You’d think after writing nearly 14000 words over the last 5 days that I would somehow be out. Like my word tank would have run dry. It would even be understandable if I didn’t bother blogging because, hey, I’m already writing like a maniac over here.
But the thing I’ve learned, over and over and over and over again, through NaNoWriMo is that you are never out. You can write 3000 words one day, then come back to the page the next and drop 2500 just like that. Because you are never out of words.
You only think you are.
I was telling a friend last week that the thing about NaNo, the real, ironic, so-obvious-it-feels-like-it-can’t-be-right thing about NaNo is that it’s not really a matter of writing. It is, of course, but the challenge isn’t the words. It’s the mental factor.
Every difficulty, every roadblock that might fall in your way, everything that will try and prevent you from completing the challenge is a mental issue. Make the determination to finish, challenge yourself to reach a goal, and all your demons come out to play merry hell with you.
Because it’s not about the words. The English language is growing but it still has a set number of words and look at all the infinite combinations we make out of them. Words are finite, yet we never run out.
We think it’s going to be about the words. We think we’ll run out of ideas. We’re sure that once we pass the 10 or 20 thousand word mark we’ll suddenly run dry, unable to find the thing to say next. And yet we never do.
Because it’s not about the words. It’s about you.
Challenges bring out the worst in people because there is a part of you, for whatever reason, devoted to not changing. And when you challenge yourself, it, naturally, takes that personally. And reacts.
You’ll never feel less capable than the moment you need to be capable. You’ll never think so much about running out of ideas as the moment when having them really matters. Difficulty arises because we challenge the status quo.
Writing, any creative act for that matter, is inherently about taking up space in the world, about changing it in some way, even if it’s only to say, “This did not exist before. Now it does.” And there are things in the world, and in us, that don’t want that. Some of them are just bad habits, some of them are downright evil. And if you go with the flow, they will not bother you, but the moment you try to rise out of the rut, start climbing out of the box, they will try to push you back in.
The voice in your head that says, “I can’t do this. I’m a terrible writer. When did I ever think I could pull this off? What was that? Normal writers don’t write like that. I can’t go on until I fix it. The words aren’t coming fast enough. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this.”
There are times when my brain becomes very inventive in ways to convince me not to even start. Most of the time, in fact, I don’t feel like I can. I don’t feel ready, prepared, in the zone, enough. I know that if I start the words won’t come and I’ll just be staring at a blank page wasting my time.
And most of the time, when I’ve gone and done it anyway, I have proven myself wrong. Because I’ve learned, countless times, that the reason my fear tells me I can’t is because deep down it knows I can. It tells me I can’t start because it knows that starting is all I really need to do. Because once I do, things figure themselves out.
That’s why I told my friends, who are doing their first NaNo’s this year, that the secret is simply this: Listen to the fear, then do it anyway.
That’s it. You can talk words, you can talk technique, but, at the end of the day, (and at the beginning for that matter), the thing that’s going to get you through is the simple determination to do it anyway.
When you think you’re not ready. When you think it won’t work. When you think you’ve run out of ideas. When you think you don’t have the time or talent or energy. When you think you are simply not allowed to.
Do it anyway.
Get up, listen to the fear, do it anyway, write the words, then come back tomorrow and do it all over again.
Do it anyway.