Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. The goal is that aspiring (and accomplished) writers will complete a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.
This breaks down to approximately 1,667 words per day, or, approximately 5.5 pages.
This doesn’t sound like a lot to accomplish every day, but it is.
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. -Ernest Hemingway
Now, most of us writers do not have a high level of success like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. In fact, I would say that most writers are like me, with a first draft of a novel sitting in a metaphorical drawer, where it has been for the past ten years. We also probably have a folder on our computer labelled “WIP” that has a half-dozen or so outlines or half-written chapters for novels that will never actually be finished.
Allow me to paint you a picture of the life of a writer like me.
Currently, I only work one job, but up until June of this year, I was working at least two jobs, leaving little-to-no time to write. Even after cutting back at work, I still struggle to find the time to explore my creative side. My real-life job is a demanding one, and I often skip lunch breaks and work into the evening to accomplish everything I need to. I wake up, go to work, come home, watch an episode of bad television, then go to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. When I do find time to write, it’s usually a blog post like the one you are currently reading. By the time the weekend rolls around, I’m exhausted mentally, and it sounds a bit like torture to even contemplate spending any more time in front of a computer screen.
It’s not easy to find the motivation to write creatively when you’ve expended all your energy navigating a demanding work environment.
So how do NaNoWriMo-ers get it done? How do you not only find the time to write, but the creativity to as well?
In other words, how do I have my cake and eat it too?
I feel that, as a writer, I put so much pressure on myself to produce something of quality that I can’t meet my own expectations, and when I can’t match up to the vision I have in my head, I give up. I graduated with a M.A. in Creative Writing three years ago, and since then I have produced next-to-nothing of quality or quantity beyond what I produce for this blog.
Can I still call myself a writer if I no longer write with any regularity?
Find what you love and let it kill you. -Charles Bukowski
There are of course hundreds of self-help-ish writing books designed to help you clarify and organize your life enough to fit writing into it. “Just do it,” the books say. “Your novel won’t write itself!” That’s all well and good, but where’s the book that helps me deal with mental exhaustion? How do I write a novel in 30 days and not let my real-life job suffer for it? How do I juggle work, family, friends, blogging, and draft a somewhat coherent first-take on a novel?
I don’t have a good answer. I’m still looking.
If you’re like me, and you’re a writer or creative who struggles with finding the words/time/inspiration, you’re not alone. I’m right there, suffering with you, staring at my WIPs and wondering if I’ll ever have anything fit for submission. BUT, I signed up for this year’s NaNoWriMo anyway, with the hope that something will be different.
I guess that’s the heart of what it means to be a creative in a world that doesn’t give you the time to be one: perseverance. I don’t have the time, or the inspiration, but I keep trying anyway. Even when I get to November 30 and I’ve only written 5,000 words, at least I can say I tried.
To anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the best of luck at hitting the 50K mark. One of these days, we will get there. Until then, let’s maybe aim for a more manageable 10-15K.