“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
— Douglas Adams
It’s only taken me 17 days to realize this, but the thing about NaNoWriMo that really connects with me and works for me is having that deadline over my head. The task of writing 50,000 words in one month seemed daunting to me at first, and even though I signed up, I seriously doubted if I would be able to finish. Before NaNo, I started a novel three years ago that I am still working on. I’d be lucky if I wrote 500 words a day, let alone the almost 2,000 that NaNo requires to finish on time. I would write my 500 words, then take a week, two weeks, then whole months off, away from my project and my cast of characters. I felt I was blocked. I felt guilty. I felt like I was not a writer. I’d write other things, poems and short stories, but my novel collected dust in the corner of my office like a hidden cobweb. I could wrap my mind around a poem, could chew a short story very easily. I pounded those things out. But a novel? It was too big a thing; I couldn’t see the end of the road from my starting point. I didn’t know where to go.
What I realize now is that I needed to keep going to see the end in sight. How would I know where the novel was going, where it would end and what turns it would take, by standing still? By writing my 500 words a week (month, year) I was keeping that novel afloat, but the characters were slowly drowning. I was slowly drowning and losing my self-confidence as a writer. The story was dying.
As Ray Bradbury said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” If I am forced (by a deadline/NaNo) to write every day, I stay in that world, my characters breathe and even do a thing or two.
Last night I had a difficult night with my daughter, and wasn’t able to write as much as I wanted. I was crabby. I was tired, and once she finally went to sleep, the words weren’t coming. Reality had set in like a pin to a balloon. Only one night and I felt the threat of getting out of touch.
In contrast, when the words are flowing, I’m writing every day, a few times each day, I feel giddy. I am happy for no reason. I am literally drunk on my writing. I love that feeling, and hope to capture that even after NaNo is gone. I will set goals and keep them, and with the success of NaNo, I know that I can.