How We Write: Na-NO-Wri No!

There’s a startling trend I notice each December: how few NANO participants create consistantly AFTER their November, head-bashing-against-the-wall, word count deadline. I’m not talking about less writing the month after the challenge. What’s too common is that there will be NO writing in December at all. Which breeds no forward momentum of any consequence in January, February, etc…

nano quit

Because we’re burned out after such a grueling sprint? 50,000 words in a month leading up to a major holiday showdown with our sanity? Perhaps. Which begs the question, why do we systematically degrade that balance by throwing everything we can to the wolves while we focus on the very thing we don’t want to be the enemy when we’re done with our challenge: creatively writing toward a deadline every day. Why do we set ourselves up to fail, come December 1st?

Because we need a break to recoup our energy and muse? Yes. That’s pretty obvious. NANO tends to throw any number any number of other things out of balance as we gorge ourselves on the exhaustion that is producing story. Relationships. Friendships. Family obligations. Other responsibilities. All of which we try to keep up with as much as needed while we burn out on our “craft.” To the point that everything suffers by the end of the month (you know, right around the time that insignificant national holiday happens), including said story. Were exhausted. We need a break. And is it any wonder when that break extends beyond the weekend we promise ourselves will be the end of our time off–what with conflict and tension and backlash we’ve just spent a month convincing ourselves our writing causes in our lives? When wants to get back into the flow of that once we’re out of it?

nano failing so badl

Or is it that when we wake from our November fugue state, we can’t stand what we’ve created during our manic race? Have we just spent a month teaching ourselves that if we do commit to our writing and make it a priority above all else, we’re still going to create crap?

nano fun and games

A misconception that these series of HoWW posts have been trying to DEBUNK. It’s not your writing, if any of the above is what’s demotivating you come December, January, February, etc. I submit that it’s the process of making your writing a unwieldy chore that’s blocked you. 50k words in one month? Many of us not planning properly  before we begin to “write by the seats of our pants?” Not focusing on the beauty of the process or those wordsor how to integrate either of them into the hectic, everyday, non-NANO lives waiting to crash down on us when we’re done?

NANO too often becomes an exercise in learning how NOT to write.Yet we’re told it’s inspiring and yields phenomenal results and teaches us determination and discipline. If that were the case, the majority of these manuscripts would be forgotten, never to be looked at again. So many lovely writing voices wouldn’t be shutting down in December, often taking months to peak back out of their caves with a faint thought of trying something new.

What to do?

First, remember you’re a creator of story, not a machine.  Very few of us can do well or even passably what NANOWRIMO suggests we should all be doing each November.

Second, picture a fragile boat on a choppy sea, being bounced around by forces beyond it’s ability to sustain. Then picture someone dropping a hundred pounds of baggage on only one side of the boat. It’ll stay afloat for a while, but eventually, that boat’s going down no matter how hard you paddle. But if that same weight is balanced all over the boat, giving it more stability as you struggle toward a rocky shore, you’ll actually have a better shot of getting where you want to go. You’ll be less likely to give up, to wonder “What’s the point,” or to slip into all that watery nothingness because you’re just too exhausted to go on.

We want to do NANO, because we’re writers, and this is our kind of guilt-driven challenge. We don’t produce enough. We don’t make time for our stories. We don’t force ourselves to write every day. Except, we’re writers. We’re creative, sensitive, and fragile, even while we’re determined, hopeful and strong. We can do a mind-f**k on ourselves in under a month, if we push just the right buttons. And with NANO, too many of us do.

nano novelists at work

NANOWRIMO is about being a prolific novelist, not just a hobbyist. And that’s great. But it’s only a tool. It’s not a destination. Yes, we should be writing every day, but not at the expense of our will to write. Don’t do that to yourself the rest of this month or in December or beyond.

When you sit down to write, create the best sentence you possibly can, no matter how long it takes you or how few other sentences you produce today.Then morph that into the best paragraph you’ve ever written. Finish the scene better than you’ve ever motivated and conflicted and grown a character before. And that chapter you’re trying to finish today, make it shine. THAT’s what matters, as well as the next sentence and scene and chapter you’ll attempt tomorrow, because you won’t be afraid to come back and peak at what you did today.

Be a writer. A novelist. A creative soul. Every day. Don’t let NANO get in the way of that come December 1st.

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2 Responses to “How We Write: Na-NO-Wri No!”

  1. Fannie says:

    I have been away for a while. I have had some major health problems and had to be in and out of the hospital and rehab physical therapy for about 4 months this year. Hopefully that’s all behind me and I can get back to a more normal life. Looking forward to catching up on all the happenings ing your world. Sure have missed you.

  2. Debbie Herbert says:

    Interesting. I have tried the NaNo challenge for two years and failed each time — leaving me feeling guilty and frustrated. My friends can do it – why can’t I??

    What really makes me nuts is why the month of November? Why not January after the holiday season has passed and we are in the New Years goals mode?

    I’ll create my own “Mini-NaNo” in January. Until then, I am doling out the words as I can with all the extra family/holiday obligations.

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