Anyone else feeling overrun with decisions that need to be made lately? What’s the perfect holiday gift? Do we invite the family to stay with us, or travel to them? It’s not just the holidays, though they seem to make it all a bit more anxiety-inducing. Personally, I’ve been staring down my mental decision trees for so long now, all I see is brambles. For example, with five days of NaNoWriMo remaining, I was noodling through the following: tether myself to my computer, coming up only for life-sustaining necessities, in order to churn out approximately 5,0000 words per day to make the 50K finish line; OR be (relatively) normal, but fail to qualify as a “winner” this year.
For some of you, this isn’t much of a conundrum. For me at the time, the decision wasn’t straight forward. In retrospect, it felt like a microcosmic reflection of a number of decisions that have been tripping through my mind lately, and which, like the cosmos itself, are expanding ever outward in scope and importance. Should Julie and I continue feeding energy into this blog or use that time and effort for other writing goals? Should my family stay the course on limiting screen time for the kiddo, or use the electronic babysitter to create more time for my husband and I to get work done? Do we continue here in New York or once again go adventuring? Etc., etc. And I always wonder, even when the issues appear entirely disparate, how will any one of these decisions impact the others?
Back to NaNo and my pie-in-the-sky goals, the last five days of November this year included Thanksgiving, complete with family commitments (and actual pie), not to mention a host of other seasonal temptations. Perhaps these facts are enough to drive you firmly in a certain direction. For me, though, the pull between “winning” and “family” is stronger than I should probably admit. Even though I do really believe that every word written is in itself a win, the decision to give up going for the gold was still tough.
What pushed me over the tipping point, however, wasn’t family, nor missing out on Black Friday (which turned out to be one of my higher word count days), but the needs of my story. Sure, I could have rushed it. It wouldn’t have been the first time (hello, NaNo manuscripts from 2014-2017). While I still believe there is a certain dark logic in the adage, ‘don’t get it right, get it written,’ admittedly, it can make the revision process not just longer, but hairier . It’s one thing to realize you have a plot hole or two, or a character that isn’t fully developed, or an internal inconsistency – it’s another thing all together to realize you’re staring down all this AND MORE as you start your revisions. So, in the end, I decided discretion was the better part of valor this time and I’d let my story continue to spin out at its own pace. Which is to say, I’m hoping to be done with the draft before Christmas, but I’m willing to give it the time that it needs, even if that means I’m still plugging away at the first draft into 2020.
And you know what? I felt better the moment I made that decision. I won’t claim that angels started singing, or I was suddenly bathed in ethereal light, but there was a certain calm that settled over my heart. That feels like a win right there.
So the moral of the story is that I should just hurry up and make decisions about the rest of these issues that have been plaguing me, right?
Weeeeeelllllll. Maybe. It’s tempting. As tempting as putting my head down and bullying my way through to 50K words by midnight on November 30th. There’s a certain sense of relief lying just out of my grasp; I can reach it if I streeeetch and strive and force the issues.
But I think the real lesson here is to allow the process the time it needs for the picture to develop. Maybe the decision point is not necessarily a static location we can reach whenever we decide to decide. Maybe getting to the decision point is a journey, and the only way we’ll arrive at the best decision is if we allow time along the way to take in (or create) the scenery, give the plot a chance to develop, and then craft the ending that is right for our story.
While I think there is a lot of value to NaNo and the defined time limit, I agree that forcing a story in order to win NaNo – instead of letting it develop at its own pace – might just mean more words on the cutting room floor come December. And for the record, I would really like it if just once the angels starting singing and I was bathed in ethereal light after making a tough decision. Thanks for your honesty and the peek into your NaNo experience, Thea. Every word is a win!