One of the things I said I would write about for Today’s Author was fear in relation to writing. I mentioned in my introductory post that when it comes to having deadlines, fear takes a backseat. And when it comes to NaNoWriMo, fear may as well be in the trunk. There is something comforting about giving myself a challenge, and leaving no room, none whatsoever, for failure. And yes, I would view it as a failure if I didn’t complete my 50,000 words.
So, to avoid this failure, here are some things I’ve done to help me finish my “novels” in NaNoWriMos past and some things I recommend:
- Turn off the self-editor, and view this month as an extended exercise in freewriting. Freewriting is something I teach to my students in basic writing classes as a trick to just get over themselves. Freewriting lets them initially scrap the things that will matter later: structure, grammar, punctuation, paragraph breaks, an introduction and conclusion, and yes, even content. Just write. Get it out, though it might be crap (it will be crap). Ignore your self-criticizing, self-editing, self-questioning side. Crawl out from under your many neuroses, and let the subconscious take the driver’s seat (ah, the car metaphors are revving up . . . see what I did there?)
- Remember that production is the essence of NaNoWriMo, its raison d’etre. And community. Embrace those two truths. If you’re not a particularly prolific writer (and I am not), then allow (read: force) yourself to be prolific this one month. If you’re not a particularly communal writer, then force yourself out into your community—meet up with fellow writers at coffee shops and bars, and take some comfort in staring at each other over your laptop screens, faces crinkled in consternation and lit with hellish screen-glows. Make your personal suffering a shared suffering. It makes all that sighing and hair pulling and sudden chair overturning all the more meaningful. No more must you be the crazed first wife of Edward Rochester, thrashing about in the attic of Thornfield Hall, alone and ignored—you can have friends to share in your mania.
- Check the stats often. One of the coolest things about NaNoWriMo is seeing how your city matches up to other cities around the world. You can see if your city is falling behind Rio de Janeiro, or Paris, or the entire city state of Monaco. If you’re competitive, this should get you going.
- Post on Facebook that you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Make others hold you accountable. And post your word count every day, even if it seems annoyingly self-congratulatory. Get those thumbs up and words of praise!
- View the writing you do in November as a kind of meditation, because it is. As anyone who has tried meditation (or anything that requires consistency…exercising, for example) knows, it sucks in the beginning. It is often painful and feels pointless. But there is something to be said for persistence, and learning the art of longevity. November 1-8 might feel like a jumbled, jangly mess of terribleness, but hang on. As your mind gets into the groove of consistent writing, it will come to crave that time, and the days that follow will change. Sinking into your writing chair, or standing at your computer (as some of us do) to persist in this particular challenge will feel more and more familiar, expected, and ultimately needed. In essence, you are changing your mental make-up this month; you are changing your routine. And that means you are giving your writing itself a (perhaps) much-needed change in scope, in length, in style, in content.
So, don’t be afraid. No fear in November—that’s the mantra. Enjoy what you produce.