Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ghosts of NaNo's Past

Word Count -0

By this time tomorrow, hopefully I'll have something to replace the zero above! It's so exciting, knowing that I am t-minus thirteen hours and forty-five minutes from blast off for yet another amazing NaNoWriMo!

Its natural I suppose to look back on NaNo's past, to compare the goals of other years to the goals you've set for the coming challenge. A month ago if asked, I would have told you that my goal was to be at 50k on day ten - a lofty goal, yet not impossible.

It all goes back to my first NaNoWriMo, 2008. I heard about the challenge from the daughter of a friend of mine and I immediately signed up. I had two projects in mind, one a murder mystery, the other a story about two brothers and their childhood best friend, called The Twins and Lannie Jo. The second won out.

 That Halloween we went to see a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and so it was with rice stuck on various parts of my body and toilet paper stuck on the bottom of my shoe, I sat down to pound out my first NaNo words ever. I made it almost two weeks in, and then disaster struck. My old beaten up Compaq died, taking with it my 15k words and my dreams for winning NaNoWriMo that year.

In the end, it turned out to be a good thing. I never forgot my disappointment, I kept a countdown going all year - 11 months to November, 10 months, 9 months---all the way down to 1 month until at last, November was days away. I had the cliched fire in my guts. Not only was I going to win NaNoWriMo, but I was going to do it impressively. I was going to beat it at it's own game. I didn't have the heart to attempt my project from the year before again, so I went with my back up from the year before. A murder mystery of a crooked child protection worker called To Protect and Serve.

I was like a mad woman. I lived on my computer - a brand spanking new Dell with a shining 22 inch flat widescreen monitor. I woke up in the morning, I took care of my humanly needs, then I pounded away. My daughter ate frozen pizza - I ate chocolate. My daughter watched T.V. I typed. My daughter came in and asked if I remembered she existed -  "Who are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?" I asked in reply

I had set backs, at 49k, during a Sunday marathon to get my green bar by midnight, my computer forced an update shutdown, and I lost over 5k words. I screamed, literally screamed. I cried, I had a temper tantrum, I cussed at my computer. Our landlady called and threatened to evict us if I didn't knock it off.

The next day, in the middle of the night, I reached 50,000 words on day 15.  I don't remember my final word count that year, it didn't matter - I had climbed mount NaNoWriMo, and the view from the top was fricken AWESOME!

The euphoria lasted about twenty-four hours, then I realized that there was still 14 days left to go. My project was actually finished and I didn't have the strength or the ambition to attempt another one. NaNo let down. I spent the rest of November haunting the forums and counting down to NaNoWriMo 2010.

11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2...ONE!

Finally! November was here again! But I had already used my two story ideas. I had nothing original in mind, nadda, zip, ziltch. the big ZERO. The only thing I had was a fanfiction - a one shot that I wanted to turn into a full-fledged chapter length for the upcoming holiday season. So, despite the fact that it felt like cheating, I went with it.

Now there is nothing wrong with having a goal, and there is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. But when someone annoys you in the forum and you end up hell bent on, not just finishing before them, but  determined to finish before they have 10k posted - it just isn't good. Which is where I was sitting this time last year. And so, I set the goal. I would improve on my 09 ending date by two days. November 13th.  By November 5th, I was living on chocolate and French Vanilla Cappuchino, my daughter was back to eating TV dinners and - knowing what was coming, not bothering to speak to me, in short, I was on track to meet my goal. Once again, I lost words - 6k this time, but I had learned by my mistakes. I had everything backed up and was able to recall all but 1k of them. And at 4 a.m. on November 12th, I had typed my 50k - and my nemesis was only at 3k.  Oh how I enjoyed the mental gloating. The psychological peacock strut - all of which, she couldn't even see.

I spent the rest of that November regretting it. I realized in my need for speed, I had lost out on the fun, the heart of the challenge. NaNoWriMo isn't about who finishes first, it is about finishing.

And so I sit now, the ghosts of NaNoWriMo past haunting me. Pride, regret, challenges and goals, all asking me - what are we going to do this year?

I keep telling them, slow and steady wins the race. This year, the only person I am competing with is myself. I am not competing against a past NaNo, I am not competing against another participant, I am competing against myself. My arrogance, my procrastination, my drive for perfection.

Will I win? Not sure. I think I will - I hope I will. But if I don't, I think I'll be okay with it. My goal for NaNo a month ago was to finish by the 10th - now, my goal is to have fun. To cherish every minute of the Nuttiness that is NaNoWriMo. The forum, the other participants, the right to overindulge on cappachino and chocolate without guilt, NaNo Chat on Skype and my circle on Google+.... and the words. So many, many lovely words.

With any luck, 50k of them.

So to my fellow participants, and all ours ghosts while we stand here at the starting line I say to you

 Ready, set....


End Notes: If you would like to join in the Skype NaNo (text) chat, we would love to have you!  Add me, Cjcirca12171965, and you will be added to the NaNo group

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