#NaNoWriMo: This Is Where the Work Starts

National Novel Writing Month began yesterday, which means that a whole lot of writers decided yesterday was the day they were going to start new novels. Many of them may have decided to maintain a 1,667-words-a-day pace to hit 50,000 by the end of November, while some may have settled for 1,000 words since it was a weekday, planning to make up the difference tomorrow and Sunday.

Whatever their strategy, it was surely an exciting moment. For some NaNoWriMo participants, yesterday marked the day when they took a definitive step forward and went from being a person who had never written a novel before to becoming a person who’s writing a novel. For others, this month might represent the transition from being a person who’s tried to write a novel to becoming a person who’s determined to complete a draft of their novel. And, too, there are experienced writers who are using NaNoWriMo as the spur to begin their next novel.

So, yes, big day! New project! Dive into it with gusto, and come out with four, five, maybe even six or seven pages of new material—an auspicious beginning.

And now it’s November 2nd, and you’ve got to do it all over again.

This is where you learn—or, perhaps, where you are reminded—that writing is a practice, and it’s a commitment, and the only way it gets done is for you to strap yourself in and do it. Yesterday might have been a great writing day for you; it might have been a difficult writing day. None of that matters today. Today you’ve got another blank sheet of paper, another blank screen, that needs to be filled. What are you going to put there?

You can look at that as a Sisyphean ordeal if you want—another day of rolling that boulder up the hill, only to have it slide back down overnight. Heck, any number of successful, published novelists probably still feel that way about writing from time to time, maybe even a lot of the time. It’s a bit of a defeatist attitude, but I’m not going to tell you it means that you can’t be a writer. My own take is that while writing is definitely work, it’s not helpful to consistently approach it as a burden. But if that’s what gives you the motivation to get the work done, I won’t judge. (Or, at least, I’ll try to keep it to myself.)

Here’s another way to look at it: Repetition builds momentum. You wrote yesterday, you write today, you write tomorrow, and pretty soon it’ll become a part of your routine. It’s how books get made. If you want to have salad for dinner, you’ve got to spend time in the kitchen chopping up vegetables. If you want a book, you’ve got to spend time at your desk (or wherever) writing. Some days you might be more enthusiastic about it than others, but you know that what you’re doing is necessary—and you’re looking forward to seeing what each day’s work brings, and where it might lead you tomorrow.

But, hey, for all I know, you’re actually still pumped up to be writing your next 1,667 words today, maybe even getting ready to push yourself ahead of the pace this weekend if you can get into the right groove. If that’s where you’re at right now, congratulations! I hope you can keep that momentum going all month; if you ever start to lag, though, just remember: Your story doesn’t get told without you. Keep at it, and good luck!