The second week of NaNoWriMo is often the most difficult hurdle in November. It’s certainly been that way for me this year. My first week started off amazingly well but ended on a low note. In my personal life, there were a few setbacks at the end of that first week that really threw me off.
My writing was no exception to this funk and low. I exceeded my word counts for the first half of the week and then by Friday, I stopped. I continued like this through the whole weekend, putting it off but knowing that I was falling back into that same old habit of procrastination.
Luckily by Monday, my procrastination and funk seemed to have worn off. I decided that I needed to finish it. Since Monday, I’ve been steadily working at catching up and I’m nearly there.
As writers, we are not emotionally or mentally separated from the things that happen in our lives. In fact, it can even inspire us and propel us forward. NaNoWriMo has its ups and downs. It starts off fast and exciting, our fingers flying on the keyboard, ideas flowing. Then it gradually tapers off, the story seeming daunting as the month goes on.
This is when doubt and fear may start to seep in. You wonder: Is this going to work? Does my story even make sense? What do I write next? I’m lost!
This brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s famous quote:
“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”
In our personal struggles, there’s a story, a certain poetic beauty and a meaningful purpose there. We can apply these experiences to our writing. We can also apply a certain analogy to the writing process: in writing we have triumphs when we get that sentence that rings so well, we have defeats when we’re burdened by writer’s block and lack of inspiration or direction for our story, and we have mundane days when it just feels like we’re going through the motions of writing, feeling as if we’re not really producing anything of value or meaning.
If you keep pushing on through NaNoWriMo, you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, knowing that no matter the obstacles (whether they be on the page or in your life), you dedicated your time to finishing a huge goal.
Here are some of the reasons that kept me going and continue to keep me writing:
- Past experience: This was probably the strongest motivator. I’ve done NaNo two times and in both of those years I learned valuable lessons about myself as a writer. I learned what prevented me from succeeding, what worked for me and how I felt about the outcomes at the end of each NaNo. I’ve been using my past word counts as lessons to succeed this year.
- Love of writing: I can deny it as much as I like but I have to write. In any form: blogging, creative writing, professional writing, journalling, etc. Sticking to a goal and to a writing schedule reminds me of how much I truly enjoy writing, losing myself in another world for an hour or two. Despite my point below, there’s also nothing like the internal gratification you get when you’re doing something you truly love.
- Delayed gratification: I made a promise to myself that I’d treat myself to a reward each week if I accomplished my goal. Naturally, I didn’t reward myself last week (but I was very tempted). Instead, I reminded myself that I only deserved the reward unless I accomplished my goal. If I reward myself too soon or too easily, there’s really no set goal and if you outline measurable, specific goals you’re more likely to reach them.
- Accountability: I tell my best friend, my family and everyone on Facebook every year that I’m doing NaNoWriMo. So I’m not only accountable and answerable to myself but to my family and friends as well. Some of them think it’s a reasonable goal, others think it’s a huge amount of work. Either way, they ask me about it and how I’m progressing. So I can’t disappoint myself or others.
- A need to learn and grow: There’s the saying ‘practice makes perfect’ but it also teaches us things. If you write everyday for a few hours at a time, then you’re definitely going to learn something–if not about writing, then about yourself. I love learning new things, especially when it comes to the craft of writing. I tell myself that I need to finish this story because I need to know how it ends, I need to know what happens to my characters and what surprises I may find along the way. If you don’t finish, you sell yourself short of learning and growing as both a writer and a person.
I’d love to hear your experiences with any writing slumps and am wondering:
What reasons keep you writing?
How do you motivate yourself, even when you don’t feel up to it?
And does your life imitate your art?