When I was a sophomore in college, I wrote over 100,000 words in two weeks.
I don’t know how I wrote an entire novel in 15 days. I don’t remember a single one of them. But it happened. I have a hardcopy draft to prove it.
That’s how I used to write fiction: fast, yet thorough. Some mysterious creative hyperdrive in my brain just kicked in, and I got some really cool stories out of it.
The past two Novembers, I have started writing books. I have yet to finish either of them.
I’m trying. I’m making very slow progress (but still progress!) on my novel from NaNoWriMo 2015. But we’re talking a few hundred words a day. I am, apparently, in no rush to finish.
Yet I can’t wait to finish, to be able to put it behind me. To never have to look at it again.
The reason I haven’t just given up on it is because, honestly, I finish what I start. It’s just what I do.
The reason I haven’t finished yet is a little more complicated.
When I wrote that novel in 15 days, even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was fast-approaching a major crossroads in my future career as a writer. You see, many people dream of publishing novels, of becoming best-selling authors. I did, at the time. I still do, every once in awhile.
Some people dream of a different kind of writing life – one that is, let’s be honest, easier. Not in the sense that it takes less work, of course. Journalism, or blogging, or being hired to write listicles. I spent many years of my life trying to convince myself I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to stick with the harder option. I had something to prove, I guess.
Then I realized my interest in health and my ability to arrange words nicely on a page were a match made to last. It took me about six years to turn that into a legitimate career, but I’ve done it, somehow.
As much as I don’t feel comfortable saying it … there’s just not as much time for writing fiction as there used to be.
I don’t have 15 days of empty space, during which I might write a novel about bees.
I would love to have more time. I just don’t.
I realized very recently that I no longer felt guilty for not spending as much time writing fiction as I used to. I’ve “made it,” as they say. I get up, I go to work, and I write. All day long. I come home. I write some blog posts, I write some articles, I slide into PJs and read and I am happy.
For someone who used to daydream about doing nothing but write novels for the rest of my life, this is strange. Knowing that publishing a book is no longer on my list of things to do before I turn 25.
It’s not that I’ll never write fiction again. I write fiction every day. I just spend minutes doing so, instead of hours. Writing stories is as essential for my wellbeing as breathing, and I mean that literally. My mental health depends upon transforming racing thoughts into some original burst of prose.
But I always dreamed of being a writer. I don’t care how I spend my hours writing, as long as I’m writing. As long as I’m doing what I’ve always known I was supposed to do.
It is freeing, to know there is no longer any pressure to finish a book.
It means I’m much more likely to actually do it.
I’m not making any promises. But I’ll keep at it. 100 words at a time.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.