It’s NaNoWriMo time. That time of year when hundreds of thousands of serious and not-so-serious writers push their inner editors down the basement stairs and sit down to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It can be done; I’ve done it. But it didn’t change my bad habit of not-writing when I should be writing. And when I fell behind, all it did was make me feel like a failure and discourage me from even trying.
I don’t want (not saying “I can’t”) to run a month-long marathon without learning how to walk every other day of the year. Some people can change their bad habits in a month through NaNo and prolifically produce awesome work going forward. I’m not that person, and neither are the majority of people who participate in NaNoWriMo. In the past 10 years of NaNo, an average of only 16% of the participants finished the challenge. I, and they, couldn’t handle the pressure. They didn’t train for the marathon.
A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s not a marathon; it’s not even running. It’s walking a mile or two every day to improve your health, build your stamina, and keep in shape. So when that marathon does come around, if you choose to participate in it, you stand a better chance of going the distance. Many ROWers also participate in NaNo.
I’m joining ROW80 for the first time, in Round 4, the last round in the year. And I’m joining late, 31 days in from the start. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to stress about “catching up” to a required word count to “finish on time.” All I have to do is set my personal, attainable, measurable goals and do what I can and need to do to meet them. The really nice thing is, my goals don’t all have to do with writing.
But that doesn’t mean I get to ignore those goals and do whatever I want. Writing, like exercise, is work. Work that needs to be done every day if I want to improve (and I do). If I want to be a writer, first and foremost, I better put writing first and foremost on my list of Things to Do. Every day.
Marathons can be fun, but they won’t teach you how to walk.
My goals for ROW80, Round 4 are simple:
- Increase my total word count by 500 on my WIP each day, Monday-Friday. As long as the word count goes up by 500, I’m free to fiddle and tweak to my heart’s content. What I will not allow myself to do is cram all 2500 words into a day or two and then slack off for the rest of the week. It’s about habits.
- Get some exercise. Sitting on my butt in front of the computer (or with a notebook) all day is not good for me. I gotta move. It’s not 100 degrees outside any more, so no excuses. This could include pulling weeds, yoga, qi gong, or walking (with or without dog).
- Participate in life with other humans. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and we need life experiences to draw from to make our stories believable. Interaction is necessary, even for introverts like me. Daily participation may take the form of face-to-face interaction, or through social media. It’s all good. But to really participate, I’ve got to get out of the house and into the world, even if it’s just once a week. Visit historical sites, go to the store, walk around downtown. Schedule some away time for sanity’s sake.