Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
I loved the concept of the (inter)national novel writing month since the first time I heard about it. Which must have been quite a few years ago, in the good old days of low-waist jeans, Britney, Christina, and Discmans. I was dreaming of becoming a writer and being a part of an international community of supercool writers (a redundant phrase no doubt, but I wanted to make it clear).
NaNo sounded like this thrilling time when you get swept up by the energy of all participants and your novel magically writes itself.
Of course, I did not think the novel would actually write itself. But a girl can dream, no? NaNo sounded like a whoosh of motivation and inspiration that lifts your writing to the next level. And, to be honest, it still kind of does. Like a magical solution, a Deux ex Machina that will help me, nay, make me write my novel. Is that just me? Or does anyone else get this feeling?
Needless to say, that is not bad in itself. The energy that comes from the NaNoWriMo organization, community, and concept can truly bring a ton of motivation. The problem comes when one expects that motivation to come by itself as soon as one signs up to NaNo.
Preparation or procrastination?
My problem with NaNo is not really with NaNo. It is with myself. What a plot twist, huh?
Turns out, it’s the same damn story I have been through countless times. Starting a project. Setting a beginning time. Thinking of all I have to do before I begin – all I the things have to prepare so that when “the time comes”, words will flow effortlessly. Except the “time” never comes. Because there is always something else to prepare. Always something that needs to be done. Always something that could make it a little bit better. That could make it more… perfect.
For some reason, I have it ingrained in myself that the way to write well, the way to accomplish anything really, is to prepare EVERYTHING in advance. So I can work in peace. So I can focus.* But that’s the thing. This way is that’s not going to get me anywhere. Because I can run around, preparing all my life, and the “calm” time will never come. There will always, always be one more thing to do.
Because that’s the catch. Not in preparing everything. Not in making everything perfect. But in knowing when to let small things be as they are and start working. In recognizing when the “preparation” has become a crutch you cling to because you are afraid to take the next step.
Mindful Writing Process
One way to do that is to check in with yourself. Every week, every day, every hour. To practise being in the now and recognizing the state of your project and your creative journey in the moment. This is the only way that lets you truly evaluate your present situation and know what needs to be done next.
So this is what I practise, or at least I try to. Being honest with myself, honest and kind. I try to practise recognizing whether I need a week more on developing the outline or whether that would just be a week of procrastination. As a person so used to trying to do everything perfectly, this is a challenge for me but it is one I enjoy immensely. I call it “mindful writing process”.
Which is how I am entering NaNoWriMo. I have been working on my outline (for a play though, not a novel) and I do intend to participate in NaNo as a writer. The most important thing is to remind myself I am doing this because it serves to offer a great way of holding myself accountable, and not to provide some magical motivation while I lay on my couch.
My goal is to write every day and finish my play. But even if that doesn’t happen, there is another goal that is far more important to me – to continue practising my mindful writing process. If I manage to do that, I have won.