Writing

NaNoWriMo vs. creative slumps.

It’s Day 2 of NaNoWriMo!

This year I’m using November to push as far through my revision of WRBTD as possible. For my official NaNoWriMo word count I’m only logging brand new words written.

Even though this year I’m not doing NaNoWriMo the traditional way (by which I mean, producing a brand new novel), the whole point of it for me is the spike in productivity. There’s something so magical and crazy about hundreds of thousands of writers all working away and pushing themselves extra hard for the same thirty days of the year.

Even though I write every other day, and even though I set challenges and goals and mark up my calendar and reward myself for all my other writing achievements, nothing is ever as big a push for me as NaNoWriMo in November.

Yesterday was spent working on a couple new chapters that I introduced for the first time in this current draft. Today I’ll be doing more of that, and also going through the whole manuscript to flesh out character arcs and smooth out details.

For me this particular November is actually less about quantity and more about polishing. I’m really hoping I can go beyond 50,000 new words again, but I’m not going to exhaust myself by focusing on that.

***

I just reread a draft of a blog thing I wrote a couple weeks ago and didn’t end up posting. Back then I was in a pretty negative head space about my writing. I’d decided not to share the entry because it felt whiny, but now I want to post it retroactively. I need to remember the lows as well as the highs:

Being a writer sometimes feels like some kind of mood disorder.

I have the days when every word I get down on the page just makes me thrill for more, and I’m convinced it’s just a matter of time and words for me to get this novel into the shape I want it to be.

Then there are the days (like yesterday, like today) when everything in the novel seems wrong again. Well not everything, but significant chunks or elements that suddenly morph into huge-feeling obstacles I have to figure out how to maneuver past.

There’s very little rhyme or reason to all this. I can have a great writing day (seven hours of really intense productivity yesterday, for example) and still spiral down into a black hole of frustration, convinced the novel’s drifting away from where I’m trying to drop the anchor.

The part I find most annoying about all this is so much of my mind is permanently wrapped around my novels that if my writing isn’t going well, I have the tendency to be in a shitty mood. (On the flip side, if my writing is going great, I stay in a pretty wonderful mood.) I need to figure out how to get over that.

This blog is such an important record for me. I can scroll through past entries and be reminded of the amazing writing days, and often that allows me to kick myself back into high gear. But I can’t let myself forget the agonizing periods when it’s all a struggle. It’s when I crawl through those slumps, when I push through and manage to write even though I hate every sentence coming out — that’s the real achievement.

I guess that’s another thing about NaNoWriMo: It’s not about whether your work is good or bad. It’s only about being a part of this worldwide writing sprint, sharing in the energy and enthusiasm for making art out of words. And because of that, during November the low periods feel silly and temporary. There’s nothing to do when you drop down except to pick yourself up and get back to the party.

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