Writing the 50-Yard Line, and Knitting Christmas

Last week I wrote about how I’m learning from National Novel Writing Month that one of the most important things is writing every day. The day after I wrote that in last week’s post, I skipped a writing day.

Then a couple days later I skipped another one.

It has been the kind of week when—well—words were hard.

On the plus side, I got a lot of knitting done, so there’s that.

So I suppose I should start off this post with a reevaluation of the big lessons I shared a week ago. Writing every day is important. But so is giving yourself a break, especially these days when everything around us is so… much.

Lessons from NaNo Week 2.

So after missing a couple of days, I set myself a goal that by the 15th (that’s halfway through the month, if you’re counting) I would reach the 50% mark on my wordcount: 25,000 words.

As you can see by the fancy digital badge in the photo above, I made it. With relief, if not celebration. Getting to 25K makes finishing seem possible, and I need it to seem possible or I’d throw in the towel and start a new sweater project right now.

I am still paying attention for lessons from this month of wild writing. Here are a few things I’ve been pondering this week (which, it seems to me, have application beyond the writing life):

  • The daily habit is important, but the occasional skip day doesn’t have to derail my goals.
  • Look at the bigger picture: staying on track for the week is just as valuable (or more?) as keeping up with daily wordcount.
  • However, it’s a heck of a lot easier to write 1667 words per day than to play catch up and have to write 2500 or 3000. (Note to self for the next two weeks!)
  • Changing perspective shapes a whole new story. And also cures boredom. (This one is important in all of life, IMO.)
  • 50K is a fairly short novel. But it feels sooooo long to me! It makes me wonder if early middle-grade is my sweet spot. In fact, when I was majoring in print journalism, they taught us to write for newspapers at a late-elementary reading level. So… maybe my education did prepare me for something after all. Go figure.
  • The biggest thing: I need to know what I need to know. Writing this intense, speed-driven way is forcing me to notice where my weaknesses are. (Also good awareness for life in general.) I realized for all the writing I’ve done over the years I’ve never really studied fiction and how it’s done. Forty-six years of being a reader aren’t enough; I need to learn what happens behind the curtain. One of my goals for 2021 will be to study plot and storytelling. This year I’ve invested in my writing in a big-picture way; now I need to focus on the practical stuff I need to learn to do the work and do it well.

Christmas is coming…

The 2020 holiday season seems to be yet another painfully divisive and controversial topic (because we haven’t had enough of those this year, amirite?). My take on it is admittedly skewed. We rarely live near enough to spend Thanksgiving with extended family. Many years even Christmas is too difficult and/or expensive to manage.

I have to remember that my experience is relatively rare, and that it’s not actually a good thing. I am envious of families who can spend holidays together (if they want to, lol). But this year I feel strangely lucky, because for us this year won’t feel much different than normal.

That was a very odd realization to come to this week. I even thought that our moving during Covid has turned out not to be such bad timing. Some of the things that are most difficult for people (and most contentious in the news) have been non-issues for us. We don’t have a home church here—so we don’t miss it. We don’t have school routines that were upended by going virtual. Our kids don’t have friends nearby that they are desperate to see.

I can be impatient when I hear people griping about how unfair and hard it all is—especially with the holidays coming. (For the record, I’ve failed the “mercy” portion of every Spiritual Gifts Test I’ve ever taken, so take this for what it’s worth.) But let me give an encouraging, if not exactly merciful, word. I’ve had 20 years of practice, and I can tell you that it is absolutely possible to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas differently than what you are used to.

You may even surprise yourself at how good it can be.

… so keep calm, and knit on.

Easier said than done these days, I know. I’m not doing so great at it myself if I’m honest, at least at the keeping calm part.

The knitting part I am knocking out of the park, I must say. *grin*

I hope you have something that is “knitting” for you: a skill you can practice just for fulfillment and fun, to make something new in the world, for yourself or to give away. Something you can always learn a little more about, or get a little better at. Or that you can sink in to and be comforted by without needing to always strive for more or better.

This week I finished a project I’ve wanted to do for years, pretty much since I learned to knit in 2011. But making a Christmas sweater always seemed so frivolous. After all the time and effort and yarn that goes into a Christmas sweater, you’re likely to wear it only a handful of times in a year. But in the midst of 2020 angst, a super-Christmassy sweater seemed like a perfectly appropriate idea. And I couldn’t be happier with it.

I’ll resist going all knitting-nerdy and telling you every detail of this project. Instead I’ll just say: do something, one small frivolous thing, that feels joyful to you today.

It helps.

Stay well, friends. 🙏🏻

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