Thursday, November 4, 2010

Making Choices

I recently signed up for NaNoWriMo for the second year, determined to reach the goal of 50,000 words by November 30. I knew it would be a challenge.
A holiday month is not a good time for me to try to wrest more writing time from a packed schedule. Last year I tried and failed. Whatever the NaNo pep-talkers say about no failures, I believed I had failed. Writing 30K words was just over halfway to my goal; that’s failing in my book. It’s the equivalent of making 60 on an exam, a result that would have filled me with shame. Every time I’ve thought about NaNo since November 30, 2009, I’ve felt as if a neon sign were flashing over my head, proclaiming me a loser.

But I determined that this year was going to be different. I started really well—1975 words for November 1. The second day was less successful. I wrote only 1000 words, but I reasoned I could make up the 700 or so words I needed to stay on target later in the week. Then yesterday I wrote zilch—not one word, and I have no regrets. Things happened, and I had to make some choices.

First, I was offered the opportunity to write fifteen articles (15,000 words) for an encyclopedia. It’s an interesting project, and it will add to the coffers just in time for finishing my Christmas shopping. The only problem is that the deadline is December 1. Researching and writing will take huge chunks of time and make that NaNo goal even more elusive. Still, I concluded, if I made do with less sleep, I might still make both deadlines. I signed the contract.

Wednesday morning, I had just started working on my library list for the research project when my phone rang. It was my BFF. She said, “We never did get together to cook those ribs, let’s meet at Appleby’s for lunch. Their ribs aren’t as good as mine, but they’re not bad.” I could have said no. I had good reason to suggest we delay lunch until another day. But the BFF and I go way back, all the way back to two four-year-olds looking covetously at the tambourines that were reserved for the elite, the smartest, the best people-pleasers among the five-year-old girls in the kindergarten rhythm band. We were relegated to the lowly rhythm sticks section of the band that year, but we shared our dream of one day playing the tambourine. Lo and behold, the next year we were among the chosen, elated to be shaking and jingling those small, circular drums with all our might. We’ve been sharing dreams and experiences for more than half a century since our tambourine days, long enough for me to know that the lunch invitation was about more than ribs.

Our lunch became a three-hour talk fest. It was definitely a cabbages-and-kings time. You remember the lines from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

We skipped the ships and sealing wax, but we did talk of shoes, cabbages, kings of our hearts, and metaphoric seas and pigs. We also talked about parents, grands, cousins, former classmates, books read since our last lunch, and Christmas parties. Sometimes friends just need a long, leisurely conversation to share news and concerns and hopes. My BFF and I hadn’t had one in three months, and she knew we needed to reconnect.

Today I’m late with this blog, behind with my list of research tomes, and wavering on NaNo because I made a choice yesterday. That choice carried consequences, as all choices do. But I’m convinced that I made the right choice. The blog will get posted, the research list will be completed before I go to the library tomorrow, and I’ll write as much as I can on my NaNo novel tonight. All of these tasks will go more smoothly because I’m happier and more optimistic than I was before I abandoned my to-do list for time with a forever friend. The ribs weren’t bad either.

Are you NaNoing this year? Do you second-guess your choices? Have you ever shirked a responsibility for something others might deem “just fun,” but which you knew was important?


Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

I second-guess constantly. Can't seem to stop. Someone said it's because I'm a perfectionist Libra and keep weighing all the possibilities, but I don't really believe in astrology, LOL.

I've never done Nano. To me, it's an automatic set-up for failure. I'm perfectly happy writing 30,000 words in a month, and usually do so. So---keep taking advantage of what life throws at you. You can always type later. And congrats on the encyclopedia! So exciting!

Janga said...

Thanks, Maggie. I don't know if the encyclopedia is exciting, but I do think any writing keeps the mind and writing skills in shape, and meeting deadlines for all this freelance stuff offers evidence that I can meet them.

Whatever you do clearly is working wonderfully well for you. Is it eleven books in two years? Amazing talent and discipline!