So the writer’s blockade I discussed several weeks ago didn’t ebb away. I did everything in my power to make it do so: I attended and participated in my online workshop, I sent some short stories out to literary journals, and I held an annual review with my writing-self to assess what I’ve done in the past year and to lay out firm goals for the next one. Oddly, despite all this effort, the novel that I’ve been so scared to get back to – tentatively titled Midway – didn’t magically write itself.
Truthfully, I’ve never been this stuck on a project before, and I’m beginning to panic a bit. They say that desperate times call for desperate measures, though, and so it’s time for a desperate measure on my part: NaNoWriMo.*
I’ll be honest – I’ve been a skeptic about the NaNoWriMo party. Worse, I’ve been a bit of a snob about it. (“Write a novel in a month? Feh. Whose muse shows up on demand?”) I’m not proud of my snobbery, but NaNoWriMo just seemed so…wordy. Or word-county, maybe. Under-inspired. Sweat-based. Grinding.
The problem I’m now facing, though, is that my muse isn’t showing up. Like, at all. Despite my rational brain and my extreme work-ethic, returning to work on Midway is terrifying. I’m paralyzed in the face of this book, and I don’t have the time to figure out why: I just need to get some words down on the page and keep pushing forward.
Enter NaNoWriMo, which I’ll take, gratefully, with an extra-large slice of humble pie.
The opportunity to add 50,000 words to Midway in the month of November, the requirement to do so, is an absolute gift. Joining the NaNoWriMo party simplifies the task of working on this novel: I’m not at all about quality in November; I’m about word count. And I have to write the words, good or bad – that’s the gift of the whole thing. The bar lowers from writing a good novel to just writing a bunch of words.
I’ve worked like this before, actually. I wrote my first novel, Privations, solely to get a first bad book out of the way: all first novels are crap, I figured, and I wanted to get beyond that to my second book, which I hoped might actually be good. I wrote Privations in daily 30 minute chunks – all the time I had available with two small kids to care for. Somehow, the combination of setting the bar low (bad book) and writing at breakneck speed in short bursts allowed me to finish a draft. I didn’t stop there, of course. It took 18 months of further writing and revising to turn Privations into something I was willing to send to agents.
And I won’t stop working on Midway at the end of November. But right now I need to start working on the book again, and I know instinctively that NaNoWriMo will help me push through the terror and do so. So NaNoWriMo, please forgive my past attitude: it wasn’t you, it was me, and I apologize and thank you in advance for helping me keep on keeping on.
*For those who may not know, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a virtual “writing group” of hundreds of thousands of people who pledge to create a 50,000 word (minimum) novel during the month of November. Come join the party!