2012 has been a hard year for me and for so many people I know and love. Friends and family members have died or fallen ill. Work has proven to be frustrating at best and soul-sucking at worst. Devastating hurricanes, minor earthquakes and freak snowstorms have come and while mostly proving to be a nuisance for me they’ve done some serious damage to the homes and lives of people I know.
On the writing front, which to some extent is less important than the other things but on the other hand may be just as important, it has been similarly difficult. Stories have come and gone – either attempted and abandoned or not-attempted and forgotten. Ideas proved to be fleeting most of the year and then started coming fast and furious just as I was too busy to work on them. Largely, I completed nothing I set out to do as a writer in 2012. And you know what? That’s okay. Writing was becoming a chore anyway and I was writing because I should write and not because I wanted to write. So, I stopped trying.
And you know what? That’s okay, too.
It’s okay because 2012 has been a learning experience for me. It has taught me that I am too hard on myself when things I do because I want to do them don’t go according to the plan I have in my head. It has taught me that things get even worse when I then try to force them to behave according to The Plan. I learned in 2012 what I probably should have learned in 2011 or 2010 or 1985: writing is a hobby for me right now no matter how much I might want it to be more than a hobby, and I need to just let it happen – or not happen – as life dictates. I write as a means of relieving stress, so getting stressed out about it and putting pressure to force the writing to happen on top of everything else going on made me, well, resent the writing. Which, of course, leads to even more time spent doing anything but writing. Which, of course, is exactly not what I want to be doing since writing is one of the best mechanisms for escaping everything else that’s going on.
While this is not new ground I’m charting, either for me or for anyone else, the realization of just how much pressure I was putting on myself to write was a real eye-opener for me. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for Write Anything this year, I might not have completed a single piece of writing for the entire year. And that should be considered A Bad Thing. But is it? I am coming to the end of 2012 with virtually nothing in terms of output and a near-empty pool of ideas. The largest set of ideas came to me while I was sitting at my mother’s funeral in early October. It was seriously bad timing, as the best of the idea came to me while I was at the podium in the church doing the first reading and clearly couldn’t stop to write it down. That one idea came to me complete with story line, characters and setting… but by the time I got to a place and time where it was appropriate to jot it down, I had lost most of it. That one incident may very well sum up my 2012 writing year: lots and lots of poor timing and bad luck.
When Hurricane Sandy hit at the end of October and I was left without power for a bit of time, I pretty much decided to give up on NaNoWriMo. But something made me start anyway (by candlelight) on November 1. Now, as NaNoWriMo 2012 is coming to a close, I find my novel at 47,215 words with a week to go. More importantly, I’m finding writing to be enjoyable again. This NaNoWriMo novel will never, ever see the light of day in its present form. And that’s okay. It’s okay because I am enjoying it. It’s not great prose, it’s a terrible plot and it’s an even worse set of clichés built on top of random, overdone premises. But that’s okay because in some ways the point of NaNoWriMo for me is to just write because I like to write.
I posted in October about the story I don’t want to write. I still haven’t written it but I’m seeing bits of it creeping into my completely unrelated NaNoWriMo novel this month (as I described, it does need to come out). Now that I am enjoying putting words on the page again, I suspect I may actually be able to write it. Or maybe I won’t be able to write it yet. Either way, it’s okay, because what I have learned this year about life and about writing will make this a better story than it might have been a year ago or even a month ago.
I still have a lot to learn about writing, about myself as a writer and about the things I write. This year has taught me that sometimes you need to step back, take a break and just kind of reassess the landscape. Sometimes you need to let everything else take the top spot on the priority list for a while so that when you put writing back up there at the top you can really immerse yourself in the universe you are creating. Sometimes you just need to write because you love it and for no other reason at all. I am hopeful that 2013 will be a better year, not only because it contains my favorite number (13) but also because it is a free and limitless landscape, a blank page onto which I can inscribe new words, new worlds and new wonders. And if stories come and go or don’t turn out the way I want them to turn out, that’s okay. It’s okay because I have learned this year that I can turn the page and move forward. I hope you will move forward with me.