On Writing And Priorities

November is one of my favorite months, and not just because of the holiday season. It’s one of my favorites because of National Novel Writing Month. Every year, writers band together and participate in a month long challenge in November to write 50,000 words of a novel, equating to 1667 words a day. The energy around NaNoWriMo is fun and infectious and unifying, and I love participating in it. 

I won (completed 50K+ words) in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, I ended a few thousand words shy of the goal when my family was in a car accident coming home from Thanksgiving, so I went ahead and gave myself a pass there. Winning NaNo this year seemed promising at first…until I realized it conflicted with a deadline to get a workable draft of my companion novel completed to my editor. (My publisher was acquired by another, larger house in October, and there was a span of about 10 days where everything was sufficiently hectic and uncertain that I let myself take a break from finishing that novel to think about a project just for fun—my NaNo project—otherwise, I wouldn’t have planned on NaNo at all this year).

Here’s the thing: I hate committing to something and not completing it. It makes me feel itchy all over. I want to be someone who can do everything: meet deadlines while simultaneously writing a new book and being active on social media and being a kick@ss wife and mom and friend with a clean house and dinner on the…okay, that last part is a lie. I hate cooking. I am why Costco’s frozen section was invented. But I digress.

This month, I’ve been reminded that, not only is it not possible to do it all, but the quest is causing me to mix up my priorities. Four years from now, when my youngest starts kindergarten and I find myself with six-ish uninterrupted writing hours every day, I want to look back on this time with no regrets. I want to have put first things first and to have used my time in meaningful, memorable ways.

In four years, when both my cuties are in school, I want to be able to say:

-I’m so glad I’ve been an involved, loving wife and mom while they were home.
-I’m so glad that I was able to write two (or three or maybe even four!) more books during quiet time and after bed time.
-I’m so glad I've maintained close friendships.
-I'm so glad I could go to my writing retreats/conferences and get the occasional babysitter to write.
-I’m so glad I’ve made such great writing friends and read so many brilliant books by them.

In order to say the above, here are some things I won’t be able to say:

-I’m so glad I spent so much time on Twitter/FB/IG/etc.
-I'm so glad I watched all those TV shows
-I’m so glad I made gourmet dinners every night.
-I’m so glad the grout in my bathroom is so clean I could eat my nightly gourmet dinner off of it.
-I'm so glad my kids watched so many extra movies so I could write.
-I’m so glad I won NaNo in 2016.

So, why am I writing this? Because I’m an external processor and this is helping me feel better about abandoning my NaNo goal. Not the project! Just the goal. I’m writing it still, and I’m excited about it. But I’m 35,000 words behind with 10 days to go, and although I could get babysitters all week long and put a couple of extra movies on every day for my kids to meet the goal, it’s on my “things I won’t say four years from now when my youngest starts kindergarten” list*. With complete certainty, I know that in four years, I'll be just as happy that I finished this book in January as I will have been if I finished it in November. So, NaNo, I love you. But you gotta go. Here’s to next year.

For those doing NaNo, write all the words. For those who've found it isn't in their plans this year, that's cool, too. Your time is precious, and writing is a worthy, wonderful way to spend it. Writers of the world, I salute you. 

*Please know that this post is entirely self-focused and not even remotely a commentary on NaNoWriMo, which I dearly love, or the priorities of writers (it's like any other job--writing has to be a priority). Similarly, this is not a commentary on how many movies one lets one’s children watch when on deadline or when writing, in general (I sneak in extra writing/editing time daily during their TV time...usually instead of cooking). Nor is it meant to open up a discussion of the merits of cooking dinners in lieu of frequenting Costco's frozen aisle. It isn't. Let me have my dino-nuggets and you have your homemade chicken parmesan. Deal?




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