I am a writer. I’m not a fast writer, but I am a good writer. This is a fact that I’ve held on to my entire life, despite the fact that it doesn’t match up with my current reality at all. For Camp NaNo, I couldn’t ‘fast write’ at all so I aimed for a lower word count of 30k words and very sporadic writing sessions.
Consistency wasn’t really the learning lesson this year but given the reality of work and the general madness of life, I was happy with the progress I made regardless.
This year, I kept a much healthier attitude about Camp NaNo—I knew myself better, and I decided to pay attention to what worked for me instead of worrying about the arbitrary number that would be tallied up at the end of the month. This year, I didn’t target my usual 50K word count by the end of Camp for July, but that’s okay!
Writing a little, even if just ten words, is better than not trying at all.
A winning and powerful start
I was not a good planner for my Camp NaNo novel this time around. Not in terms of the plot — I had all the characters, arcs and everything else planned out in advance. But in terms of committing a time and word count goal per day, I flopped. Majorly.
However, I did start off with a HUGE win. On July 1st, I wrote 455 words which isn’t much but the weekend was around the corner and I was confident I’d make up for it then.
Make it up, I did.
You know how you hear people say “something possessed them” or “they couldn’t stop themselves”? That’s how it felt for me when I started writing on July 2nd. And then again on July 3rd: something possessed me and I couldn’t stop myself from writing. The words flew onto the page in a way that they hadn’t before. I was writing without thinking, without getting caught up in the fine print, without worrying about whether the story was any good or not. I just kept writing because it felt right to do so. It was like my fingers were on autopilot, typing out words that had been locked away in my head for months now. And it felt GOOD!
On July 2nd, I wrote out 7k words and another 5k words on the 3rd.
In a matter of 2 days, I’d finished 40% of my word count target. That win was great, but when do you imagine the next fiery writing-fuelled session came next?
The very end of July
There was a whole 10 days from July 17 to July 27 where my writing ‘flat-lined’. I didn’t write a single word. I felt like crap about it too. I’d made a promise to myself that I would write every day, and yet here I was, at the end of July, having failed miserably at keeping that promise.
I didn’t let it get to me much this time though because as much as July IS Camp NaNo, it is practice. It’s meant to be flexible. I told myself, however, I wouldn’t fail the 30k target no matter what.
And that’s how I ended up in another adrenaline-filled writing session on July 28 and then one last one on July 31st.
On July 28, I tackled another 5k words and July 31st, I spent my entire evening with the eye on target.
The winning night for Camp NaNo was amazing. I finished a half hour ahead of the deadline and then celebrated with some hot chocolate and virtual hangouts with my closest friends.
Low key? Perhaps. But the happiness was very high key.
What this year’s Camp NaNo taught me
I always find it a little hard to get back into the swing of writing after taking a break, and camp NaNo was no different. This means that I’ve been trying to get the first few days of my project done, but I made sacrifices on the single-day word count goals in order to spend more time on the overall plot.
I keep in mind that I’m not trying to win a race; I don’t need to be the best and fastest writer in the world. I just want to complete a novel, and that takes time, so it’s okay if I go slow.
I hear a lot of people say things like, “If I could just write for X number of hours everyday, I know I’d get somewhere.” But it’s not about the amount of time you spend writing. It’s about the quality of time you spend writing.
I think sometimes we feel pressure to be done with a book before we’ve even started writing it because we feel like if it doesn’t happen quickly, it’ll never happen at all.
I know I’ve felt that way in the past, but this year I realize how wrong I was. The first day of camp is always filled with excitement and new experiences—and that’s true for every day at camp too. It’s been my experience that as soon as I sit down to write after a few days off or as soon as I get back home from camp, my mind is flooded with ideas and inspiration again. I’m ready to go back to work.
I try not to be hard on myself about my progress so far; I’m happy with it for now and I know I’ll be able to pick up the pace soon. In the meantime, I can still be proud of myself for being productive even if I didn’t meet my goals—and also find ways to have fun even though I’m not writing as much as usual!
What comes next?
My book is coming along nicely, and I feel good about where it’s going. It’s not necessarily finished yet (though it’s much closer than last year), but it’s definitely progressing in a way that makes me feel confident about my ability to push through this story and finish it over the next month or two.
I had a lot of hardcore writing goals at the beginning of this year, one of them being to write 4 novels by the end of it. As the year went on, I didn’t make as much progress as I hoped and that upset me quite a bit initially. But Camp NaNo was a reminder this year that creative life isn’t and shouldn’t be a race.
I’m perfectly happy to look back on the year and see this experience of Camp NaNo as a highlight. It’s shown me that quality matters, not quantity.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t set goals or make plans. But I think the most important thing is to find what works for you. If it means writing a novel in a month and then editing it over the next two months, so be it. If it means writing every day with no regard for how many words you produce each day, then go for it! Just don’t let yourself get stuck comparing yourself to others or being too hard on yourself.
Even if you’re slow at something you want to do, keep working on it throughout the year and you’ll see results at the end that you didn’t even imagine at the start.
Don’t give up on your goals and dreams. Even if it takes you longer than you thought, just keep working on them.