I hit a bit of a rough patch in my NaNo progress towards the end of last week and the gloom hung over me for a lot of the weekend as well. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been meeting my daily word targets (although I had a couple of tough days where I got less than 1600 done) so much as it was the headspace around the writing. Generally, when I actually sat down in front of the laptop, I could type away quite happily but whenever I stepped away from the computer, I was left feeling unsatisfied and a bit guilty. I was ending my writing time on a downer. I felt like what I had written was rubbish and, on top of that, that I should have written more. Meeting the daily word target or even exceeding it by a few hundred still felt a bit like a failure.
This feeling started to compound itself by the fact that I just wasn’t looking forward to my writing time each day anymore. Whilst I normally anticipate the time when I’ll get a chance to get some writing done with eager excitement, I was starting to feel down on myself and uninspired.
Then I realised. I had done this to myself. It wasn’t the fact that I had to write every day. I’ve been doing that for the last couple of years any way. It wasn’t that the word targets were unreasonably difficult to produce in the time I had (well, not for the majority of days).
The problem was that I had made writing a virtue in my mind. I had made it something I had to do, and to an extent, that was killing the fun for me.
I suspect this has little to do with NaNo and everything to do with my personality.
Once something is made virtuous, it loses its appeal for me. The same is true of healthy eating. I’m quite happy to eat a predominantly healthy diet, and I like fruit, vegetables, salads and various fresh healthy foods. However, if I go on a ‘diet’ then all of a sudden those foods become boring and unappealing, and within a couple of days, I go on a cupcake rampage or end up scoffing an entire packet of Tim Tams.
I am at heart a contrary and naughty child. The minute a thing becomes something I should be doing, it becomes something I desperately don’t want to do.
As part of my everyday life, I enjoyed writing because it felt like a treat; an act of imaginative self-indulgence where I could completely forget the mundane realities of everyday existence for a couple of hours and do something that was fun, and rather selfishly, just for my enjoyment. I could have stacks of unfolded laundry towering around me, a house that needed to be vacuumed and dirty dishes piling up while the dishwasher remained unloaded but I would never have a problem sneaking off to get the laptop the second my son fell asleep to start writing. Housework, I would tell myself, could wait. I had a fun and important story to write!
Writing was like going to a fairground filled with magic, excitement and wonder. Housework was the homework I had waiting at home that I could blissfully put out of my mind for a couple of hours of fun.
I was starting lose my enthusiasm for writing because I had changed it into the imaginative equivalent of doing the washing or eating bran for breakfast every day for a month.
So today I decided I needed to bring the naughty back to my writing. My son and I wagged playgroup this morning. I made him a snack and put on his Winnie the Pooh DVD and dragged my laptop down to the lounge. Sure, it’s not going to win me any Mother-of-the-year awards but it worked well as a change in routine. He danced and bounced around in front of the TV and I zoned out the noise*, and typed 1200 words before Rabbit had even started castigating Tigger for being ‘excessively bouncy’.
I felt refreshment and rejuvenated after that and was so inspired that I broke another NaNo rule and went back and re-read what I had written (and may have also tidied up a sentence or two along the way). To my surprise, I actually liked it. It wasn’t the atrocious pile of worthless garbage I had thought it was. First draft maybe, waste of time, definitely not.
The neat spin-off of getting my writing groove back was that I then felt more energetic about everything else. I took my toddler out to the playground and pushed him on the swing until my arms were about to drop off, made him a series of miniature skyscrapers out of blocks that he could knock over like a rampaging Godzilla, heck, I even unloaded the dishwasher and did the supermarket shopping.
Then during his nap, I had another bout of productive, and more importantly, very enjoyable writing.
So I guess I can enjoy being good and virtuous; I just have to break the rules and be a bit naughty first.
* Normally, I can’t block out background sounds at all but I guess I’ve seen that DVD enough times that it’s just white noise to me now.
18225 / 50000 words. 36% done!