It’s that time of year. After skipping last year, I’m once again diving headfirst into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to the cool kids). Starting November 1, I will be tap-tapping away, trying to churn out 50,000 words in 30 days. Along the way, I’m also going to try blogging about the experience, hopefully updating once a week or so. My thinking is that talking about it will make sure I actually DO it.
And that’s really the biggest draw of NaNoWriMo for me--the fact that it motivates me to actually sit down and write. The discipline of writing has always been my biggest stumbling block--just doing the work day in and day out. There are a lot of factors that play into it. Some of it is just unadulterated laziness. Look, writing ain’t digging ditches. I get that. But it can still be hard, frustrating work. When an idea really clicks and the words are flowing, there is no greater feeling. But there is nothing more daunting than staring at a blank page and wondering how the hell you’re going to fill it. Most people who want to write actually just like to think about it. Coming up with ideas, spit-balling with friends, talking about how you could rewrite someone else’s story to make it really good--that’s the fun part. But the actual writing is hard. And like any job (especially one you aren’t getting paid for), the less fun it is, the more likely you’ll just find other things to do.
There’s also lack of confidence. Even after being published several times and having a circle of trusted friends/critics encouraging me, there’s still that little gremlin in my head whispering that I’m not really good enough, so why waste my time? I firmly believe that you should write for yourself first. But very few would-be authors want to keep their ideas locked away forever. The act of putting a story down on paper says you want to share it with someone. And what if that someone hates it? If someone rejects your art, that means they are rejecting you--at least that’s how the mind of a writer works. Who needs that kind of anxiety?!
And that thing about “writing for yourself” is a double-edged sword, because I guarantee there is nothing anyone could say about my writing that is worse than what I have thought about it myself. I just told you that writing doesn’t always come easy. Objectively, I know the importance of revising, and that it sometimes takes a while to figure out what your story even is, much less the best way to tell it. But, somehow, I just can’t remember those sage lessons when I’m in the act. I’m a writer, dammit! Everything should be perfect, pulitzer-worthy, mega-best-seller material the moment it hits the page! Sometimes, you have no choice but to step back and say “Wow. That sucks.” And it hurts just as much coming from the mirror as it does coming from someone else.
But NaNoWriMo is about letting go of all those excuses. It’s about giving yourself permission to write just for the sake of writing. The ideas aren’t flowing? Just type gibberish and keep plowing through. Afraid of what others will say? Once your word-count hits 50k, just delete the whole file and nobody has to know. Every word you type is worse than the last? So what? At least you're writing.
At least you're writing.
See, the thing about just writing--the part where the magic comes in--is that things have a way of falling into place once you let go of those excuses. Yes, it is hard, but like any task, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Never easy, but easier. Not everyone will like your story, but someone just might. At best, you will entertain your audience. You might move them. You might even inspire them (That’s the big one, because the world needs storytellers.) And you will undoubtedly turn out some grade-A crap. But there will be something you can use. Sometimes, it’s a single line of dialogue. Maybe you discover an unforgettable character that would be more at home in another story. Or, just maybe, you end up with an entire novel that, with a little work, could really be something special. A turd can’t be polished, but it can be revised.
Maybe you just want to enjoy stories. There’s nothing wrong with that--people like me depend on you. But if there is even a small part of you that wants to tell them, I invite you to join me for the next 30 days. Forget all of those excuses and embrace the madness of NaNoWriMo. You don’t need experience, a plot, or even an idea. All you have to do is write. Just. Write.