Episode 3: Goals
It’s taken me a month to write about the fact that, in July, I participated in the NaNoWriMo Camp.
Background: National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to, not surprisingly, write a novel (approximately 50,000 words) in the month of November. I’ve never had the time or motivation to commit on quite that level (maybe someday!), but the idea of it was always pretty inspiring. I mean, it’s pretty compelling to think I could have a rough draft of a novel in only a month! In July, they set up an online camp, where participants can set their own word count goals and join in chats and group prompt activities throughout the month. Most importantly, there is a progress tracker to enter in the number of words written in a day, and a graph that shows the trajectory needed to meet the goal and the total number of words to-date.
Participating in the Camp was pretty low-key, especially as the members of my online “cabin” forum were pretty silent (there were maybe three of us who ever said anything or updated progress in the end). So, really what it turned into for me was a reminder that having a quantifiable target is really motivating.
For as much as I value keeping writing fun and something I do just for me, I do eventually want to have a complete draft of a novel. It’s a big enough project that it won’t happen accidentally. So, even though I’ve said my routine is sporadic and my philosophy is imperfect, I also need to balance that with some concreteness.
Concreteness with flexibility. I set a 500 word/day, 15,000 word/month goal in August (following up on the 23,000 I wrote in July with the Camp), specifically counting towards my novel. So, I’d count outlining and writing tangential backstories, but not blogs and journals and writing practice. I started using an app-based tracker that includes a timer, allowing me to learn that 25 minutes is usually more than enough time to write 500-700 words (fewer if I’m grumpy, more if I’m buzzed on wine).
My August totals were 15 days of writing 500+ words for a total of 8,272 words.
I obviously want to do better, but I’m not considering myself a failure for a 55% grade. A daily goal of 500 words is manageable—only 25 minutes!—so I’ve learned that’s still a good place to be. Expecting to be able to do that every day, well, that may not jibe with my “I’m not just a writer” mindset. So, if I can write more like 20 days of the month, that would get me to 10,000. New goal set.
The moral of the story is: quantifiable goals and a relaxed philosophy can both lead to results as long as they’re balanced and serve each other. It’s very easy for them to be at odds with each other, so maintaining flexibility and not kicking myself for striking a perfect balance all the time is key.