November was my second annual November Slowdown (a.k.a. Slowvember), and I have to confess I wasn’t nearly as faithful to my goal of slowing down this year as last.
This was due almost exclusively to my participation in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month), a worldwide, annual movement in which writers around the globe commit to penning 50,000 words for their works-in-progress.
I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010, and ended up writing a complete first draft of a mystery novel. It was some of the worst writing of my life, but accomplishing a complete draft (in the roughest sense of the word) in a few weeks’ time was incredibly rewarding. Since my current novel has been dragging on for years, I thought NaNo might be the kick I needed to finally close out the first draft and start on revisions in 2016.
I should have known, given how reasonable my plan sounded, that it would be in shambles by Day 3.
By the end of the first week I’d cut one main character out completely, discovered hidden treasure in minor characters who were supposed to be expendable, and lost all motivation to follow plot lines I’d been assuming were essential to the story.
In other words, NaNoWriMo killed my book.
Thankfully, it also helped me put it back together. Twenty-nine consecutive days of intensive focus can take you far. By November 29, the day I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line with 50,006 words, I’d rebuilt my main character, fallen in love with a major plot revision, and come to understand how very far I have yet to go before this book is ready for anyone’s eyes but my own.
There are many drafts yet to come, but I can now say I’ve scratched out, for the first time, the final words of the final sentence of the final chapter of this book that’s been consuming my mind and heart for half a decade. And the fact that I cried while doing so gives me hope there’s power in it somewhere.
If I can just figure out how to let it loose.
What does any of this have to do with rest? Or Slowvember? Let it be a lesson that sometimes life hijacks our plans, and that’s okay. In a way, working on my novel was life-giving despite its intensity, which is a good reminder than sometimes what we need isn’t leisure time or an empty schedule, but more of something that makes us feel more truly ourselves.