It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.
– Ernest Hemingway
Writers around the world are buzzing as November approaches, signaling the 16th annual National Novel Writing Month challenge. At the stroke of midnight on November 1st, thousands of writers will start a mad dash toward completing a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days.
Spread evenly, that’s 1,667 words a day, close to five single spaced pages. But here’s the trick: it doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t even have to be good. The point here is to take an idea, sit down, and beat it over the head with hard work until you’ve got something whole to work with.
Why do this to yourself?
If you want to get good at something, you’ve got to put in the work, so you might as well have a bunch of other suckers along for the ride cheering you on. Writers more than anyone get a free pass for procrastinating, waiting for that perfect moment for the narrative to form completely and the words to pour forth in its wondrous creation.
So you start writing, and…shit, what am I doing? Where is this going? Who are these people? My writing is so, something. It’s frustrating, so you give up and wait for the next idea. I’m constantly guilty of this.
But there are good days, too. You write and it just flows and you’re not scrunching your face and pausing and hmmmming. You’ve got a direct line from your thoughts through your fingers to the page and it flows.
At the end of November, regardless of whether you’ve completed the challenge or not, there’s a good chance you’ve got at least a few days’ worth of writing you’re really happy with. Take that, figure out why the rest isn’t working, and start revising. Stories are written in revision, and you can’t start chopping and polishing until you’ve got something to work with, no matter how misshapen. NaNoWriMo gives you that first, faulty draft, an enormous achievement.
The Muse has shit to do, and you do too.
You can’t schedule your best writing. When the muse hits, it’s on their time. Unfortunately, most of us also have things to take care of too. Work, school, family, friends, there’s always something. But it’s amazing what steady progress can do. For one month, turn off the TV, cancel your plans, get done what you need to get done and fill the rest with writing. It’s surprising how much time you can find when you cut out the noise.
Follow me on Twitter @danjfinnegan as I blast through this thing or crash and burn in agonizing failure. Better yet, join in and sign up at nanowrimo.org. They’re a nonprofit and the event is entirely free, including plenty of community support and resources. We can throw rocks and jabs at each other as we lose our minds, and who knows, maybe even help each other out.