I ended National Novel Writing Month with 35,107 words, or more than 1,000 (around 5 pages) a day. That may sound like a lot, and is definitely more than I’d have written without the NaNo process. Yet via social media, I know many not only “won” NaNo by achieving 50,000 words, some wrote over 100,000! I participated in a Romance Writers of America word war that had over 8,000,000 words written by 278 participants.
We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others. Happiness comes from within. No regrets. Blah blah blah. The question is: how much should I have done in NaNo or do in other pursuits to experience the satisfaction of success? Perhaps I could have pushed harder…not gone out with that friend, watched that TV show, run those errands until I hit my daily goal of 1,667 words. Should I have kept BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) until I reached 50K? Or should I be pleased with what I did accomplish, and accept that putting in some, even significant, effort is success?
Certainly there are true emergencies that prevent us from succeeding. And everyone faces what my romance writing chapter calls life intrusions…day job deadlines, family issues that need taking care of sooner rather than later. Some succumb to these as reasons they can’t get this or that done, while others take them in stride and accomplish what they set out to do anyway.
What’s the point of setting goals if you don’t care when you don’t achieve them? I don’t accept that they’re mere benchmarks to make sure we do something rather than nothing. Not that we should beat ourselves up if we come up short, but how do you learn to pace and discipline yourself for the next reasonable goal?
Of course, what qualifies as success to one may not be enough for another. Many NaNo winners and participants either don’t finish that novel or do anything with it if they do. Some may enjoy the process and being part of the NaNo community year after year. Not everyone wants to make the effort involved to publish and sell books. Others may ponder all of those words languishing “under the bed.”
Many kids today get trophies for participating, not winning. Yet in the Olympics, athletes can lose out on a medal by a hundreth of a second. How many viewers remember those who aren’t on the podium, despite all of the effort needed to get that far?
I’m working on defining success for myself. If I’m being honest, 35,107 words isn’t an example of it.