National Novel Writing Month is here. Which is precisely why I wrote this post in advance, and also why I produced more blog entries for October than I ever have in a month’s period (A Theory on Fear, Why I Love Fall, and my WOW! (Women On Writing) Guest Post, in case you missed them). I will be giving EVERY effort this month to this monumental event.
I discovered NaNoWriMo last year and I failed. I still finished the WIP I had been working on, but the point was to force myself to spew out 50,000 words in thirty days. Writing for me is a task saturated with doubt, second-guessing, re-reading, re-writing, rather than just using that time to press forward, to force out the words. NaNoWriMo insists you do the opposite of waiting for the muse to strike, and not allow fear-based procrastination to stand in your way of getting to work. If you’re a foot-shuffler like me, then you should try NaNoWriMo; it will change how you write, at least for 30 days. While life did throw its fair share of distractions and hardships my way last year, I also lost my drive and just plain gave up, around November 16th. That isn’t happening this year.
I have to prove I can triumph over my fears. Not the big ones of submitting your novel to an agent (did that), or sending short stories and poems out into the world (yeah, did that too), or exposing all your innermost—well, maybe middlemost—thoughts and concerns to a group of strangers, 80 followers to be exact, and of course anyone else who just stumbled upon this post (happening)(and, Hi!). No. See, the fear I’m talking about is that incipient fear that is almost unrecognizable as fear at first. The one that keeps you glued to your couch watching television when you know you should be writing. Or maybe instead of writing, you’ve decided to update Twitter, or go out for a run when you haven’t been tempted all week up until this moment when it’s time to park you ass and write!
This writing event is not about having a completed, polished novel at the end of the month–please, do not send your unedited NaNo project to any agent; you’ll only make them fear this event. You use this month to tap into your instinctive character development and unconscious world-building, and scatter your unfiltered ideas, gems and duds, across the page. You’re the seer, now throw the bones and tease out a story (sorry, my fantasy nerd came out)! You’ll stretch and pull it and reshape it later. It’s about raw words on the page, 50,000 of them, that you sprint for, a little each day.
Writing casually every day is an admission to oneself that this is your calling. And that is terrifying! This is it, what you want to do for the rest of your life. Even if it’s not your day job, or you don’t get paid for your bestsellers yet, admitting this seemingly small little truth to oneself is a giant leap of faith. It goes against all of our superstitious unwillingness to jinx something (knocking on wood right now).
I’ve done my research for and some outlining, and then I did some more research and outlining for a different idea, a horror versus a contemporary, since I will be attending the World Horror Convention next year in Atlanta (God, it feels good to write that!). Do I feel prepared now? Not in the least, but that’s why it’s such an amazing event. NaNoWriMo, first and foremost, is about challenging yourself to go and beyond what you think you’re capable of, of pushing doubt and discomfort and fear to the wayside and blasting through with at least 1,667 words a day. And for me, every single word is squeezed out with a drop of sweat and blood in equal measure. I hope to tell you at the end of this month, ‘Woo! I won!’ No. Damn it! I plan to tell you that. If you don’t hear me talking about how NaNoWriMo went for me this year come December 1st, call me out. Don’t let me hide away from the light of day in what you would rightfully assume to be shame.
I hope my little pep talk to myself also helps some of you to let your doubts go and just write, whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or not. Don’t be afraid to open that door and embrace what’s behind it. Unless you hear gurgling and moans. Then don’t go out hugging anything.
If you have tried NaNoWriMo before, or are doing it now, is it working for you? Why or why not?