For the past month, I have been obsessed with one question: whether or not to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November.
I casually mentioned in my email newsletter that I was “thinking about it.” But I haven’t been able to publicly commit. Afterall, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April and dropped out after just a few days. I don’t want to feel embarrassed all over again.
So, I’ve been reciting reasons in my head for why I can’t do it this year. Seven reasons, to be exact.
Guess what? I’ve been lying to myself, and maybe you have been too. Here are seven lies writers tell themselves as an excuse not to do NaNoWriMo.
Lie #1: It’s impossible to write a novel in a month.
Truth: I think it’s too hard for me to write a novel in a month.
But me? Well, even if it’s technically possible, deep down I worry that it’s just too hard. Then again, I’ve never really tried.
It’s such a big goal– and that’s a good thing. This big, ridiculous goal is so exciting that I am obsessing over it– and that’s the kind of motivation that’s going to get me up at 6:00 AM each morning before work to write (unlike boring, more attainable goals). And then instead of thinking about writing, I’ll be– wait for it– actually writing.
Lie #2: I’m not good enough to write a novel in a month.
Truth: I get discouraged when my first drafts don’t look like a famous author’s final, professionally edited draft.
So my next logical thought is, well even if other people can do it, I’m not good enough. I forget that the most famous authors in the world didn’t wake up with a beautiful novel in their laps, complete with royalty check and cover design.
At some point, they sat down, put their pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard, and did the work. There’s no reason I can’t start the same way. We’ll figure out the royalty checks later. 🙂
Lie #3: I’m already bored with my idea.
Truth: Working on a new idea is easier than seeing this one through.
Isn’t it amazing how totally brilliant story ideas pop up as soon as the current one gets difficult? It’s hard to know whether the first idea is really dead, or if the new idea is just a way of procrastinating the hard stuff.
As tempting as it is to jump ship, I know I haven’t given my current story enough of a chance. So, I need to commit: This is the novel I am writing now, and having a 50,000 word draft for this one will be way better than having ten unfinished 5,000 word drafts.
Lie #4: I don’t have time to write 50,000 words
Truth: I won’t prioritize my time to write 50,000 words.
Who needs another commitment on their plate? Not me. I barely have time to clean the litter box.
It may feel like I’m too busy, but my time is not completely out of my control. How many times have I sat down to write a blog post, and then opened a gmail tab instead– only to realize I’ve already got a gmail tab open? That’s mindless procrastination.
If I prioritize my tasks, I can squeeze out some extra writing minutes. (I may fall behind on Kate Middleton gossip, but that’s okay.)
Lie #5: I don’t know what to write about.
Truth: I have zillions of kernel ideas, but developing them takes work.
What I need now is faith– faith that I can do this, as long as I start. Sure, maybe that random writing prompt exercise will get edited out later. But maybe there will be one perfect sentence in there that will be a spring board for an entire chapter. Who knows? I don’t have to know– that’s that whole faith thing.
Lie #6: I’m not ready to write yet.
Truth: I feel insecure because outlining is the only thing I feel comfortable doing.
Paralysis by analysis is real. I’m the queen of it. But, not every thing needs to be planned out. Repeat after me: this month is all about the word count. I can always go back and add some foreshadowing moments later when I’ve got a 50,000 word manuscript at my disposal.
Lie #7: I’m scared that I’ll fail.
Truth: Even if I’m scared that I will fail, that fear is the reason I need to do this.
Yes, I am terrified that I will fail, and especially since I’ve announced it in front of you that I am going to try. You see, I was inspired to write this post after I read my brother Matt’s article “A Beginner’s Guide to Personal Development.” (His wildly successful blog is about running and vegetarianism, but I was blown away by how much his points on personal development resonated with me as a writer.)
Matt wrote that fear “is a weathervane that tells you exactly what you need to do,” and I realized what my hesitation/obsession with NaNoWriMo was telling me: sign up already!
Enough with the excuses
If you’re like me, and you’ve been looking for any excuse for why you won’t try to write a novel this November, it’s time we get something straight: we are lying to ourselves. On some level I still believe all these lies, but I’m too excited to care.
This isn’t a close-our-eyes-and-leap moment. It’s a chance to face the fear in small chunks, every day: Should I get up this morning and write? Yes, today I will. That’s all we have to handle.
Are you participating this year? Add me as a buddy and we’ll keep each other accountable.
P.S. Check out my guest post on Positive Writer about overcoming writer’s doubt. I won a contest! 🙂