Knowing What Doesn’t Work

Camp NaNoWriMo has come and gone for another year, and I made a halfhearted attempt at the July session, joining up with a cabin of middle grade writers in the hopes of completing my MG manuscript-that-is-mostly-just-many-pages-of-notes, Tinker’s Gap. I say “halfhearted” because Camp was very nonproductive for me this time — I never felt fully committed to it or really excited about it, so I never got an outline together, and what I quickly learned once writing time started was that this particular book doesn’t want to be written in an on-the-fly rush. What words I did wind up writing during July were mostly unrelated blog posts for Three From Waynesboro, a couple freewrites, and an opening scene for Tinker’s Gap that may or may not stay.

They say to view your writing as an experiment, in the sense that every experiment is valuable because it either ends in success or you learn something to help for next time. In this case, I learned that 1) above all else right now, I hate having to count how many words I’ve written in a day, and 2) the NaNo setup overall just isn’t my thing anymore. This time around, what struck me was that not only was I not anywhere close to meeting my word count goal, I didn’t even care that I wasn’t meeting it. (My only concern was that maybe I was making a lousy first impression on my cabinmates, although thankfully I wasn’t the only one to not make my goal for the month.)

I still have fond memories of my first NaNoWriMo and of my first Camp NaNoWriMo, but ever since then, any further attempts at either one have never been able to recapture that first sense of excitement and play and fun, and I wind up just forcing myself to try to get through it and regretting that I signed up.

So. Duly noted, universe, even if it did take a few tries to finally sink in.

I’ve also been trying to find some kind of emotional balance with social media — which, for me, mostly means Twitter these days. On the one hand, since I work from home, Twitter is kind of my water cooler, my hangout, and makes up a big portion of my online social interaction (and my social interaction in general, to be honest).

On the other hand, it can also be incredibly toxic for me. In this case I’m not talking about harassment or issues like that; instead, it’s the experience of having a feed made up of lots of writers (and a fair amount of them pro-level writers or pro-level indie writers), so there are days when I feel like I’m reading a constant feed made up of, hey I’m going to this con, or I’m GoH at this other con, or here I am at this workshop, or I’m nominated for this award, or here’s my latest blog tour or my tweets from this awesome book festival or the cover reveal for my next series book, yay!… and my comparison monster wakes up and stretches and gets to work, and the next thing I know I’m sitting there feeling sorry for myself because I don’t have tons of best writing pals talking up my stuff, or a bunch of fans to banter with, or a cutesy group-nickname for my newsletter subscribers*, and why doesn’t anybody ever ask me questions on Goodreads, and why don’t I have more reviews, and I’ve barely written anything this year and nobody reads my stuff anyway so why bother, and I hate my day job and I hate myself and oh also I hate the entire freaking world and everyone in it.

You can see where this might become something of an issue.

I know it seems simple to say, okay, just stay off Twitter then — but despite what I’ve said above, I really like a lot of things about Twitter. I like keeping up with and meeting and interacting with people there. I follow a lot of cool feeds of really interesting stuff that I’d miss out on otherwise. I do enjoy being there… except when I don’t.

So part of figuring out other stuff that doesn’t work for me lately has been trying to take more control of what I’m consuming. Right now that means muting various people on Twitter when I need to (and not feeling bad about it), and I switched to Tweetdeck so I can also have the ability to mute keywords and hashtags. I know full well that I’m never going to be able to avoid everything that can trigger envy, frustration, burnout, depression, or just general despair about the state of humanity (read: the 2016 presidential election), but I’m going to try to walk away and/or mute more often, to make those times shorter and easier for me to deal with, rather than getting stuck in that downward spiral of “I should be able to deal with this and I’m a terrible person because I can’t.”

By the same token, I’ve also been cleaning house in terms of unsubscribing from blogs and mailing lists that just get deleted from my inbox anyway, or give me one more thing I feel like I have to keep up with. I’m running everything past the test of is this really worth my time?, in the sense of (to use the words of Marie Kondo), does this spark joy? Does it feed my curiosity or give me information I really need at the place I’m at right now? I don’t need to read more articles with publishing or marketing advice when right now my biggest challenge is to bring joy back into the process of creating. (And yes, I’m taking breaks from Twitter and the Internet in general when the political scene or the cynicism or the general vitriol and idiocy just gets to be too much.)

Recent days, then, have been about admitting, and clearing out, what doesn’t work. Now I’m left trying to figure out what still does — but I’ll save that rambling for another post.


*suggestions welcome