Week 2. This is the hardest part of NaNoWriMo. We’ve started, but the end seems so far away. If your motivation is flagging, this post is for you.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
–Mary Anne Radmacher, American author and artist
We start NaNo for a whole host of reasons. We want to be writers. We want to tell a story. We may or may not have a story to tell, but we decide, for many and varied reasons, to give it a shot.
It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
Then reality sets in. “What the hell were we thinking, doing this? We must be nuts/crazy/full of hubris.” The boomerang of the inner critic’s voice comes back around and smacks us square between the eyes and we wonder who the hell we ever thought we were, trying to write a novel. After all, what do we have to say? What made us think we could do this? After all, all the stories are told already, all the novels written, and the deck is stacked against us. Besides, the new television shows are on, or there are cats on Facebook to look for. Anything but sit our butts in a chair and open our manuscript.
A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
Runners call this The Wall. It’s sneaky. The Wall doesn’t hit in the beginning. No, in the beginning, if we can get started, there’s the momentum of the beginning to sustain us. We can do it, we think. After all, look at all these other people who are doing it too. Why not us? No, that’s not The Wall. The Wall comes after the running’s been going on for a while. No one knows exactly when it will hit, but it will hit. We hit the equivalent of a solid brick wall that blanks out the horizon and stops us in our tracks.
We want to give up.
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
Here’s a couple simple truths, as you’re staring at The Wall:
- The Wall is a liar. It will tell you there’s no use. There’s no point. Worse, there’s no Story.
- The Wall happens to all writers, at some point in their writing life. Pros, amateurs, beginners, it doesn’t matter. The Wall is an equal opportunity phenomenon.
- Doubt is the sister to The Wall. So is the Inner Critic.
- The Wall will try and make us stop writing, stop telling our Story, stop believing that we can do it.
- The only cure for The Wall is to write. One word at a time. Keep going.
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
The job description is “writer.” It’s not “feel good and have fun all the time with the words flowing.” It’s not “brilliant bestseller, everything produced is worth selling to the highest bidder.” It’s not “perfect speller and crafter of amazingly perfect prose the first time out the gate.” A writer is one who writes, that is, puts words in front of each other. There’s not a lot of glamour in that, or flashing lights, or anything other than us, our pen or keyboard, and Story.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.
The way to keep going varies by writer. Here are some suggestions to try.
- Interview your characters. Start with the main character, and ask them questions as though you were hiring them for a job.
- Make a list of everything in the setting of the scene you’re writing. If it’s a room, imagine you’re standing at the door and look left, ahead, right, down, up, and immediately behind yourself. List everything you see. What color is the paint on the wall? Carpet or hardwood? Furniture? What’s on top of the furniture? Are there pets? Pet fur? Pet food? No pets? How come?
- Write a scene of a brand new character coming into that setting for the first time, having just bought the place from your characters. What do they see? How do they interact with the place?
- Kill off one of your characters. What happens then? Alternatively, write a sex scene with a character, or have them receive an unexpected and large sum of money. What happens next?
- Sit down with your manuscript. Write or type, “The truth is, …” and finish that thought.
All words count during NaNo. Write about being stuck. What’s stopping you? Why do you feel blocked? Put it on the page. Put all of it on the page. Put 1,667 words of it on the page.
That’s all it is. Words on a page. They don’t have to be the best words ever, they just have to be words – they don’t even have to be spelled correctly. This is a rough draft. If you want, challenge yourself to write the worst first draft ever in the history of letters.
But above all, write. You will care, come December, that you kept going.
Trust the words, Dear Writer. Trust NaNo. Trust that writing is right. Trust that you can do it.
Because, you can do it.
A. Catherine Noon, co-ML for Chicago Region 2014; 5 events, 3 wins
- E.E. Cummings
**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
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