National Novel Writing Month is upon us once more, and I have thoughts on that. Firstly, there’s the knee-jerk, irritable me response: “Oh good, yet more word count boasting on Twitter.” You know the sort of thing – This morning I wrote 2000 words, went for a run and then wrote 2000 more. #amwriting. And the reason that annoys me so much? Jealousy. Yup, pretty much just that. Because I’m a writer too and the one thing writers suffer from is jealousy. Why aren’t I so prolific? I must be rubbish. Why can’t I write more? Etc etc… I’m sure you’re well aware of how it goes. Writers are a terribly insecure bunch. There’s another part of me that also thinks, National Novel Writing Month is great and all, but there’s no way I want to read a novel that’s been written in a month. And I have, and you’d be fairly unsurprised to know they are, predominantly, not the best.
But those irascible, and slightly mean-spirited, feelings aside, it’s clear to me that one of the useful things Na No Wri Mo gives writers, which is often sorely lacking, is discipline. Because sitting down to write every day is hard. It’s especially hard if you have to fit it around other stuff, like having a full-time job, children, etc. And if you have loads of time in which to write – it’s still hard. Nothing is as daunting as the blank page or the blank screen. Nothing will make you want to do something else, anything else, quite like trying to make yourself come up with something out of nothing. You’ll suddenly remember that the house needs tidying, or the oven needs cleaning or – much more likely – you’ll give yourself just five more minutes on Facebook, or just ten more minutes on the Playstation. And then, before you know it, half a day has passed and you’ll have a sparkling clean kitchen, or have cracked that level on the game you’ve been playing, but you won’t have written a word.
So, making yourself do something, and giving yourself a limited time in which to do it, can be quite liberating. Because half the battle with writing is getting something down on the page, and though you may be well aware that those first thousand or so words are far from your best, once you get going you’ll find that the words and the ideas start to come a lot easier. And if you produce a novel, or even half or a quarter of a novel, within the month of November, that’s something you can work with. As the saying goes: write in haste, edit at your leisure. You may not have produced the next bestseller, you may not have produced a classic, but you will have written and the more you do that, the more your confidence will rise and the more likely it is that you will find readers.
Of course, the other thing that writers are really bad at (besides not procrastinating) is taking advice.
Do with this what you will. Now, my oven is absolutely minging. Where did I put that cleaning spray…?