NaNoWriMo Let’s Go!

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I’m signed up for National Novel Writing Month. The gist: through the month of November, complete a 50,000 word novel.

When I first learned of NaNoWriMo years ago, I thought it was a crazy idea. There was no way I could accomplish such a task and maintain a life and my sanity.

I successfully defended my MFA thesis this month. The relief, as my director promised, was incredible. It was immediately followed by my favorite (I’m being sarcastic) thought: What’s next?

My thesis was a collection of short stories I wrote during my time in the MFA program. I struggle with short stories. Having spent the last few years writing them, I have a greater appreciation for master short story writers. I learned through the headaches and damn near anxiety attacks of trying to squeeze big stories into small spaces, that I might be a better long-form writer. My best stories covered short periods of time, sometimes just a single day. When I tried to cover longer stretches of time, the squeeze came in, and it was obvious. Those didn’t go well in workshop.

After my defense I was excited to take a break from the short story format. I was no longer bound by a 20(ish) page limit (teachers always tell you not to apologize for long stories, but who wants to inflict that on their classmates?).

So the thrilling, terrifying, possibly depressing “What’s next?” brought me to the obvious answer. I’m going to write a novel. I already had an idea fleshing out from a story that flopped in workshop. My teacher, who had a lot to say about what was wrong with the story, said in his critique, “I think you’re writing a novel.” Turns out he was right.

After that realization came the anxiety of how to get started, and there came NaNoWriMo whispering in my ear. Seriously, I didn’t see an ad or anything, I was just sitting in front of my computer pondering, when the thought popped in my head. Maybe I should try NaNoWriMo.

Again it seemed impossible. 50,000 words in 30 days?! Impossible. But then my reasoning kicked in. One little thing I’ve learned when facing big tasks is, break it down. In other words, do the math. 50,000 words in 30 days, broken down, means a little over 1,600 words per day, about six pages a day.

I’ll admit, that’s a lot for me. I’m a sloooow writer. Sometimes because I’m pondering (I am a great ponderer. I could do it all day). Mostly because I have a bad procrastination problem. I’m not distracted, I look for distractions. All I need is a speck of dust to make me unleash my undomestic goddess and start cleaning. There have been days where I’ve spent hours (hours!) in front of my computer and written a paragraph, and not even a good one.

But I may have stumbled upon the key to overcoming my turtle-slow (no offense, turtles!), procrastinated writing through four words of advice I found in an Atlantic article about how to stop procrastinating and get more work done: Write fast, edit slow. You can read more about this advice here. Thank you Laura Vanderkam for this little gem.

It’s only been a few days since I’ve started implementing this advice as I prep for NaNoWriMo. I’ve started working on the first chapter/prologue (not sure yet what it will be) and every time I catch myself pondering (for me it’s a physical thing, I prop my elbow up and rake my fingers through my hair) I shoot back up and resume typing.

I used to joke about “waiting for the muse,” but I’m kicking that lame excuse in the can. Waiting for the muse is an excuse to give up in the guise of artistry. I need motivation and inspiration, but I need to let those come about while I write, not while I wait to write. Because what happens when I wait is that good old doubt creeps in and kindly suggests that maybe I’m not ready, maybe I need more time, need to read and experience more, and, well, maybe I’m not smart enough and maybe I don’t really have anything all that original or interesting to say, and, yeah, maybe I just need to give up these silly writing dreams and do something practical and productive for the world.

No! I am giving myself permission to try, just to try. And NaNoWriMo just might be the spark this engine needs to get (and stay) running. We’ll see.

 

Photo: Me trying to play soccer with my son at a playground in Manhattan, or simply me trying.

4 responses to “NaNoWriMo Let’s Go!”

  1. Enjoyed reading your process and enjoy how it feels like I’m sitting across from you in person, catching up. Felt myself in there on my journey and feel inspired – best of luck on your novel and on your NaNoWriMo… thanks for sharing out, I’ll be looking forward to your updates ❤

    1. Thank you! Feel free to give me a nudge if I go quiet. I need all the accountability I can get. Thanks for reading.

  2. Beautiful sis! I can relate to this on so many levels. Doubt is a monster that prevents us from accomplishing our dreams. Your writing is amazing and I’m constantly drawn in to the words. I can’t wait to read your novel! 🤗❤️

    1. Thank you! Yes, we gotta keep fighting that monster.

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