I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, not really. Instead, I’m trying to refocus on writing and remake daily habits around writing. It’s a good thing I’m not doing NaNo, because yesterday I was nibbled to death by ducks.
I actually like ducks. Both in real life, and the end result of my fate yesterday, which did not actually involve feathered friends, or terminal anything. Ducks aren’t as savage as geese, nor as disconcertingly dinosaurian as chickens are. They are, however, very messy. And baby ducks poop, a lot. Like – how the heck did that squishy downy adorable body fit all that inside of it? Baby ducks poop, and eat, and poop more. Also, they play in their water, which is their nature, but you can imagine the mess it makes of their brooder. Anyway… I really am going somewhere with this, and it’s not just a nostalgic look back at the barn yard.
I spent my day yesterday cleaning. The house needed it – it’s been well over a month since I had the time, last, and the girls are now in college full time plus working part time, and the First Reader is working and my Little Man… well, he had been trying to help. The upshot is that the kitchen was in a death spiral, and a burgeoning plague of fruit flies was just about to hatch (cut that one off at the knees, thank goodness) and there were, I think, no clean dishes. I put my earbuds in, a podcast on to play, and set to work on it. Some hours later – well, to be fair, there were interruptions. I’ll spare you the details. By early evening, the kitchen was clean, and I was enjoying it by cooking dinner and baking. After a month of inky art, last night it was edible art. Complete with happy little mistakes.
So why is it that I can do Inktober, but not commit to NaNo? Well, first of all it’s because I don’t hold myself to a high standard with Inktober. If all I can manage on a given day is a doodle, that’s all I do. With NaNo, if I can only manage a few words, or a rereading to get back in the story, or some editing… I feel like I failed. That leads to me feeling guilty, and that leads to my muse locking up, and that leads to no words at all. There’s nothing wrong with NaNo, it’s all in my head. Which is why I’m not Doing It, even though I am sort of doing it. I personally can’t handle the commitment of that many words every day. Days like yesterday, where I fell into bed with a sense of achievement for the cleaning and baking and my belly full of food, are worthy even when there are no words committed to paper. They refill the writing well for the days I can sit here with my fingers flying over the keyboard.
The other thing that helps me? Succeeding at something. Even just a small thing. I’m not talking about the kitchen, here, although I do have a warm fuzzy when I turn away from my keyboard and see it. No, I’m talking about the Halloween release date of the novella. I made it. I made a deadline! And I didn’t cut corners on the story to do it – I wasn’t willing to do that, I’d rather break my promise on release date than water down the tale. But I set my mind to what had to be done, chose a reasonable deadline, and I crossed the line with twelve hours to spare. That got me feeling like I could do this, again. I’d been doubting myself. The ducks had been gathered around like buzzards, or maybe they really were buzzards for my writing life. But finishing Lab Gremlins gave me hope. I don’t expect it to make money – it’s a novella. It’s an awkward length. Too short to be a novel, more than twice the length of a short story, it will still be dismissed as ‘short’ and some people won’t read short. Nor will they pay for it, but that’s a different post.
Life may be nibbling at me constantly, but I can find the time to sit down every day and write something. Anything. Whatever it is, to keep my fingers moving and my hopes up. Because the muse is fueled by hope. And sometimes by Chocolate Cherry Almond Cake and Deathwish Coffee.
And if you’d like to read my (finally!) finished novella, you can find it at Amazon. Lab Gremlins is a not-very-scary Halloween story, because it’s not about Halloween. It is about men, monsters, and mistakes that turn out… well, you’ll have to read it!
(Header Image: ‘Writer’s Fuel’ by Cedar Sanderson)