So how did I do with the remainder of NaNoWriMo? (The title may have given it away). Not well, to put it delicately. In fact it was my least productive month of writing for the entire year. I had goals, targets, plots, characters, I had four stories I wanted to write and I wrote absolutely none of them. I think in total I put down roughly 300 or so words for the month. That’s abysmal. Now I could spout of a list of excuses, I was busy, I was on holidays, assignments were due, work got hectic, but it doesn’t matter what I say it won’t change the fact that I failed. And do you know what, I don’t particularly like failing.
Anything I would say would be an attempt to absolve myself of the responsibility and that’s not helpful. While I might not like it, failing is a part of life. If you expect to always win, always complete your goals, achieve everything you set your thoughts too then you are going to be disappointed. If you’re reading this and thinking well I’ve never failed at something I call bullshit.
Our society seems to want to treat failure as an all-consuming negative. People don’t want to identify with a failure. It’s swept into the corner and ignored, not talked about. Children are given participation medals, they don’t score their sporting matches saying that they’re just for fun, and there are no winners and losers.
But failing/losing can teach you things. It can teach you what you did not do well, what can be improved, what you can work on. In life you are going to fail, it might be a small failure, it might be big failure but I can guarantee it is going to happen.
I will let you in on a secret though. It is perhaps the most important thing that I have ever learned in my life. It is something that my failures have taught me and trust me there have been a lot of them. I won’t go through the entire list but let’s just highlight a few. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo four times and not once completed it. I have three half-finished novels, not counting the one I’m currently working on. I was kicked out of university twice. My wife refused to go on a second date with me.
So what’s the secret? It’s really very simple. No matter how many times or how badly you fail, what really matters is what you do afterwards. Just to clarify by afterwards I don’t mean immediately after you fail, I mean in the future. Will you learn and grow from you losses and failures? Will you let them teach you? Or will you sweep them into a corner, ignore them and pretend that they never happened.
I might have never completed NaNo but it is not going to stop me trying again next year, I’ve already identified a few ways to improve my chances and things to work on (More detailed chapter summaries and less obsessing over each line). I might have been kicked out of University twice; it might have taken five years to decide to re-enrol, but I’m studying again and this time I’m actually enjoying it and doing well. My wife might have refused to go on that second date with me but hey she is my wife. I might have a growing collection of half-finished novels but I’m not going to let that stop me writing, each of those stories taught me something and one day I’ll get back to them.
So what did my failure last month teach me? Well firstly I need to have a better plan in place, between work, study, family and everything else going on I need to allocate some time for writing, at least once a week or even better once a day. If I want to be serious about this there is not point setting goals and targets if I don’t give myself a chance of completing them. I need to be better prepared; my NiP is drifting a little at the moment. I know where I’m going but the details of how I’m getting there are being discovered in the process of writing, that’s slowing me down. It might be time to go back to the planning stage and flesh out a few of the coming chapters, I’ve had too many additional characters appear along the way, I need to sort things out. There has been way too much staring at the screen and thinking what happens next. I’ve also got to celebrate the little things, for instance in this post I’ve already doubled last month’s word count, go me!
Alright with this in mind here are my goals and targets until the New Year.
- Finish Chapter 10
- Start plotting in detail the next 5 chapters (or however many will get me to the next major plot point)
- Write for at least 1 hour on 4 days of each week
- Accept that I might fail at my goals but try and learn something from them and do better next time
Obligatory dog photo