November is National Novel Writing Month. Tying in to that is a writing “contest” of sorts, a writer’s marathon called NaNoWriMo. 50K, 30 days. Seven days into the contest, my total word count is 0. This isn’t the worst situation I’ve ever been in, mind you: last year I procrastinated to the point I had to sit in a locked closet and churn out 30,000 words in two days. Last year was the first year I won. This year I’d told myself I was going to man up and do it “right” this time, putting out 1,667 words every day like directed. Seven days into the contest, my total word count is 0.
Let’s go ahead and spool up the list of excuses right now: I’d planned to clean my room to have a better environment to write in, but I didn’t do it. I had to work a little long a couple of days. We restructured at work, and the results have been stressful. I got sick. I chose a project to write, but I wasn’t excited about it. Blah, blah, blah, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, to quote an old friend.
Why haven’t I written anything in the past 7 days? Truth: I wanted to watch TV. I wanted to beat Portal 2. I was sick and let it get to me. I’ve been in a piss-poor mood. I didn’t want to write. I wanted to sit on my ass and consume content instead of creating it, go to work and then come home and mentally nod off for the next 18-20 hours. It’s a monotony I’ve felt myself slip into for the past couple months, and it gets worse all the time.
Talked with a close friend of mine Saturday morning for a couple hours. Her tone dropped when I told her I simply didn’t feel like writing lately. She told me that she’s worried about me, that I need to make changes. I’m liable to get too comfortable in the situation I’m in right now. Seven days into the contest, my total word count is 0.
I was moderately chewed out by another close friend of mine earlier today. The semi-reaming included paragraphs such as this:
I like to read, this includes the blogs of some writers I like (for their fiction) as well as productivity blogs. In all that, the advice I see that might help you best boils down to two things. One, and I’m sure you’ve heard versions before: Just fucking write. Do it, every day, don’t stop.
Two, if the above seems difficult, find a time in your routine. Every morning or every night, without fail, do it then. If you don’t have time, make time, if you don’t make time, give up writing, you don’t have the drive to succeed, at least not right now.
and this, which really struck me:
I wonder if it’s not a coincidence that those that chose or were forced by limited other choices to do the works they’re famous for were in large part excellent for those reasons. They devoted the time to their works. If you need to, put it in perspective. If you want to write a great novel, something that you can point to as your great work, maybe not one of “the” great works, but yours, and that impacts people, consider whether an hour of work on that is worth more or less than an hour of the next thing you’re going to do. Or an hour of what you might do every morning after you eat breakfast.
Seven days into the contest, my total word count is 0.
I spend a lot of time talking about how I want to do something great, how I want to change the world. I spend far too little time working towards that goal.
I think there are two forces that compel us to succeed in this world: passion, and power. Passion comes from the heart, an almost overwhelming force that impulsively pushes us towards particular outcomes. Power, in contrast, we drum up from deep in the gut when passion fades, it’s the motivation that gets us out of bed when it’s 4 degrees outside and 80 degrees under the covers. We so often find the power to go to jobs we despise, we love the passion we feel when we “follow our dreams,” but how often do we really search for both at the same time? I try to recall the last time I truly summoned the power to work on my writing when I “didn’t feel like it,” and I come up pretty short.
I’m making these statements for public accountability: I will write every day between now and December 1st. I will write at least 3,334 words every day between now and November 14th to catch me back up to pace, and then I will write at least 1,667 words every day thereafter until my goal is completed. I will journal at the beginning and end of every day, whether or 5 minutes or a half-hour, to give myself perspective. I will write when I’m tired, I will write when friends ask me to go out, I will write when I feel like playing video games. I will stay in contact with other writers to help keep me motivated. I will spend less time on Facebook wasting the only truly valuable currency I have: time itself. I will appreciate my friends who keep me strong. I will succeed, and make this month something I can be proud of.
And I will make sure that’s just the beginning.