going to lose weight and hop­ing that peo­ple will notice and I’ll feel good about hav­ing done it myself. But, as you say, when I fail (and late­ly it’s been when, not if), nobody knows but me and I just feel bad about myself. If I say out­loud that I’m going to lose weight, then the fail­ure (or suc­cess!) will be pub­lic. AND, peo­ple who care about me can be sup­port­ive. If I go back to Weight Watch­ers, even peo­ple who don’t care about me can be sup­port­ive. So, here goes. I’m not hap­py with my weight. I’m going to lose some. (Hmmm, do I have to be spe­cif­ic? Ok, for starters, I’m going to lose 25 pounds. After that, we’ll see. More spe­cif­ic than that? I’m NOT going to lose 25 pounds in Novem­ber! How about I’m going to lose 25 pounds by April 1st.)

    I also want to com­ment more specif­i­cal­ly on your project, though. I’m delight­ed that you’re giv­ing this a try! I’m more delight­ed that you’re feel­ing excit­ed about it and feel­ing that sense of pur­pose. Go get ’em!

    I’m sure you already know this, but it may be an even big­ger chal­lenge to do all that AND do enough of the work that pays the bills to keep on top of both. It won’t be easy, but I’m sure you can do it. Because it sound like you want to, and that’s — ok, not half the bat­tle, but a very good place to start.

    And, final­ly, does this mean I should look for you to vis­it some­time AFTER the end of November?

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