November is National Novel Writing Month!

Is everyone ready for NaNoWriMo?


Yeah, well, me neither, so don’t feel bad.  I’m not even ready for Halloween.

But that’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo.  If I waited until I was ready to write the novel, I most assuredly would not be starting in two days.

Last year, I started NaNoWriMo with pages and pages of brainstorming and a sturdy little outline.  This year I have maybe 2,000 words of musings about a vague idea that came to me during a two-week fever brought on by the EFBISTD virus.

But that’s okay.  Because I have faith that in 31 days, I will have written another novel.  Hee.  Kind of feels nice typing that sentence out.  Let’s do it again.

In 31 days, I will have written another novel.

Cool beans.

So I originally wanted to write a pre-NaNo checklist, but I’m a little late on the uptake with that one.  The blogosphere is already bursting with chuckle-worthy checklists.  I figure the people who are already loading up their fridges with pre-made sandwiches (ahem) and setting up elaborate security perimeters around their work spaces don’t really need me anyway.  They are already committed.

Therefore, this blog post is dedicated to the folks who don’t think they can do it.  This is for the folks who think that their lives are too busy and too stressful; that now is not a good time; that there’s just too much going on; that their kid, their spouse, their boss, their noisy neighbor just won’t let it happen.

This is for the folks who do ridiculous commutes to support their families.  This is for the folks who provide any type of customer service.  This is for our teachers who don’t want to teach, our bankers who don’t want to bank, and our account managers who don’t want to manage accounts.

This is for all you busy, exhausted, overwhelmed folks whose idea of a vacation involves spending copious amounts of time in front of the computer working out the motivations of a person who doesn’t exist, researching what it would take to make the atmosphere of Mars hospitable for humans, and romping around a countryside of your own dreamings picking off people with you don’t like with your lightning sniper rifle just because you can.

You can do this.  I know, I know, you’re busy, you’re exhausted.  Trust me, I know.  We could swap war stories.  You could tell me all about the complicated legal brief you have due and a client who can’t be reached, and I could tell you how my daughter won’t sleep without me glued to her side and how I have to sneak out of the bedroom like a thief in the night to go to the bathroom.

But we have no time for war stories.  Why?  Because the time is nigh!  It is upon us and against us.  There is only now.  There will only ever be now.

So before you dismiss the possibility of completing NaNoWriMo this year and earning the right to call yourself a novelist, I have a suggestion:

Look at it as a vacation.

Think of it.  For a small amount of time each day, you don’t have to think about the job or the kids or whatever is stressing you out.  For a small amount of each day, you will be working on something that is solely and completely yours, that is under your control and design, and is something that is free from judgment from anyone else in your life for as long as you so choose.  For a small amount of each day, you will be making progress, however small and insignificant it might feel, towards your goal of becoming a published author.  You will be fulfilling your purpose, if not your responsibility.

If you hate your job and feel like it’s sucking the soul from the insides of your flesh casing, this, Brave Reader, is a chance for you to give it the bird and do what you want to do.  Let’s be honest.  When is your soul-sucking, unappreciative, unrewarding, crap-paying job ever going to allow you to rise above and beyond it?

And you do want to rise above and beyond, right?  Don’t you want to turn in your resignation letter sooner, rather than later, because “contractual obligations in my publishing career need my full attention”?  Can’t you see your boss’s face?  Oh, sweet day….

Of course you want this.  You think of this moment with every breath.  But despite all the cheering and good reasons and best intentions, there are still the logistics of shoehorning a 25-hour day into a 24-hour time period.  Where do you find the time to write a 50,000-word novel?  Where do you find the energy?

Don’t worry about the energy.  The energy will come.  Doesn’t it always come?  You know how it is.  It’s like trying to start an old car on a cold winter morning.  It ain’t easy.  It requires more than a few specialized terms uttered at just the right pitch and maybe a prayer.  But once you get that baby going, you’ll be rocketing down the road in no time getting an exclusive first-time look at a brand-new story.

As for time, hell, that’s for all of us to figure out, but I’m willing to bet you can find the time in the nooks and crannies of your day.  The extra time we all are dreaming of isn’t the time we think will arrive on our doorstep when we retire.  The extra time we’re looking for exists in the “dead zones” of our day.

If you’re have to sit in traffic on a horrendous commute, dictate your story into a tape recorder.

If you’re stuck in a job that keeps you chained to your desk, write the damn thing line by line in the bathroom.

Write when you eat.  Everyone eats.  I think most people get at least 5 or 10 minutes a day to eat in peace.  I hope.  I wouldn’t know.  I have a toddler.

And it goes without saying that if you get TV time in every day, you can do this.  If you know who wore that Stella McCartney dress better, you can do this.  If you have an unlimited text message plan for a reason, you can do this.

Now maybe you’re mad at me.  I’ve made you uncomfortable.

If that’s the case, I’m sorry.  Honestly, I am.  I hate being this guy.  But by the time you get to the 5,000th word around November 4, you’ll get over it.  Don’t imagine that you, me, or anyone else is going to make it to the Published Author Club without a good amount of discomfort.  And so I poke you with the you-can-do-it stick out of love.

You might be asking, “Why?  Why should I do this?  Why put myself through this?  Why can’t I pursue my dreams at a rate that doesn’t make me and my family crazy?”

To that, I counter,  “Why not?”

To me, the NaNoWriMo challenge is like a gift, an opportunity to stretch myself.  And to be doing this when 165,000+ other people are doing it around the world, there’s something almost spiritual in that.  In a field where “solitary” is the norm, for one month, I have lots and lots of coworkers, all doing the same damn job.

Last year, 30,000 participants completed the challenge.  I’d venture to say, in the month of November, there are more novels born than in any other month.  That’s amazing.

Can you stand another quote from Steven Pressfield?

“If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion (¹or write a novel) and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself.  You hurt your children.  You hurt me.  You hurt the planet.”

Do you need any better reason?  Do it for the children.


¹ My addition.

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