Failure, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Process

Anyone? C’mon, someone tell me they get the title. Please?

*ahem* In any event. So this past month was the second summer session for Camp NaNoWriMo. As you all may know, I’m a huge supporter and fan of the November NaNo proper, and have served as an ML for two years now. However, my endeavors to dive into a cabin with some other campers and write in the summer?

Well…let’s just say I’m not in the winner’s tent this time around.

I can find a million different things to blame my loss on. I can say it’s because of the new meds. I can say I’m having trouble focusing. I can say it’s because I was traveling a lot, and visited my parents right in the crunch time. I didn’t do enough sprints. I didn’t run my own sprints like I do in November on the sprinting Twitter channel. I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t.

And especially for someone like me, who’s done the challenge every year since 2006 and completed in the challenge every year since 2008, it’s very easy to get down on myself about this failure. I set up to do something–something I know I can do…and I failed. I barely got 5000 words written, let alone 50,000. Part of me wants to say it’s inexcusable and I should be ashamed.

And part of me is allowed to be. I could have written 50,000 words in the month. I’ve done it before. Heck, July even has one day more than November! This should have been a breeze!

But it wasn’t. It caught me in some of the darker days of my unemployment–something that the longer it goes on, the blacker and more ominous the storm cloud over my head gets–and it was a brand new story that I hadn’t even thought enough about. I had a lot of great ideas and when I went to put them on paper, I didn’t have the get-go. Yes, NaNo’s motto is “no plot, no problem!” but I didn’t have a plot, I didn’t have characters, I didn’t have anything. I couldn’t find the words. I couldn’t find the inspiration. I just couldn’t.

Which is why the rest of me isn’t letting myself get too down about it all. I still learned something from this. For whatever reason, writing in the summer is harder for me. I need to focus on that and see if there’s something I can do about it. This story wants me to think about it a bit more before I start writing it. That’s fine, I can do that. Worse comes to worst, I can start again and do this project in November.

Not every writing exercise is going to work for every person. Some people can sit down and come up with amazing plot devices and twists and who knows what else, and others have to work at making their plot dynamic. On the same coin, some people can make really brilliant and deep characters, and others need to focus a little more on their skills. That’s fine. Not everyone writes the same way. And maybe I’m just not as good in a camp setting. Maybe I need the hubbub of the main campus, being out in the middle of everything, fighting to make my own schedule work as well as be a TA for one of the larger and more eclectic classes. (Love my NY::Elsewhere kids.) Maybe that’s where I do best.

Much like getting rejection notices from publishing companies, I think it’s important to take the times we fail as successes just as much as we take our accomplishments. Just as we learn from mistakes in our day-to-day life, so can we learn from what we don’t get done.

I didn’t make my goal in Camp this year.

That’s okay. The project isn’t going anywhere. And I’ve still got plans.


7 thoughts on “Failure, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Process

  1. Summer is hard. After 2 Julies of struggling with it, I’ve decided my summer Camp Nano will be 10K or less every year. ‘Cause it’s not worth getting that stressed during the fun-outdoors time. (Also my year end at work, etc).

  2. I think Camp NaNo is just different. I failed miserably in April. I only did well in July because 1) I had a project I was going to write anyway and 2) it was a rewrite of an existing thing. For me, there is just such a build up to NaNo in Nov (I know we’re both already planning for it) and it’s such a huge deal and so many people are doing it. There just isn’t the community aspect to Camp that there to NaNo. Even in our cabin of people who mostly knew each other, there was little chatting. Don’t beat yourself up! At least you wrote something and you know how to be disciplined, and to recognize when you’ve slipped a bit. November wil rock!!

    1. Community! Yes, that was the thing I keep forgetting – it’s just not there in April/July the same way it is in Nano proper – less online community, no local community at all. There’s less peer pressure to get it done…

  3. I did camp NaNo for the first time this summer, and it is totally harder. I only set a 20k goal because I was adding to/revising/attempting to actually finish my novel from November. And I managed to barely scrape out that 20k, but did not finish the story. Ugh, it’s so close! I just don’t know how to end it well.

    As far as what makes it harder, I’m not sure if it’s the weather (I actually want to go out and do things, not sit at a computer) or not having as much encouragement around as in November. I definitely missed the Elsewhere crew even though my cabin was full of lovely folks from Flight Rising.

    Also, I imagine it didn’t help that toward the end of the month a set of characters from book 2 (which I haven’t figured how to transition into, hence part of my problem ending this first book) started poking me and telling me things about their story. Seriously, kids, wait your turn! I will get to your secret plots and flying machines soon. At least I have an idea of what to work on for this year’s NaNo?

  4. I agree that it’s easy to find reasons to not do, to not think and to excuse. It infects more than one area of life. With writing, however, I think it is especially easy to let the effect compound. I’ve been writing multiple novels for multiple years. The first one I started when I was 17, and now, five years later, I’m going over it again and making changes and adding new sections. It’s a time sensitive task, and that is something that NaNo is good at addressing.

    1. So very true! I’m still working on novels I started in high school. About time I got them out into the world.

      Thanks for the comment!

      1. No problem. Your article struck a rather specific note with me. Completing and putting down a ‘just ok’ project is better in the long run than obsessing over something that might not be perfect (oh gosh, what would the literary world think?!).

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