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Nano, Nano, It’s Off To Write I Go

October 18, 2010

I can’t believe it’s October already.  October ranks right up there on my list of favorite months.  It has a lot going for it.  Pumpkin, pies, vistas of brilliant color, cool, crisp air just perfect for afternoon walks and of course, the National Novel Writing Month’s website resets in preparation for this years NaNoWriMo.  I’m looking forward to it again this year but I have a slight problem.

I hate writing.

That’s right, hate it.  Phew, there, I said it.  I mean it’s hard work.  It takes time away from other things I could be doing and sometimes it’s even a strain on my family.  And it’s all I can think about most days.  Wait, what?

It took me 37 years to figure out I wanted to be a writer.  Like most people, I bought books on the subject, found websites like Writeanything, joined forums and what’s the first thing I learned?

To be a writer you have to write everyday.

Not only that but if you don’t then you aren’t serious enough to be a writer and should really reconsider trying to become one.  Oh noes!

Too bad they’re right.  To be successful you have to write everyday.  It’s no different from anything else really.  To be a good athlete you have to train everyday.  Even when the thought of running makes you want to vomit.  To be a master woodworker you have to do it every day.  Even when the thought of making repetitive cuts makes you want to take a nap on the freeway.  To be a writer, you have to write everyday.  Even though you would much rather play Bubblepop on Facebook.  Because at the end of the day it’s not about running, woodworking or writing, it’s about passion.  It’s about taking a look at what you’ve done and saying hey, nice race; hey, nice chest of draws; hey, this manuscript needs more edits.  Seriously, it’s about being able to say hey, nice story.

In truth I don’t hate writing.  It just gets difficult sometimes.  For me the hardest part is getting what’s in my head on the screen.  The scenes in my brain play out faster than I can type.  I end up losing parts of it.  I stop, hit the mental rewind and try again.   After a bit I’d derail my train of thought leaving my brain in a tangled pile of broken track and splintered passenger cars.  By the time I’ms ready to start rolling again, my fire is burnt out and the boiler is dead cold.  OK, I hear you, enough steam train analogies.

The fact is, writing is so much more than trying to make words appear on blank sheets of paper, or freshly generated word docs.  It’s also editing and revision.  The revisiting of what was once in your head.  It’s that fine tuning and careful sculpting that keeps me struggling through the difficult first draft.  Same for the woodworker and athlete.  It’s the fine tuning of posture and body mechanics that help her win,  its the finish sanding and perfect lacquer finish that make the end product worth the early, annoying beginning.

That’s the brilliance of NaNoWriMo.  You have no choice but to roll through the first draft.  No second guessing, no editing.  There isn’t time.  You only have a month.  Barely enough time to get it done.  Before you know it November is over and you have 50,000 words.  Don’t kid yourself.  They probably stink.  Your manuscript isn’t going to be anything great.  But it’s going to be done.  Now you get to apply your master-craftsmanship.

There’s a somewhat famous quote that sums this all up rather nicely.  It’s either from Robert Louis Stevenson or Dorothy parker, depending on how you use Google, which says:

“I often hate writing but I love having written.”

Boom–there you go.  At the end of the day the stuff in my head has to get out.  It’s a labor of love.  A real pain in the neck sometimes, but so worth it in the end.  That’s why I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year and it’s also why I’ll win again.  That’s right, no I hope I will, if only my schedule doesn’t get in the way or any myriad of other reasons I come up with on a daily basis to avoid working on first drafts.  Only pure, unadulterated self-assurance that even though it will be a struggle and no doubt it will be a giant pain in the butt, possibly even a strain on my family, by the end of November I will have a finished draft of my story.

If you choose not to participate this year, that’s fine too.  Just promise yourself you’ll keep writing.

Christopher will be writing a traditional western this year’s NaNoWriMo.  In the past he has been known to throw his cowboys into fights with robots, vampires, and the ambiguities of purgatory.  You can read more of his fiction by visiting his website: http://www.ChristopherChartrand.com

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6 Comments
  1. October 18, 2010 12:12 am

    This will be my 3rd NaNoWriMo, and hopefully my second win. My epic fail last year drove me to become a Municipal Liaison this year…. you know… so people are publicly judging me and if I don’t write, they’ll think less of me. I’m hoping that’s enough to put my laziness and procrastinating to rest!

    Otherwise, I’ll just have to rely on good, old fashioned hard work. *sweat!*

    Good luck next month!

  2. October 18, 2010 6:10 am

    This will be my first crack at NaNo. I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into, but I do know it’s perfect timing for me to be pushed right now. Thanks for the post, Chris!

  3. October 18, 2010 7:02 am

    I failed miserably last year but I just didn’t want to do it. This year I need to do it. It’s a burning need. I willl triumph! And I’ve been sitting on this idea for some months now, must get it out.

  4. Jim Bronyaur permalink
    October 18, 2010 8:40 am

    Nice post Chris. Writing is an interesting world because anyone can say they want to do it. For example, if you want to be a doctor you can’t just cut someone open (well you could but that’s a whole other bunch of problems!)… if you want to be play in the NFL you can’t just suit up and run onto the field. But to be a “writer” you just write a few words, right? Not at all! NaNo is a great test and great way to show what that writer life is like.

    Personally, I get 2,000 written per day no matter what. Even if it means no sleep, I have to get 2,000 done every day.

    Best of luck this year w/ NaNo! And by they way – my name is jimbronyaur on NaNo.

    Jim

  5. October 18, 2010 9:31 pm

    good luck everyone.. and remember – its not a life and death competition.. believe it or not.. write what you can, gather information, hints, tips and a great bunch of people around you on your writing journey.. the idea is to get you into the habit of writing… of looking at your writing as something more than just a little thing you do…revisiting goals… do this and you will be a winner – regardless of the amount of words you write a day.

    I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.. my user name is Annie-E or go to http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/262915
    to find me..

  6. October 18, 2010 10:07 pm

    @Goggles and Lace, first of all, great name, second, I like your strategy of putting a little extra on yourself to help keep you motivated. Personally, I’m trying to have my 50,000 words done by the 24th, so I can take it easy on my birthday.

    @Claudia, I know the feeling. I only know the genre I’m writing in this year. I have no clear story brewing. That scares the hell out of me.

    @Hannah, this is your year! Last year I couldn’t wait for NaNo to start just so I could start to get the story out of my head.

    @Jim, I admire your work ethic. And I think you make a good point too. Writing is hard work and to be good at it you must practice, practice, practice.

    @Annie, I can hear you cheering all the way across the ocean. You also make a great point. NaNo is not the be-all-end-all of writing and I appreciate you mentioning the other yardsticks with which a participant can, and should, measure their success.

    I wish you all luck. Please keep us updated with your progress, stress, tips, struggles and successes. WriteAnything has a group in the NaNoWriMo forums; http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node/3711692
    Pop in and say hi. Also, I’m ChrisChartrand if you want to be writing buddies.

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