I Quit

I quit NaNoWriMo.

Gasp. Shock. Awe.

I’m not only known for my lofty goals and ridiculous to-do lists, but also for my stick-to-it-iveness and my affirmation that being a writer takes great determination and longevity. So how can I stand here and just say it. I quit NaNoWriMo. On the third day, no less!

For one, I’m human. Everybody fails, sometimes. It’s not only inevitable, it’s good for us. To put it simply, without stress we can’t grow stronger. Like bones. And muscles. They need weight to develop, which in our lives, sometimes means losing. Losing can make us more determined, can bring out our best, and can humble us. If we let it. If we avoid bitterness and regret, anyways. So wrap your failures in forgiveness and hope. And move forward.

For two, there are moments when admitting defeat is a good characteristic, especially when you are losing a battle in strategy to take the war. I would like to think this is why I quit NaNoWriMo. (It’s also because the updates and graphs weren’t working properly, which I found to be greatly discouraging, for better or for worse.) Because I lost my Kickstarter bid, it was no longer as important to me to finish writing Clement Fancywater quickly as it was to get One Hundred Thieves edited. And then on the shelves. In other words, I spent almost two weeks regrouping, which is the longest I have spent away from social media and writing in a very long time. In fact, I don’t particularly condone it. It sort of just happened for me, and I seized the opportunity. Now I’m back with a different battle plan.

For three, fighting a losing or insignificant battle is just expending energy uselessly. If I had won the Kickstarter bid, I would have needed to have three complete books by April of 2015. Since that was no longer a necessary deadline, flogging myself to finish Clement when still in the middle of Thieves edits was no longer needed. Or advisable. I suppose it was never especially advisable. Plus, quite frankly, I have other goals in my life. Like being a good mom and wife. And not living in filth. And celebrating the holidays, at least some.

Recently, I came across a guy who has written a short story every day for the entire year of 2014. (Sorry. I could not find his blog. But if you know its address, please let me know.) His goal was to write one every day for an entire year. He was reluctant to say he had made it, since technically he still has more than a month to go, but I would venture to guess he will make it. I am super-drawn to goals like this. In fact, I am super-drawn to life goals. Like writing yourself a letter at New Years every year forever. Or taking video of your daughter and husband dancing every year so that you can make a gut-wrenching montage for her wedding. I myself have considered taking a photo a day for a year, journaling every day for a year, and any number of annual holiday traditions. I often use Lent to abstain from something for forty days and I adhere to a very strict anti-migraine diet, every day. (ADHD does make succeeding at long-term goals extremely difficult.) In fact, it’s likely that you’ll see a “every day for year” goal on this blog, for New Years 2015.

But I wonder how much attaining goals like that aren’t so much of a real success as a great stroke to our pride. I mean, obviously the short story guy will have a huge body of rough drafts from whence to jump into pruning and editing and a future book of short stories. So that’s a major triumph for him, if that’s what he was looking for. But it reminds me of advice I have received multiple times from someone whom I greatly admire: Go to McDonalds every once in awhile. You see, normally I eschew McDonalds for many reasons. Some of them are philosophical and moral reasons. And yet, while I can sometimes feel like they are, they are not personhood-breaking reasons. And I have to be honest with myself: is getting caught in the McDonald’s drive-in more about my morals or about my embarrassment?

Consider asking yourself this: Where do your goals fit with your life goals? It’s true, most of us (myself included) could do with more discipline. Make a goal. Stick with it. This, too, is good for us. And it makes perfect sense to be consistent, lay ground work, and move forward on something that is important to you, even on days when it seems pointless or fruitless. But it’s also okay to re-evaluate a goal, and sometimes to change directions or change strategy. Admittedly, many very successful people have been tremendously stubborn and prolific, but you have to wonder: was it at the expense of a life well lived? What is the best you can give the world, today? Is it discipline and sacrifice? Great. Is it peace and hugs? Great. Is it a tidier house, a few Thanksgiving side dishes, a shower, a blog, and some Thieves edits? For me, I think that answer is yes.

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