I wrote a novel in November. (“What’s it about?” you ask. “Can I read it?” No, you can’t read it, but you can read this, since you clearly have nothing better to do.)
After thirty days of strain, lost sleep, personal hygiene and chores ignored, I typed the last word into the processor of words and basked in the glory. Oh, the glory! NaNoWriMo was a demanding exercise, and rewarding in equal measure. It taught me about the craft, my process, myself, and dare I say, it may change the trajectory of my writing forever.
But it could also have been just another notch on the board of failure (you keep one of those, too, right?), had I succumbed to the pressures to quit, and there were ample pressures to quit.
How did I succeed? For those who may undertake the challenge themselves, I believe you (if you’re anything like me) must first acknowledge that fifty thousand words aren’t what stand in your way. The writing is easy; you just have to make the time and then do it. (This coming from a genuine plodder.) But there will be many reasons not to: reasons you can’t write today, reasons you’ll never succeed, reasons to give up the dream entirely. Acknowledge that the novel won’t tempt you with a Netflix binge or call you a hopeless, pudgy prose-prattler. Only you do that.
To counter the reasons, you will need answers: why you will write today, why you continue on in the face of uncertainty, why the dream matters. Without answers, you will crumble.
What will be your answer when every word for the last three days has been uninspired dreck? Will you tell perfectionism to “shove off”? Will you put the goal of finishing above the myth of your own genius? The mantra I repeated every day: “Success is measured in words.”
What will be your answer when you have nine hundred words to write, it’s late, you’re exhausted, and your bed tempts you with soft cooing noises? Will you explain patiently to the bed the many reasons you won’t sleep until you’ve hit your goal? Will the bed even understand? At these times, I told myself: I just have to write 1,667 words. If I do that every day, I can’t fail.
I succeeded this year where I had failed before. Because I had answers to reasons. Reader, aspiring NaNoWriMo-er, listen for the reasons that arise and find your answers. Hold fast to your answers, put death to perfectionism, do the day’s work, and you will discover the great joy of writing like your life depends on it. Success is measured in words, you persistent prose-prattler.