NaNoWriMo, Here I Come

I was talking with my friend Rebecca a while ago, who was telling me about a challenge she had undertaken at her barre exercise class. “The goal is to complete 45 barre classes in 30 days,” she told me.

I was no mathematician, but those numbers gave me pause. “Wait. That means you’re gonna have to do at least two classes per day sometimes.”

“Yep,” she said. I could tell by her determined, terror-stricken grin that she had come to this revelation long before that moment. As someone who worked full-time (and oftentimes double-shifts), as well as–you know–having a social life in other endeavors, adding that type of commitment would definitely force her to make some adjustments to her daily routine.

“Yep,” she said again when I voiced this, but this time her expression softened into a serious resolution. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage it–but Ima manage it!”

To my glee and admiration (and her own initial shock), she did more than that. She completed her challenge well before the deadline, even giving up some of her favorite pastimes temporarily to make the challenge a legit priority.

I’ve repetively told her how proud I was of her. I hadn’t doubted that she could do it; she is someone who is quite resolute when she plans out activities. In fact, her dedication inspired me.

Despite writing more in general (primarily personal journals), I have not focused any time on actually writing a novel itself (there are other reasons for that, but anyway…). Perhaps I’ll have a day of delight and bust out a page or two, but by the next day, the inspiration is MIA.

Seeing what Becca did with her challenge reminded me that sometimes, the key to success is just deciding to do it–and then, just commiting to it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

And I’m going to do it by adding a resource that I never have before. I’m using the aid of National Novel Writing Month–also affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Well, aside from being really fun to say (and debate its pronunciation among others: “Am I saying it right? Am I–am I saying it correctly?”), and residing in the best month evah (*ahem*Scorpios of the world unite*cough*). NaNoWriMo is a non-profit global organization that promotes the creative drive of novelists everywhere. What started as 21 writers in 1999 has since exploded into a resource with sponsors, education programs, word-tracking capabilities, and more. Beginning November 1, novelists will blaze into a flurry of writing with the goal of getting out at least 50,000 words–a solid start to any novel–by the end of November 30.

Despite my love of writing, I’ll confess that signing-up the word-tracking “required” for NaNoWriMo intimidated me. As a child, my writing was my private safe haven. The most publicly I ever shared my works were in college, both in my creative writing classes and my slew of WWE wrestler slash fanfiction that I posted on an online, members-only private forum.

(The Rock and Triple H. Mmmm, those were good times.)

Timidly, I clicked the link to the NaNoWriMo site. The image of a typewriter and a bagel (half-eaten) lured me into its embrace, while the “sign-up” button beckoned me closer.

Scrolling down further granted me an excerpt of NaNo’s vision statement:

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

From NanNoWriMo.org. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

…They said my favorite word.  “Creativity.”

…How have I denied my urges for so long??

But NaNoWriMo doesn’t just promote writing and creativity–it thoroughly enforces it. Apparently, over 900 volunteers will organize “communal writing sessions” throughout the world during November, giving its attendees both a place and a sense of support that has never been seen before 1999.

Weighing the Odds…as They Crush Me

I continued to peruse the site, building hope and promise that maybe–maybe this could help me get on track towards finally getting over my fears of writing.

Why do I think it will work? Apparently, several novels were penned with the help of the challenge.

  • Wool by Hugh Howey was a fun, freaky scifi series book that I utterly enjoyed when I found it on Amazon.
  • Water for Elephants is another. Heck, that one was turned into a movie starting Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz.

Though my goal to write was not to become a famous, popular author, it was nice to know that NaNoWriMo had served as a solid foundation for serious writers who, perhaps, just needed that extra boost of accountability and community support to keep going.

I scrolled down further on the front page, my heart lightening with each line–and then clenched as two sets of numbers suddenly rolled into view.

  • 798,162 active novelists
  • 367,913 novels completed

Welllll, son of a mother. That’s…a lot of writers.

The Game Plan

If I do Nothing, Nothing will happen.  If I do Something, Something has no choice but to occur.

–Anonymous

Just looking at those stats alone was enough to make me sway and bring back some of my original fears to start writing again. Out of such a high number of novels completed, there is bound to be a notable percentage of those novels that are actually brilliant, witty, emotionally life-changing, literary masterpieces.

That being said, I appreciated about NaNoWriMo (aside from the heavy promotion of nurturing creativity) is that it is not a contest. In fact, they make a point to say that this is a community, a place to support each other as everyone works towards our same, singular goal: to complete our 50,000+ word works.

During a time when physical ability has been a heavy strain, writing is one tool that makes me feel sharp and alive. That–and I can’t say this enough–I love to write. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than leave my random scrawlings in a handwritten notebook.

I have good ideas for novels. I know I do. And I want to share them with others to evoke the joy and delight that my favorite novelists and writers have done for me since I was a child.

If the initial goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days, that averages to 1,667 words per day.

Is it possible? Well, sure. Many things are possible.

But there will be days when the desire to sit and type will wane. There will be days when the last thing I will want to do is stare at my dumb computer screen and paw through the slush that will be the first draft of this novel. There will be times when I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a hole, and the hole seems a bottomless pit with no hope for landing.

And then, there will be those days when I just think: “This sucks, and I hate everything and what’s the point.” And then, I’m gonna run from my desk like Ron Swanson.

…But.

The very reason I’m joining this challenge is because…I have unofficially written for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to try and publish anything. My self-esteem and fear of producing boring, laughable crap has left me prone, stuck.

I have family and friends who have long since been writing and have successfully published. They were able to push past the inner fears and life struggles, bear down, and do what they needed to get their work to the masses.

I envy them. I admire them.

I want to grab them by the lapels and screech, “How did you do it?!”

But, more than anything…I want to join them. Maybe not in just publishing books, but also in the power of their desire.

I want to know their strength and their ability to commit to a project. I want to know what worked for them. I want to know what didn’t.

But…you know? I actually already kinda do.

I’ve talked with the family members, and I followed the blog of and occasionally chatted with an old friend as her books ranked higher and higher on Amazon.

I truly think I have all the tools I need. There is nothing left but the doing.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want live in excuses or fear anymore. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Committing to this challenge will allow me to hold myself publicly accountable for writing a novel for the first time. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the layout of the site is much beyond the sign-up button. Once I finish writing this post, though, I will find out.

If musicians can lock themselves in studios for 72 hours to get an album done, and my friend Rebecca can dole out multiple barre classes in a single day and still rush into work that same day, then I can sit, plug my ears, shove my insecurities aside, and freakin’ write.

…Wish me luck.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Any other first-time NaNoWriMo novelists out there? I’d love to hear what’s driving you this year!

I am Afraid to Write. Here’s Why.

A few days ago, I was talking on the phone with someone I admire greatly and who is, among many things, a talented writer. As I was explaining the plot of a story I’d outlined a couple of years ago to get his thoughts on it, he suddenly cut me off.

“Did you notice,” he said carefully, seeming hesitant to call me out, “that every time you mention one of your stories, you end by saying how much it sucks?”

I hadn’t noticed and flushed with embarrassment, grateful that he couldn’t see my reddening face. Jokingly, I tried to downplay my self-condescension, explaining that I used to be more creative in my childhood and adolescence. Why, I’d even written 30 short stories and two fan-fiction manuscripts over the course of two years in college!

But then, life happened. I graduated and, in my eyes, failed to integrate into adulthood. Through the struggle to stand on my own two feet and several bouts of severe writer’s blocks, it wasn’t until now, in my 30s, that I’d finally decided to place more attention on how I truly wanted to live.

Despite this newfound desire, my creativity is still recovering. The mental freedom I used to feel as a child is nonexistent. Even a 400-page manuscript that I’d completed four years ago was shoved into limbo after I dozed off in the middle of editing it–twice.

Now, I’m lucky to draft a 10-page story outline, let alone a full-length novel. I was too afraid to write beyond that.

“What are you afraid of?” my friend asked.

I paused, running the question through my mind and letting the silence on the line balloon between us. When the answer formed, it was a lot longer–and more heart-rending–than I’d expected it to be.

Why I am Afraid

This isn’t the first time I’ve explored my fear of writing. It has been, however, seven years since I really looked at the root of the problem. While some things remained the same, time (and neglect) have allowed the number of fears to multiply.

As each reason poured from my mouth, a new one flooded my head right behind it:

  • There are only a finite number of plots and themes that are recycled throughout storytelling. What would make anyone read mine when they could read somebody else’s? Someone much more talented?
  • My plot will be stupid.
  • My plot will be boring.
  • My characters, setting, climax, and resolution will be an amazing conglomerate of boring and stupid.
  • I’ll start drafting a book, then get bored and stop. Therefore, I’ve wasted my time getting started in the first place.
  • Everyone (fanatics and critics alike) will ridicule every book I write, calling them crappy, mortifying, and just plain awful.
  • I don’t have the intelligence, maturity, or skillset to write the story the way I want it. The premise will sound good, but then I’ll have to flesh out the details. Of which I will do a miserable job.
  • I should be putting my time and energy into “more important, productive” activities. Like a full-time corporate job, and socializing with friends, and…um…laundry.
  • All the time spent writing the book, editing the book, submitting the book, promoting the book, publishing the book…will all be for nothing. No one will read it.
  • I’ll get a literary agent who doesn’t represent me to his/her fullest, and my book will end up in horrifying obscurity, not seeing the light of day until 500 years later, when I will be adored only because my book will serve as the only remnant of an otherwise forgotten time.
  • I have a former very close friend whom I knew throughout high school who is now a lauded, bestselling author. I have other friends, family members, and clients who have also published books. So, then…what void is left for me to fill in the writing world?

This list is more complete than the one I gave my friend during our call. After reciting about three or four, I trailed off, again embarrassed to be exposing this part of myself that I hadn’t realized ran so deep.

My friend, to his credit, remained matter-of-fact. “Well, you need to get them out somehow. Otherwise, you’ll run them through your mind over and over again, and you’ll never get out of your own head. You might also be surprised at how many writers share your fears. Maybe it will help you and them to get them out. Maybe you could add it to your blog.”

And, well. Here we are.

Writing Full Circle

I have re-written this post about three or four times in the last few days.

Why?

Because I was afraid to write about being afraid to write.

Throughout the years, I’ve written about my issues with social anxiety and chronic depression without much hesitation. That is probably because they are more familiar issues to address. I know the signs for when they onset; though I can’t always regulate them, I’m somewhat learning how to keep them under control.

What I struggle with now is different. Being afraid to write doesn’t disrupt my life in the same way anxiety and depression do. I’ve been able to ignore the urge to fight it by writing in other ways to satisfy it. Writing prompts. Fan fiction. Blog posts.

Other people publish books. I wasn’t meant for that.

Logic tells me that most of my fears are unfounded. Common sense tells me that they’re all ridiculous. Practicality tells me that, even if any of these fears were founded, writing is a skill that I could easily improve upon.

The first step to overcoming a fear is admitting that you are afraid.

The second step is to embrace the fear.

And the third?

Grab that fear by the hand and dance in the rain under a waxing moon until you’re both laughing and twirling, and the fear has faded among the heated mist that rises from the earth during a sweet, smoldering summer evening.

Writer’s Relapse

I’m having a minor (okay, major) writing “what if.”  I can tell that I am having this moment due to several of my usual anxiety symptoms: I’m staying up late, feeling like I should be working on something…anything. I’m browsing my favorite shopping sites, feeling the need to buy, buy, buy. I’m planning for my writing career without actually taking any physical steps to register for a conference, apply for some freelancing jobs, and the like. The “what if” moment is as follows:What if my novel sucks?This statement, of course, can be broken down into several mini-“what ifs”: What if…