My NaNoWriMo pep talk

Nanowrimo was an elaborate ploy

If you are still reading this, then you mostly likely have not given up. Awesome! Possibly, you have already reached 50,000. Probably, you are very close.

I don’t have any sage advice at this stage of Nanowrimo, because you don’t need any. You now realize this is all an elaborate ploy to help you set aside one part of each day to pursue a creative passion that won’t leave you alone. The book in your head tugs at your sleeve like a hungry child, begging to be fed sheets of paper, ink, and battery power from your laptop. All that nanowrimo did was say “it’s okay” to give that child what it needs, and finally put your life in balance, and set your career as a writer in motion.

I haven’t hit the “long strides” of my novel yet, nor have I fallen hopelessly behind. I’m simply plugging along, writing nearly 1667 words each day. It’s work, and I do it, because to do otherwise would be to lock away the part of my brain that constantly imagines stories that have never been told.

I’m barely going to reach 50,000 this year. And I’m a four-time veteran of Nanowrimo!

Writing vs Playing Guitar

The lesson is that even after 5 years, writing isn’t something that suddenly gets easy. For me, it’s the opposite of playing a guitar. After playing a little guitar every day for 20 years, I can pick it up, strum all sorts of chords, play notes at will, and usually carry any song with a minimal of guidance from the Internet.

But after 20 years of playing every day, I might look like a virtuoso to someone who isn’t good at the mechanics, and yet in my head I’m just a beginner. Yesterday I worked for over an hour to craft just 10 lines of lyrics, and have their cadence match the rhythm of the chords I was playing. I failed. But you know what? You sleep on it, wake up, and try again the next day.

When I think about it this way, nanowrimo is EXACTLY like playing a guitar. You can learn to write a scene, a dialogue, or paint a beautiful description of a bank heist – but after five years I still struggle with strings of scenes that build a narrative, and sequences of dialogues that create humor, and that description of a bank heist that cleverly tricks the reader into missing that red herring in a mystery.

So you see, the end is not near. Sure, the goal of 50,000 words is right around the corner, but your writing and your storycraft must continue to develop. You just wrote an awesome part of a novel, and there are some incredible scenes in there that deserve to be read by millions of people. But it will only happen if you continue writing on Dec 1st, and again on Dec 2nd, and a little more on the day after…

Every little bit counts. Did you not just notice that for the last month it only took 3-4 pages of writing a day to get somewhere? If 1667 words a day was grueling, why not try to write 1000? Even 500 a day is doing a million times more than you were. This is coming from someone who for the last 5 years has written 88% of all his writing in November. I hope I will have the discipline to take my own advice.

Lastly, here is the poem that I tried to craft into a song:

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth
“You owe me”
Look what happens with
A love like that
It lights the whole sky
—Hafiz

I’d like to think that good writing can do the same thing for those writers willing to embrace their story with all their being.

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