“[W]riting is physical,” Natalie Goldberg says in her book, Writing Down the Bones (p.50). I, along with many of my other NaNoWriMo participant colleagues (I think), would agree.
Last year at this time, I dove – head on – into writing. I’d been talking about writing all summer. I registered for a writing class that would take place just after the new year. And, in a rare move contradictory to my no-risk personality, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Even more surprising, I wrote a somewhat lucid story that inched passed the 50,000 word count. Up until the moment the purple NaNo word meter hit the 50,000 mark and flashed “you’re a winner,” I authored only short, undeveloped stories that barely registered 1000 words.
This year, I signed up for NaNoWriMo by accident. Really. I logged on to my account to check up on an old message in my inbox. When a window full of legalese popped up and asked if I would accept, I thought, sure, I’ve been here before. Click.
Wait. Accept? Accept what? Oh, boy.
I tabbed over to my author info page. Sure enough, that little purple line was back down to zero. It stared me in the face, like a digital taunt, daring me to try again.
I’ve had to remind myself, as the days inch toward November 1st, that NaNoWriMo is another exercise in writing. Natalie Goldberg emphasizes the importance of exercise when she says “[t]he rule for writing practice of “keeping your hand moving,” not stopping, actually is a way to physically break through your mental resistances and cut through the concept that writing is just about ideas and thinking” (p.50). She, of course, means pen-to-paper. But, I believe, in translating her philosophy to hand-to-keyboard, NaNoWriMo offers a 30-day plan to whip my writer’s mind in shape: “cut through” my tendency to think too hard about a story, pound out 2000 words a day (on a good day), and see what becomes of the characters and the work.
NaNoWriMo is initiation by fire for those writers who want to come out of hiding. It’s a test of tolerance and discipline. And, it’s an intervention with your mind’s editor, a reason to send her away for the next 30 days. If writing 50,000 words of one story makes you want to take a nap, if you’d rather dream up your story than put it down on “paper,” remember writing is an art to be learned and practiced. No good story comes out perfect the first time around. I’ve heard it over and over, but my stubborn (sometimes egotistical) mind refuses to listen.
To combat that stubbornness, I’ll take on another 30-day challenge of late nights, fast typing, sweat, and a maybe a few tears. Oh, and fun. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun!
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc, 1986), p. 50.