Yesterday was pretty not-great. The minute I got into work, I had a coworker calling me to talk through a conversation we’ve had over a dozen times before that always included going over the same points at least twice per conversation. We talked for an hour and it drained the life out of me. All of today, from the minute that call ended, to now has been a pale imitation of the day that could have been if I’d only not talked to him today. Or if he wasn’t such an obstinate, obstructionist jerkwad who refuses to apply himself to the new processes I made for our team, specifically keeping in mind the issues he has always complained about. He, more than anyone else, stands to benefit from this new process the team is adopting and he is likely going to be the reason it fails should it eventually fail. It will only work if everyone pulls together and he is doing his best to pull in every direction but the one the rest of us are pulling it. It’s incredibly frustrating and it feels very defeating to have him constantly need the same questions answers, the same points rehashed, the same talking point discussed ad nauseam.
I’m not kidding when I say it ruined my day. I talked to him before I even had breakfast or my morning caffeine. I still got stuff done yesterday, but I know I could have gotten so much more done if I’d just ignored his call or worked from home where he couldn’t reach me. I’d have gone to dinner with my friends and then come home to write instead of going two important errands before coming home to collapse on my bed until my roommates brought pizza home. Even if I did pause to talk with them or check out the movie they were watching, I would not have stayed to continue watching it until almost ten because it was almost impossible to make myself get off the couch. I wouldn’t be struggling with the same sense of creeping dread, exhaustion, and failure that I felt last night. I’d have a new one or none at all. It’s difficult to tell just what my day might have been without the call first thing in the morning, but I can’t imagine it could have been even nearly as bad as today was.
I mean, it wasn’t that bad. Not objectively, anyway. No one died, my physical health is unaffected, my financial stability is the same as ever, and so on. But my mental health is in tatters because it has been ragged all month and this repeated conversation has been preying on a lot of anxieties even before we had it again today. Today just pushed it from a frustration to a feeling of never being able to do enough to make my process work and having to watch it all fall apartment as one person does his best to rip it to shreds because he lacks the vision to see beyond today or the open-mindedness to listen when I explain. It is so frustrating to watch something I spent over a year working on fail because the person I made it for can’t pull his head out of his ass long enough to appreciate how change could be a good thing.
Stuff like that is some of the most soul-draining stuff that can happen to me. I enjoy making things and I do make a lot of things for my own benefit, but I also like to make things with the idea of helping other people. To have someone pretty much throw away something I made to help them, something I have worked on for a long time, something I have spent dozens of hours talking to them about, something I told them about that got them feeling like maybe things could be better, it makes me want to stop making things. I have used my most valuable resource, my time, to create something specifically for them and they not just threw it away or didn’t use it, they brought it back to me and said it was making everything worse for them when they haven’t even given it a chance to work yet. Normally, after something like this, I’d just go home, play video games, and put off any kind of creativity for as long as I could manage. Even as I wrote this post, as I spent what I could salvage of my evening yesterday, the little voice inside me has gone from asking what the point of this is to saying there is no point and all I’m doing is taking my time and throwing it away, one second at a time.
It’s absolutely crushing.
But I’m stronger than it, now. I may feel as flat as a piece of paper, but even a piece of paper can be used to create three-dimensional art if you know how to fold it right. Since I am the paper, it hurts a bit to fold myself into something, but it still feels better than lying around in a pool of self-pity. I don’t feel like writing, but I’ve been doing it anyway because I want to write. I want to be able to go to sleep around midnight tonight feeling proud of just how much I’ve accomplished this month as I think about the two goals I completed. I’m only a couple thousand words away from having written one hundred thousand words in a single month. I’ve written almost thirty thousand of those words since Sunday, since I dug deep, processed all my own bullshit, and figured out how to keep working through the pain of my Grandfather’s failing health, the stress of the holidays, and the determination of my own brain to get in my own way as much as possible. These have been some painful days, but I’m trading short-term comfort and rest for long-term accomplishment and confidence. Even as much as I’ve written, as habitual as writing has gotten, I still need to win big every so often or I’ll start to feel like I’m not actually doing anything worth the effort. There are a thousand lessons to learn in failure, but having a success every so often is a good sign.
I wish I’d gotten more done yesterday. I wish I had more time to wrap things up today so I wouldn’t be writing in a frenzy to beat the clock. I wish my grandfather didn’t have cancer and that I’d been able to sleep peacefully every night this month. I wish I had just one more day this month, so I could land my ridiculous goals in style instead of cramming in the last few thousand words as my last hours ticked away. I wish for a lot of things, honestly, but I’m going to deliver. I have all day to finish things up and I don’t care if I need to take the afternoon off so I can get everything finished with enough time to spare to do some editing and work on this weekend’s blog posts before the month is over. I’m close and nothing sort of divine intervention or the collapse of society is going to stop me from achieving my goals. I’m past the point of compromises, of sense, of being reasonable. I’m just going to get it all done and then celebrate by sleeping for twelve hours.
Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month and YOU. CAN. DO. THIS. The final stretch. No matter what the results are, just end it strong. Even if you’re at five thousand words out of the fifty thousand word goal, just throw sense aside and write as much as you can. This isn’t about passing or failing, this is about trying to grow as a writer. It’s about trying to grow as a person. You don’t have to out-do anyone but yourself and I believe in your ability to do just than. One more day. You’ve got this. I believe in you. Don’t believe in yourself, believe in the me that believes in you. Grit those teeth. One last push is all it takes. Good luck!
As you wrap up your last day of writing, either laconically typing in your last few words or trying to cram in the last few thousand you need before midnight, take a moment to reflect on your accomplishment. You should be proud of what you’ve done, just like your protagonist should be proud of what they’ve achieved, of the solutions they’ve produced to whatever problems plagued them. Write a scene about what your protagonist is most proud of and spend a little time about what that says about them or what that says about how much they’ve grown.
Today, on the last day of National Novel Writing Month, as you take a break from finishing your word count or lean back in satisfaction after confirming your total, I want to talk about what inspires me the most. This is not something you should find inspiring, but it is hopefully something you should think about. What inspires me the most is myself. Without me, nothing gets written. Without my own hard work, I’d have failed this challenge and all my little bonus challenges weeks ago. Despite how busy I’ve been, despite how crazy my life has been, and despite the fact that I only have about six hours a day to work, I’ve make incredible progress on my goals. As of this posting, I haven’t finished them yet, but I’m so close there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll finish unless Godzilla attacks Wisconsin.
The only thing that has kept me going throughout this entire month has been my unyielding willpower and iron-clad desire to test my limits. I kicked my own ass to get this done, I pulled these words out of thin air/the grey matter inside my head/my ass/the realm of stories I like to imagine lives on the other side of the story door in my head, and I absolutely rocked it. I set myself a goal and I worked as hard as I could toward achieving it. That experience is more valuable to me than anything else in my life right now and I hope you can find a similar drive in yourself if you haven’t already. I mean, in terms of growth from one year to another, I wrote seventy-seven thousand words last year and I’ve passed that twenty-thousand already, and I’ve still got an entire day left to write and make the gap even wider. I inspire me to continuously grow and I hope that you inspire yourself.
My last tip is to remember that, as long as you tried something this month, you succeeded. Even if it wasn’t necessarily more writing than you would normally do during a month, you’ve accomplished something. You put yourself out there and you tried something difficult. As long as you’re willing to keep trying, you’ve yet to failure past the point of learning something. As Jake the Dog (of Adventure Time Fame) once said, “Sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something.” No matter how you feel about your failure, I want to congratulate you on taking your first step toward success. It was a difficult step, to be sure, but it was the first step. Even if you succeeded, this was the first step toward something else. There are so many things you can do with fifty thousand words of a story and you should take the time to explore all your options. You can still do most of those things with any amount of words, so even if you failed they’re worth thinking about.
Ultimately, failing or succeeding based on the National Novel Writing Month metric doesn’t matter. Sure, some writers have turned their fifty thousand words into award-winning books, but there are authors who literally had an idea, wrote it down, did a couple of edits, and then sent it off to one person who instantly decided that this book was going to be big and threw money at them until they wrote more of those books. Other people’s success isn’t a metric to use to measure your own efforts. Measure them against yourself. As long as you did better than last time, that’s success in my book. A step forward is always good, even if it’s a small step. Sometimes, especially if it’s a small step.