Today marks the 2/3 point of National Novel Writing Month 2011 and I have to admit, this year has been a struggle. I’ve kept pretty well on track but it hasn’t been an easy process. With my 18 month old (as of tomorrow!) running around the house like an energizer bunny, my 21 week old baby-to-be stealing all my energy, and working twice as hard as ever, making the time to think about my story let alone actually write it has been a challenge to say the least. But I know there are many other people out there who are balancing more than me and still manage to win. I’m just thankful I get to participate at all and I know I’ll cross the finish line with everyone else, no matter what it takes. November is the only month I allow myself to make that time for me and my characters without feeling guilty and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
There are a lot of people out there who don’t believe in NaNoWriMo, or maybe they just don’t understand it, but today I’d like to put in my two cents about why I think it’s one of the best things a writer can do for herself.
I’m a perfectionist. I always have been. I’m sure if you ask my dad, he’ll tell you that I organized the stuffed animals in my crib and cross categorized them by color and species. As I’m sure you can imagine, this doesn’t make writing an easy task for me because if you’re a writer yourself (and I’m guessing you are), you know it isn’t a perfect process. Not even close. Even if you’re lucky enough to get to the point of your publisher’s deadline, you release it into the wild always knowing it was the best you could do with the time you had. And maybe even if you had all the time in the world, you’d always be tweaking one more chapter, one more sentence. Really, there’s a little perfectionist in all of us.
A WriMo friend messaged me recently about the struggle she felt to make the story perfect. I felt her pain. For perfectionists, the first draft is especially difficult because as the story starts to take shape, it usually shapes itself into something completely different than what we first imagined, which feels a lot less than perfect. It was a great reminder to me to talk about that struggle and to remind myself of the best solution I’ve come up with to make it a a little easier. Here’s what I told her…
This third week has been a pretty rough week for me. Before I got started, I had a detailed outline of where I wanted the story to go and how far in I wanted to be by this point. My characters have to hike across the US and 30K words in, they still haven’t left England. Talk about characters having a mind of their own. The whole time I’m writing, I’m thinking…my readers are going to be bored out of their minds! Don’t even get me started on the fact that the romantic suspense has pretty much been shot because my characters are already madly in love. Clearly they aren’t very well behaved.
My point is, even as much as I plan and try to make the story perfect, the creative process can’t be controlled. That’s the beauty of it. And that’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo. The intense nature of it forces you to face your internal writing demons (the “you can’t write that much”s, the “the story will never be as good on paper as in your head”s and the “don’t bother writing it down if it isn’t flawless”s) and pushes you past the limits you hold for yourself. Those limits you’re feeling–you’re the only creating them. It’s a kind of tough pill to swallow but it’s also very liberating. If you’re the one creating them, you’re the one who can break them down.
Let NaNoWriMo do that for you.
I’ve seen it work in complete strangers, in my friends and in me. Most people don’t think it’s even possible to write 1,667 words in a single day and then by the third day in, they’re writing 2,500! How is it possible to write 50,000 words in a month? I don’t know but every year I and thousands of other people do it. I will tell you this–we could never do it while holding onto an idealistic and impossible goal of perfection.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month and you’re struggling, I beg of you, don’t give up. You can reach 50,000 words and you can write a whole novel. I promise you it can be done. I have completed two novels because of NaNo and the freedom it gives me from my perfectionist nature. The feeling of accomplishing a complete novel, even if it isn’t perfect, is so much better than writing a “perfect” part a novel. Every writer deserves to feel that feeling of “the end.” And yours is only nine days away.