Writing. The process, not the product, which is what I usually blog about here at Black Gate. I’m surrounded by true professionals and artists here, so it feels like hubris to presume upon the subject. But as that has rarely stopped me before, I shall forge ahead.
Many of you reading this have heard of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. For those who haven’t, the idea is that if you write 1,666 words a day for every day of November, you’ll end up with fifty thousand words, or, in some genres, a novel. The idea is that everybody does it in one giant nationwide frenzy, cheering each other on, swapping tips, hosting write-a-thons in which people chug coffee and type like the wind. Winning means getting fifty thousand words. They don’t have to be great. They don’t have to be good. They just have to be on the page.
It’s a gimmick, but it’s a good one. People have gotten NaNo novels published. In short, it works, at least for some people. But it’s not for all of us.
We all have our own challenges. Mine is two children, five and two, chronic illness, and a household to run. Some people work full time at jobs that are physically or intellectually challenging. Some people just haven’t worked up to that level of creative output. Some writers can crank out two-thousand words before breakfast. Some would collapse over the finish line after 12 hours. We all have different situations and different approaches to the craft. So for those of us who write, but can’t swing NaNoWriMo, I’m proposing another option.
Cheer on those doing NaNo. Wish them the best, offer whatever support you can.Then set aside the numbers, sit down at your desk, and just write.
Write every day. One poem. Work on the novel if you’ve got one in mind or underway. Come up with 30 pieces of flash fiction that you’ll edit up in December. Just write. Write the backstory for a main character that will never actually be published but that will flesh her out when you write her into your novel. Write your own manifesto on what you’re tired of seeing in Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Write five impossible things before breakfast.
NaNo is about stretching and discipline and getting the words down. This is just about getting started. Taking that first step (the hard one) and then taking the second (the harder one). This is about making a commitment to yourself as an artist and following through for thirty days. It’s about getting into the habit of sitting down, each and every day, and writing. And if you’re anything like me, it is about making the commitment to yourself to make the time, to carve it out somehow.
Two-hundred words a day for thirty days is six-thousand words. It’s not a novel. But if you’re fighting to work at all, it is probably six-thousand words more than you got in October.
Next week: The First Monster, and Gilgamesh’s nemesis. Who said Ishtar was friendly?