NaNoWriMo is Hard

Writing every day is a great way to get words on the page that you can fine tune later.
Since November 1 I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, the acronym for National Novel Writing Month. Since I’m working on my science memoir, it’s probably more accurate to call what I’m doing NaMeWriMo.
The idea is that you write as much as you can every day, with the goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of the month. They don’t have to be great words, they don’t have to be immediately publishable words. They just have to be words, because once you have those you have something to work with and polish into the jewel you know is inside them.
This ties in well with Anne Lamott’s theory of shitty first drafts:

“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,” you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go — but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

If you sign on to the NaNoWriMo website, you can keep track of how many words you’ve written and their program calculates how long you’ll take to reach 50,000 words. Right now I’m on track to reach 50k on December 9th. Not too shabby.
I also have a writing buddy with whom I check in every day – we update each other on our word totals, what we’re writing about, and how the writing itself is going.
I haven’t been feeling that great this month, so it gives me a bit of a boost to see that I’m reaching my writing goals. I finally started – and am really getting going – on that memoir I kept talking about. Now I’m not just talking about it – I’m doing it. I’m also realizing that I think about the writing even when I’m not doing it, and come up with things I’ve forgotten or missed that I then put on my list to write about the next day.
Because I’m not feeling well, NaMeWriMo uses up a lot of my energy. Another energy draw right now is gardening, though I have to say we’re very lucky to be able to do serious gardening (revamping our entire perennial garden) in November, and things are looking really good (it’s also pouring rain right now which is good for the newly-planted plants). So some days I have to spend some extra time sleeping.
Anyway, I don’t have an in-depth topic for today’s blog post. But maybe that’s for the best.
As writers, we have to save some words for ourselves and our work – we can’t just sprinkle them willy nilly all over our blogs and Twitter. That’s something I discovered during my “blog every day” experiment. And it’s also something that most writers would also advise (I just re-read Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing and she definitely recommends it).
If you want to get some writing done, you don’t have to do NaNoWriMo. You can just decide to write 500 or 1000 or whatever number of words you want each day. And those days will add up, until suddenly you have a manuscript ready to edit.
That’s what I’m looking forward to – the editing. Because once the words are there, you can do anything with them.
PS. Shout out to the people I know who are doing NaNoWriMo this month – my writing buddy Erin Zimmerman, my friend Kim Moynahan, and fellow SciBorg Robert Gooding-Townsend.

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