IWSG: A Cloud of Caffeine And Happiness

Got self-doubt? I do!

On the first Wednesday of every month the inspiring Alex J. Cavanaugh and some of the most amazing writers on the web get together to talk about it. Click this here linky to join me and The Insecure Writer’s Support Group as we circle the wagons to huddle around the campfire and share our stories.

Today, I’m going to talk about National Novel Writing Month and how writing fifty thousand (or more!) words in a month has been a great confidence builder for an insecure writer like me. One NaNoWriMo experience in particular marks an unforgettable turning point of my writing journey.

Two years ago I participated in my second NaNoWriMo and, having clocked a personal-best word count of 121k, I was already feeling pretty happy about my writing prowess. But there was another challenge I had determined to overcome that year: Sharing excerpts of my work.

The NaNoWriMo writer’s profile has a page where one can post an excerpt of the work in progress. I knew I had a problem when I took my excerpt back down after only a few hours because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone seeing it!

Yes, I’m that insecure about sharing my writing.

I persevered and put another excerpt up, but it took all the courage I could muster to leave both the story summary and an excerpt up on the page for the duration of November.

That was why a particular challenge involving a seventeen minute word sprint and a subsequent posting of a snippet from the resulting words was perfect for me. I love word sprints, and the part about posting snippets was a good dare for me–especially because the forum offered no possibility for taking my words back down once they’d posted. I did this four or five times, and each time it got a little easier. I tried not to think about other writers actually reading them. I hoped everyone was too busy with their own stories to care about mine.

Then, at one of the last write-ins, I met a few other NaNoWriMo participants, known in Nano-land as Wrimos. As we talked about our stories, about why Twilight was so successful, what we liked and didn’t like about our protagonists, and various other sundry writerly topics, one of the other Wrimos asked me what my on-line handle was.

“Oh, I’m Larkk,” I told her.

Her response was spontaneous. “You’re Larkk? Omigosh, I love your story!”

I was so overwhelmed I almost started to cry. All I could manage was, “Really? Seriously?”

“Yeah,” she continued. “It’s such a cool idea, and I like your characters. I love the parts about flying, and the fog, and the numbers.”

Floating on a cloud of caffeine and happiness, I pulled myself together as best I could and proceeded to tell her more about it. She liked everything I told her. Never had I expected someone to actually like something I was writing, much less love it! In my insecure world the most I’d ever expected was for people to think it wasn’t horrible.

I can’t say that it will ever be easy for me to post excerpts and chapters–or to publish my stories. But that day, the revelation that someone might actually love my story as much as I do changed my outlook on my writing. These words will always ring in my recollection:

“Omigosh, I love your story!”

How about you, Insecure Writers? If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how does participating in a crazy month-long writing sprint help you become a more secure writer? Has anyone ever done or said something that made you a more secure writer?

And, if you love someone’s story, tell her! You just might make her day.

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33 thoughts on “IWSG: A Cloud of Caffeine And Happiness

  1. Thanks Kirsten, very inspirational. I didn’t know we could post snippets out of the story we are working on? I may have to check that out as you know how shy I am 🙂

    And when I saw you had gotten up to 17K words and I was only at 13k, I figured — oh well, I had to take time to put out a Post today, so I didn’t feel too bad — then here you go posting one of your own. Geez!

    1. You always make me smile, Papabear. 🙂
      This word count stuff is killing me, but I’m just so darn competitive and my region is made up of NaNoWriMo geniuses!
      Check out the local forums for your region and see what they’ve got going on. The snippets thread was something one of our wonderful writers started.

      You? Shy? Never! 😉

  2. I went through this, too and I just bit the bullet and put it out there and while it didn’t generate buzz and have agents calling me with offers. It didn’t suck either. At least that was the feedback. haha. My first 50,000 challenge was a great experience as well and am trying to replicate this month. I agree, it was the best thing that could have happen to my writing this year.

    1. The key seems to be to just keep writing, no matter what anyone says, good or bad. I was–and still am–prepared for all kinds of feedback, but the cool thing seems to be that I know exactly what I want to write! If someone loves it, that’s thrilling, but if they don’t I’ll just have to get used to that.
      I just love the positive vibe over at NaNoWriMo though, so I can never resist taking part!

    1. Yeah, I don’t understand that why I am convinced that I can’t write, despite what some have said. 🙂 I guess it’s all good, if it means I keep working to make it better!

  3. GREAT post 🙂

    See what happens when you dip your toes in the water, or lift your wings to make a little flutter 🙂

    Happy you got some positive feedback 🙂

    Don’t stop now 😉

    1. Thanks Mark!
      One of my biggest fears is that life will conspire against me and somehow find a way to make me stop writing. So, no worries there! I’m nothing if not determined.

  4. I am in awe that you managed to write 121k words in 30 days! That’s incredible. I haven’t had the courage to post my writing anywhere but my blog and that was because I knew I’d get positive feedback. Putting it out into the general public is mind nimbingly scary! But as you’ve demonstrated it could also be very rewarding. What a great feeling to have another wrimo praise your writing.

    1. Hi Lan,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      Even starting a blog was scary to me, but the IWSG has made it a lot easier. And it’s funny, I seem to have no trouble churning out words (admittedly not very good ones) but when it comes to sharing them I have a lot of reservations.

      it was wonderful to have someone give such spontaneous feedback, which is why I strive to do the same whenever I read something that strikes my fancy.

    1. I didn’t have to post the whole thing, just a line or two, but apparently it was enough to make a good impression. 🙂
      It was a huge boost to my fragile self-esteem though!

  5. Nice post. And Yeah, I don’t have anything up in my snippet box because I’m too busy. I want it to be something good, and seriously, I’ve got a ton of not good right now (first drafts don’t have to be great).

    And seriously, you write super fast! I’ve been watching your word count skyrocket. Sigh. It’s not that I wish I could write that fast, but sometimes it would be nice to know that the words were there.

    Happy writing!

    1. My snippet box has some pre-writing I did before November in it, because like you, I simply haven’t the time to clean anything up properly. 😉
      It was a nice surprise to discover that I’m a fast writer! Not that the words are all that great, but it’s first draft so all I need is to get it down somehow.

  6. The fact that someone knew of your work and loved it is a wonderful thing. Congratulations on that! This is a very inspiring post. I signed up for NaNo as a challenge to myself to see if I can write more than I write (because I feel like I slack and make excuses sometimes,) but I never thought about it as a confidence builder before. Think I will! Great post.

    1. Hi Randi Lee,
      NaNo is a huge confidence builder for me. We have a great region, and the positive energy along with the pep talks are such a great way to discover the magic of creating a story!

      Happy November writing!

  7. I’m not taking part in NaNo but I understand how you feel about letting people see your work. It’s something I have to battle too.

    1. Hi Mama J,
      Thanks for stopping by A Scenic Route!
      In terms of sharing work, everyone always told me, “It gets easier the more you do it.” I was thrilled to discover they were right!
      NaNo certainly isn’t for everyone, but no matter how you like to write, keep at it. 🙂

    1. Sorry Alex I didn’t get something out there also. This is my first NaNo and my focus has been on 50,000 words. I did get a post up yesterday, but forgot to mention the ISWG :0(

    2. Omigosh, Yes!
      Now, whenever I hesitate over that post or send button, I try to remember the possibility that someone might actually LOVE my story. 🙂

  8. Nanowrimo is a great way to feel good about your writing and to meet other writers. I love how that is how you started on your sharing your writing journey. For me it was a group on Goodreads, but it made a world of difference. I need to remember to tell others what I think of their excerpts on Nano (and post one, too).

    1. For me, it was all about the literary abandon and sending away the Inner Editor. Our NaNo region is so supportive and we have a ton of write-ins scheduled. I feel very lucky!

      Definitely try to tell a writer they’re doing great! I read so many jaw dropping flat out great excerpts, and it’s sometimes hard to keep them all straight. But I try!

  9. I like your format birdies. I’ve been nothing by intrigued by the snippets you’ve posted, but I totally understand writing insecurities. I thought I was such a chicken until we were talking at a Write-In last Saturday and I was the only one of four who had shown anyone what I’d written last year. NaNo helps me because I don’t have time to give in to my insecurities. When the doubts start nibbling at my manuscript, I tell myself I just don’t have time for them and keep writing. Last year I was on the verge of panic attacks just reading a sentence to the group, this year I’m comfortable summing up my plot and getting into nitty gritty character discussions.

    1. I’m glad you appreciate my pictures! I spend far too much time on the look of my posts sometimes, but I’m obsessed with getting everything looking just right.
      Overcoming insecurities seems to be something that takes time and practice. This blog has helped me a lot, as well as knowing I’m not alone in feeling this way. I was exactly the same way: reading a paragraph out loud made me just want to sink into the ground. In the past year I’ve been exchanging chapter intros with another NaNo writer, and posting stuff at Critique Circle too.
      It all helps!

    1. Hi Mike,
      I am clearly insane to be taking this on. But it’s become such an annual ritual that I’m sad to miss it.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I think we are our own worst critiques… it’s so great to receive the wonderful feedback. Well done with NaNo…I started, but I’m already falling behind. Trying not to feel bad about it:(

    1. The cool thing about NaNo is that everyone is a winner, just for taking on the challenge. 🙂 And have fun with it!
      I am my own harshest critic, for sure. Understanding that has been a huge step for me.

  11. I think you’re so brave, putting your work out there like that. It’s something I would struggle to do, putting excerpts out before it was finished. I can imagine the thrill you felt on being told it was loved! So pleased for you. Reward for your bravery and your talent 🙂

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      It was really hard for me to do that, and one of the things that made me think I wasn’t cut out for writing at all. What kind of writer am I if I’m terrified to put anything out there!?
      Turns out lots of writers feel the same way. Knowing that my insecurities were simply another hurdle I needed to cross on the way to improving my writing helped me to begin overcome this obstacle.

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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