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If you aim at nothing

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
~ Zig Ziglar

Aims.I didn’t win NaNoWriMo (again) this year.

I’m okay with that.

The first two years I participated in National Novel Writing Month—2010 and 2011—I won. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but I managed it.

The last two times I attempted NaNo were a different story. In both cases, I was in the middle of editing another manuscript while trying to work on my 50K. It was probably unrealistic of me to expect that I even had a chance when I wasn’t going to be able to devote myself more fully to writing. So why bother?

Because it’s not really about the 50K for me, it’s about the push.

Sure, I didn’t make my goal, but I still wrote 37,735 words! I accomplished that even though I only wrote on 20 of the available 30 days, which gives me an average of about 1887 words per day. For me, that's a really good average. If I’d done that every day, I would have hit 50K three days ahead of schedule.

The main thing is that I now have almost 38,000 words that I didn’t have on November first.

Score! If I got nothing else out of NaNo, that would be plenty. But I always get more out of it.

Michael-Jordan-Picture-QuoteI’ve reminded myself that I can keep writing even when I think I can’t. Those times when I thought I didn’t have any words left, but I still needed to squeeze out 200 more (or ten more minutes), I somehow found a way to keep writing. Several times I got on a roll and kept going for significantly longer.

In fact, some of my best work came after I pushed through a block.

My most productive day was 4.5 hours of writing that yielded almost 3200 words. It’s easy to forget that I have the ability to tune everything else out and do that, then repeat the feat again the next day. It’s a capability I have to keep in mind if I’m going to be as prolific as I’d like.

Participating in NaNo is the annual adjustment I need to remember what’s really important (the writing), and how to make sure I get it done (turn off and tune out distractions, keep putting my rear in the chair until I’ve met my daily goal, push through the hard times, write even when I don’t think I have nothing to say).

The more I write, the more the ideas flow. Somehow I always forget that. I tend to get stuck in a story and want to dwell on the fix for days by brainstorming, making outlines, reading other people’s books… 😉 But if I just sit and write—maybe even another scene or just random notes and ideas—the solution comes. Every time.

The few minutes after I awake each day are more productive than ever when I’m writing consistently. They produce very few ideas when I’m in “brainstorming mode.”

So for me, it’s not about the 50K so much as the rejuvenation of my writing mind and soul, the cultivation of the habits that help me get the work done, and the increased output that is still a huge leap for me, even if I don’t “win.”

For me, that is a win.

Image credits:
Aims, By Youth Hostel (Own work) (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
Quote, by http://addicted2success.com/quotes/60-colorful-picture-quotes-to-empower-your-life/

And the winner is…

“I won! I won!” she yelled as she bounced around the room like a rubber ball…  Okay, seriously.  I just found out that I won the Contemporary category of the Heart-to-Heart Contest for Unpublished Authors, sponsored by the San Francisco Area Romance Writers of America. Woo hoo!

Just to make sure it doesn't go to my head, I also found out today that I didn't even move to the final round of the Gateway to the Best Contest sponsored by the Missouri Romance Writers of America. And so it goes.

As nice as it is to get kudos for my writing, my main goal in entering the contests was to receive feedback from other writers in the industry. And I did. My manuscript has changed quite a bit from the original entry. The entry the editors and agent judged in the final round was six pages shorter–and hopefully more engaging–than what the first round judges had to read.

And, in the months since I entered these contests, I've been picking up more skills and ideas from my fellow Southern Magic members, my critique partner, writing seminars, and the many writing books that I've been reading. I feel confident that every book I write will be better than the last.

So, I'm one step closer to being published, even if I don't receive any requests for this manuscript. I'm pretty intrinsically motivated, and I'll keep plugging away even without the positive strokes of others.

Of course, I'm still going to enjoy the glow and have my own little celebration. After all, it never hurts to feel a little love, and everyone likes to be a winner.