My dictionary defines “Triumph” as:
To me, though, a “triumph” implies that the victory comes against a foe that previously had seemed undefeatable. Like most folks, I’ve had many kinds of these foes: foes on the baseball field, political foes, cats… A foe might also be something more like a huge, personal challenge. One example for me is a specific book I’ve been trying to read since I was a teenager: “Friday” by Robert A. Heinlein. I don’t know what it is about this book, but I can’t even get past the first chapter or two before I give up on it. I *will* triumph over this book before I die. I will! I just don’t know how yet.
As writers, it would seem that our “greatest triumphs” would be a simple thing to figure out. Having your name in print, seeing your words typeset in a book… that would have to be it, right? Or seeing your scripts performed by real actors on a real stage… that would be triumphant, right? Or perhaps hearing your song performed for the first time… surely that would be triumphant music to your ears.
As I’ve thought about this post for the past few days, I kind of struggled for a bit to decide what I would call “My Greatest Triumph” as a writer. After thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that my greatest triumph as a writer was my 2006 win during National Novel Writing Month. Okay, okay, I can see (and hear) the NaNo-naysayers rolling their eyes. But this post isn’t actually about NaNoWriMo and it’s value as a writing event (look for that post in October or November); it is about a triumph over the powerful inertia of Not Writing, an inertia that for me had had nearly sixteen years to settle in with a nice cup of coffee and get comfortable. Not Writing had become a foe that I simply could not defeat.
Truth is, I actually discovered NaNoWriMo in 2005. I planned to do it, planned to finally get over the writer’s block that set in some time during college… but at the last minute I backed off and and didn’t even set up an account.
But in 2006… I did. I nearly gave up before I started – the day job requirements had me working 100+ hour weeks at the beginning of November 2006, and I didn’t even set the first words on the page until November 9. But I was determined to give it a go and made up a lot of ground over Thanksgiving weekend that year, despite hosting nearly thirty people for the holiday dinner. Ultimately, I crawled across the 50,000 word finish line at at 11:54pm on November 30, barely able to stay awake but excited at my “win”. That novel, “Children of the Stars” is nothing special in terms of quality or artistic value. Frankly, it was my first attempt at a novel and it largely sucks. Seriously…. it is a story about a mild-mannered chiropractor from rural New Jersey who is destined to save the world by adjusting the attitude of an entire society… but first he must make some adjustments to a bent and broken spaceship called the “Explode It Now dot com” Interstellar Voyage Ship. But despite the weak plot and unfortunate corporate sponsorships for the spaceships, it is in many ways the best thing I have ever written or at least it is the most important thing I have ever written because it marked my triumphant return to writing. In my June post, I defined my greatest difficulty as excuses. Well, in 2006, I used NaNoWriMo to help me beat the excuses. For the next five years I was able to write prolifically. I’ve had stories published and stage plays performed in that time… and none of that would have happened had I not done NaNoWriMo.
In all honesty, I haven’t looked at “Children of the Stars” since November 30, 2006. I will, at some point, open it and pull pieces out to build into new, hopefully better, stories or perhaps even a novel. But that initial novel, and that event will forever be in my mind as my greatest triumph – not so much because of the resulting words but more for the resulting energy and subsequent writing after years of excuses and inertia. I need another triumph like NaNoWriMo 2006 now… something to help me kick the inertia I can feel setting in. I’m not sure what it will be, but it should be an easier mountain to climb because of my experience in 2006.
How about you? Have you had an experience as a writer which maybe would not be a “traditional” idea of a victory, but for you is enshrined as your greatest triumph?