Saturday, 15 November 2014

Challenge Accepted.

Every year when NaNoWriMo begins to approach, I find myself telling people about the exciting upcoming challenge. I've become used to the reality that 95% of these people will never attempt the month of writing themselves, and that is perfectly okay by me - so when somebody genuinely takes an interest and says that they're going to do it too, it thrills me. 

Enter my new co-worker, who we will call Jay. 

Jay and I started working in our store at around the same time, and in the beginning I thought that we would end up being great friends. Jay is a journalism student, and so I was excited to have a fellow writer in the workplace - somebody who would truly understand the pains of writer's block and plot holes, editing headaches and deadlines. When I first explained NaNoWriMo to him, he was excited for the challenge and signed up to the site that same night. 

Jay and I only work together on Sundays, so I saw him on the second day of the challenge. 

Day one for me is usually a good day. I tend to reach anywhere between five thousand and eight thousand words, but this year I managed a measly eighteen hundred. On the morning of day two, before I went to work, I reached two and a half thousand. I was just happy to be above my daily word count for day one since I was already hating my story idea, and didn't think much more of it. 

Until I got to work, and Jay asked what my current word count was. 

When I told him, he laughed in my face and loudly bragged, "I'm miles ahead of you!" He was just over three thousand words, but apparently that was enough. I wasn't jealous, but I wasn't my usual indifferent to his taunting, either. I was irritated - irritated that he was laughing in my face when I had exceeded the daily word count and taken the time in the morning to write before work, and irritated that he was turning this challenge into a competition

In that moment, at maybe ten minutes to nine on that Sunday morning, I decided that if it was a race to the finish line that he wanted, that was what he was going to get. 

And he would be eating my dust. 

I gave myself a deadline - the following Sunday morning, 9th November. I didn't only want to get ahead of him - I wanted to be finished, so that I could show him exactly who he was messing with. And long story short, I did it. I wrote hard and I wrote fast, fully embracing the quantity over quality mentality, and I finished Of a Different Kind that Sunday morning, before I went in to work. 

His reaction was simple. He told me that he was at fifteen thousand words, and I told him I had finished that morning: he called me a liar, then told me I wasn't normal, and spent the rest of the day making excuses as to why he was only at fifteen thousand words. A favourite of myself and my co-workers is his excuse, "I'm a grown up and I have a real life!" 

Because every self-respecting adult refers to themselves as a grown-up, right? 


I am of two minds over what I did. Part of me is disappointed in myself, while the other part is pleased. I am disappointed because I sank to his level, because I did not pace myself and write a novel that I could be proud of. I still ended up with a first draft that I can work with, and it wasn't terrible, but it was nowhere near the standard that I wanted it to be. I am pleased because even on that first day my idea was annoying me, and without the push that my co-worker's laughing in my face gave me, I am certain that I would still be sitting here now, labouring over a novel that I did not want to write anymore

Being finished means a lot to me, because it means I can focus on the things that I do want to write without feeling guilty over abandoning my NaNo novel. 

Now I am free to focus on Seasons, which has been on my mind a lot lately. And next year I won't be listening to anybody when it comes to NaNoWriMo - I will stick to my goals.

I have never seen NaNoWriMo as a competition. In the seven years that I have been doing it, I have never once seen myself to be competing against other writers. We only support each other - offering words of encouragement and helping out when somebody needs inspiration. And it saddens me that Jay doesn't get to feel this companionship - but at the same time, I don't need people like that bringing me down. 

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