Floodgates and NaNoWriMo
As yet another NaNoWriMo approaches I’ve had a few people comment on the fact that I’m writing two books at the moment. It got me thinking (mostly because I for some bizzaro reason ended up feeling guilty, like I shouldn’t be working as hard or as little as I can) about why I’m working on so many projects between now and the end of the year.
A big reason is that the floodgates have been opened. I have a lot (a lot!) of stories stored up inside me. Stories I’ve been meaning to write for years. Stories I’ve been pondering my whole life. But I was on a fast track and didn’t have time to stop and put those stories down. I had a master’s degree to earn. A marriage. Kids to have. Mountains to climb. Places to see. I was in such a rush to get to all these places and it felt like writing was stopping. You know the phrase “stop to write”? Yeah, that’s all I kept thinking: I can’t stop to write! I gotta keep moving!
And you know, it takes a long time to get a story down on paper. It takes even longer to build a career in this industry (for normal people who do not become instant successes). I didn’t have time to stop and write. Except that writing isn’t stopping, it’s just a different way of moving through the world. And while I was so busy ignoring the stories in my head, they kept right on growing and changing. So that once I did finally sit down to write, it was like I opened the floodgates and story after story was released. It feels like my body is constantly saying, “Thank god! I couldn’t hold this in much longer!” and the words tumble out of my brain faster than my fingers can type most days. (My CP’s can vouch for the frequent and bizarre missing words).
I’m writing so much because I have to. Now that I’ve started putting the stories down it feels like they all have to come out at once. Some days I feel a little crazy, to be honest. I constantly feel like I have this urgent need to get somewhere quickly (like I used to feel when I was on the fast track), but really, it’s just the words screaming to get written. Quicker. Faster. More.
Last year for NaNoWriMo I sat down to work out a story that wasn’t ready to come out. I tried to force it onto the page and it didn’t work (at all!) because I wasn’t ready to tell that story yet. I’m glad I tried because I learned a valuable lesson. Writing is a job, but it is also a creative calling. And like all creative callings, it isn’t always fed by word counts. It is a process that involves reading, thinking, dreaming, watching television, and getting out and living life. When the words aren’t working it is good to keep practicing, but it is wrong to expect magic to happen every time you sit down to write.
NaNo is great for teaching you to learn to be consistent, to set goals, and learn that you can achieve them. But it can also teach you how important it is to feed the process from multiple angels, to accept defeat, and keep on working. It’s not really about winning NaNo, it’s about learning that you can be a writer, how to be a better writer, and to find a support network of other writers who can help you grow on your journey.
If you’re setting off on the journey this November, then I wish you the best of luck! If you are still considering it from the sidelines, watch NaNo this year and plan (really plan!) on doing it next year. I have my profile up and going on the NaNo website, so please send me a buddy request and we’ll all cheer each other on! Good luck NaNoWriMo contestants!
***First Draught will be talking about NaNoWriMo this month! Watch our chat live or on YouTube the first Tuesday of every month!