Writing my first novel during Nanowrimo 2021 made me question everything I thought I knew

With a couple of days separated between pouring my heart and soul into writing an 80K word novel that I didn’t even know was within me to write – it’s time to go back and see how this experience changed everything.

Thankfully I updated my Twitter feed every single day to keep my nearly non-existent follower base updated.

All my family and friends are over on Facebook and I knew they would be supportive, so I decided to venture into Twitter land to seek the validation I thought I needed.

Spoiler Alert: I didn’t need the external validation.

I have been on a mission to find myself, to discover who I am under the surface. discover what makes me tick, what fuels me, what pushes my buttons. All of it.

For the past couple of years – I was constantly chasing this idea of whom I needed to be – or rather – who I should be.

And what I discovered over the course of participating in this year’s Nanowrimo – was that I am already whom I am meant to be.

I just needed to believe it.

This wasn’t my first year being a #nanowinner.

I completed the 50K word goal last year.

But last year’s novel wasn’t a novel. It was more like a diary. A diary documenting every day of living through a heated election and the potential ramifications of whatever side “won”.

I told myself that I was going to push myself farther than I have ever pushed myself during this year’s Nanowrimo. That this year was going to be different.

And I did. And it was.

I write from my heart and soul. I leave nothing on the table.

I pushed myself so hard that I had an existential crisis the day after Nanowrimo ended.

For the first time in my writing career – I built a world. I created characters and story arcs and a plotline that covered more than just a single blog post.

This year – was definitely different.

I started November 1st with just a beginning, a plot twist, and an end. I had no idea how to connect the three, or how my plot would actually play out.

And that’s because I trust I will write exactly what needs to be written.

I am not afraid of a blank page. A blank page to me is an empty canvas to put one word in front of the other.

Just like hiking. One foot in front of the other will get you there.

Sprinkle a little trust

I didn’t use to trust myself. In fact, I freaked myself out on more than one occasion about what I ended up writing.

It took me a while to realize that my soul knew what it needed to write more than my brain sometimes.

It took me a long time to learn that you just have to have the belief, willpower, and endurance to do so.

Sometimes those three traits don’t happen until you hit milestones along the route. Like the first dialog exchanged between characters, or first 10K words, or passing the halfway mark.

Also – shout out to the badges you earn through Nanowrimo when you hit those milestones. Because they played a huge role in my desire to keep going.

Last year I missed one badge. Just one. The one that said I met my daily goal every single day.

I was bound and determined to earn that badge this year.

No matter what, I was going to earn all the badges.

No matter what it took. Come hell or apocalypse, I was going to meet my goal every single day.

And dammit, I did.

But what I didn’t know when I started Nanowrimo 2021, was how much I – as a human and as a writer – would be fundamentally changed.

Change happens when you learn how something works

I wanted to write a post about 30 things I learned in 30 days of writing my first novel.

As I started writing it, I ended up with 17+ 24 = way more than 30.

Turns out, putting your all into something for 30 days – makes you realize a lot of things.

A lot of things about who you are as a human, as a writer.

A lot of things about how the world of writing a novel – whatever you are throwing yourself into – works.

And when you learn how something works instead of just thinking you know how something works – it can either dim your flame or make you crave it more.

The latter happened in my case.

I have missed writing. I have missed writing for the art of writing. I have missed writing for the sake of talking it out with my inner voice, of letting go.

When I decided to start my own writing business, I had no idea how much mental bullshit I needed to sift through.

I had to uncorporatize myself while navigating the unknown.

6 months ago, I thought I’d be making real money by now.

I haven’t made a single cent.

Before I started this year’s Nanowrimo, I was ready to throw in the towel because I was clearly a failure.

Just like my mom hinted at in the beginning.

In reality, I took a leap of faith straight into the deep end and I wouldn’t trade a single moment for what I have accomplished in the past 6 months.

I may not have found a client or gotten paid.

But I have been healing.

I have been learning how to listen to my intuition.

I have been expanding my knowledge and growing in ways I never expected.

I will get a client. I will make that first $1. And then the next and the next.

Because I believe in myself.

Writing my novel this Nanowrimo has given me the power to step outside of my earthly confines and take a look at where I have been, and where I have yet to go.

My characters reminded me that I am in charge. That I have the strength to do whatever I put my mind to.

I just have to act.

Tell analysis paralysis to shove off

Sometimes I find myself in analysis paralysis, afraid to put myself out there. I have even caught myself reframing my position as putting myself into a box.

If there is one thing I learned in November, it’s that if I just put one word in front of the other, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Tomorrow is Friday. But it feels like the first day of the rest of my life.

Yesterday, the day after Nanowrimo – I experienced a heavy, deep sense of existential dread.

It could have easily been explained by the fact that IRL – America is on the brink of collapse and the World is edging closer to the apocalypse every moment.

That probably added to the depth. It didn’t help that’s for sure.

But yesterday, I was confronted with learning that what I thought I knew I wanted to do – may not be what makes my heart the happiest.

When I was writing, when I was eyebrow deep in building the world I built, I was happy.

It might have been because I just write 80K words about how finding happiness is a journey and not a destination….ok so I totally had a Novel Hangover…

But while I was writing my story in the way I wanted it to be written. The pace, the tone, the words used…it felt so….natural.

I am going to publish my book.

And if I could pay all my bills and just write novels – I would not be having this conversation with you my friend.

But the truth is…I have mouths to feed and bills to pay. My husband’s body is failing from years of abuse. I need to get my shit together.

But how?

I love writing stories. That’s where my heart lies.

I love sharing my experiences with mental health.

I love sharing my family’s experiences with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, and Communication Disorders.

I love writing about things that make me pause and think.

I love taking photos of moments, of things, of people – that can speak volumes of 1000 words.

I love helping people find their full potential.

I love looking at scenarios with different perspectives and a fresh lens.

I love finding solutions where others may not see them.

I love when people find me a safe person to share their stories with.

I love writing about all the above to hopefully find that one person at the right time that needed to hear my words.

How do I turn all those loves – into money?

That, my friends, is the $1 question.

I know that once that last piece finally clicks into place – game over.

Or rather – ready, set, GO!!!

I started my business with the intent to help other companies with their content.

Period.

But once you get into it – you have to actually sell yourself.

You have to have a schtick.

You know…that extra oomph that pushed you past the competition.

Now…herein lies the dilemma.

I can help companies create clarity in their copy in my sleep.

But for me? I am stuck on picking a niche.

How can you pick when your interests are so varied and not one of the top money-making niches?

Photography, parenting kids with special needs, mental health, adventures, spirituality, inspiration.

I mean, technically they fall under the lifestyle.

After reading one of the gazillion emails I get, the writer mentioned creating your own niche.

So I did.

The Human Experience.

That is a full round circle with the passions I have and am knowledgeable about.

And I was happy with the title I gave myself:

Human Experience Strategist & Copywriter.

And then Nanowrimo started and I couldn’t get my act together to do it all.

I struggled with my elevator pitch. I struggled with how I would stand out. I struggled with the problem I was going to solve.

Add to that the fact that “Human Experience Strategist” is not clear. It may be clever, but it could literally mean a thousand and two things.

I just want to write.

But because I struggled with carving out my piece of the market, I haven’t been able to put myself out there. I haven’t been able to market myself. And I certainly haven’t been able to make any money.

So you can see my problem.

I know it will click. It has to.

So tonight, in 66 minutes, I am going to go out for a beer for the first time in almost two years with a friend I haven’t seen in almost a year because I know she is the fresh perspective that I need.

So I am going to test something out. I am going to write a before and after of my elevator pitch:

I am a (title) for (who you help) who (problem they’re facing). I (what you do) so that they can (end result).

OR

I help (who you help) (realize this end result) and say goodbye to (problem they’re facing). I (what you do) so that they can (BIG, dreamy outcome).

I am also putting this here to push me to not cancel. Because if I cancel, I’m gonna have to figure it out myself. Which clearly isn’t working.

Friend & Beer or bust!

Nope. No friend update. Just had a thought.

I want to help lifestyle companies…

Nope. I lost it.

Friend & Beer Success

I am a lifestyle journalist for people who have mental health battles, and/or are parenting neurodiverse kids. I write stories that provide another perspective, a fresh solution so that they can stop feeling alone.

I just got back from my friend date. A friend date I desperately needed. One I didn’t know I needed this badly.

I am tearing up just thinking about how much relief I have missed by just talking to this human friend of mine.

She was my biggest cheerleader before I knew I needed one. And I knew she was the right person to go to with my dilemma.

What she said, hurt a little. Because I had banked so much of my future on this idea of what I was supposed to do.

But what she said, was true.

I hate marketing. Since I started this journey, I thought the only way through, was to go into copywriting and content strategy.

Yet I haven’t been able to make headway with that direction because it’s not who I am. It’s not what I like doing.

I love writing.

I love telling stories using the written word because I have stage freight.

I love sharing experiences that made me stop and think.

I want to help people with mental health battles, and parents with mental health battles, and parents who have kids who are neurodiverse and/or have mental health battles – I want to help them take part in the world around us. I want to help people feel safe and included and welcome.

And I can’t do that if I’m putting all my eggs in the “sell your soul” marketing basket.

I guess what I am trying to say, is that I am going to table Spirited Wolf Media, and I am going all-in on Finding Anchors in the Storm.

Is it going to be a harder battle to financially make $? Most definitely.

But is it the right decision? Hell to the yes.

As my dear friend Scrambles would remind me, do the thing that works.

And the thing that works – is following my heart.

So thank you Scrambles for allowing me to bounce the words floating around in my head that made no sense as I said them and yet you, my friend, helped me realize what my heart was trying to say that my logical brain couldn’t.

Tomorrow is a new day and I am ready for it.

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