One of the easiest ways for me to drift away from the creative side of my life is to get hung up on “getting it right”. I’m not sure where this comes from, I imagine that it has many authors over the course of my life. I know perfectly well that learning a new skill takes time, and that creation tends to be a process. One that can have starts and stops. It also has its share of total dead ends. Ideas that simply don’t pan out.
And, to quote a friend of mine, it’s all good.
Every dead end, every failed attempt helps in honing whatever skill/talent I may have. If I’m paying attention, I will learn something from each one. I’m trying real hard right here to avoid words like “mistake”, “failure” or “total screw up”. Thinking like that simply keeps me from continuing.
Which is one of the great things about National Novel Writing Month, known affectionately (and somewhat obscurely) as NaNoWriMo. I know that gives lots of folks trouble when they try to say the word, so let me help. It’s Nah-no-rye-moe.
And it’s about not stopping for the mistakes, the failures, the dead ends or the total screw ups.
NaNoWriMo is dedicated to getting people writing. the idea is to write 50,000 words of a story in the month of November. To do that you need to write 1,600 words and change every day for a month. that is actually easier, and exactly as difficult, as it sounds. The most important thing to remember about this challenge is that you never look back. You don’t stop for misspellings, dropped words, or totally improbable story lines. Your dialogue stinks in that last chapter? Forget it. There is no editing in November. That’s what the other 11 months are for. For the perfectionist, this is a form of torture. If you commit to the concept, however, it is incredibly freeing. You have total permission to simply plow on. Write yourself into a corner? Easy. Drop back to some point where the story still made sense and begin again from that point. Don’t delete the dead end! You still wrote those words and they count! Besides, later on, you may figure out how to use that stuff. Just write. Write whatever. Stuck? Write the backstory to your main character, or whatever character is thwarting your authorial desires. Eventually, you will come up with something to write about again.
What’s the worst that can happen? At the end of thirty days, you will have fifty thousand words of complete drivel. But you will have spent thirty days writing, being creative. Or you could end up with something that, with a little work, might actually be OK. Some NaNoWriMo books have gone on to be published, sell many copies, or even be made into a movie like “Water For Elephants”. There are at least fourteen other novels that began as NaNoWriMo projects that have been published. My book “Shorts” was inspired by the month of writing but was written over a much longer span of time. I have two projects that began as NaNo projects that I’m still messing with.
This most recent NaNoWriMo was not great. A good idea that I’m still working at but the job loss and politics took me out of the mood to write. I’m only just getting back on that bandwagon. I will not make 50,000 words this year (I’ve only made it once).
What NaNoWriMo teaches me each year is that the only way to lose is to quit. I picked up this year’s project just two days before the end of the month and cranked out another four or five thousand words.
If you want to be creative all you have to do is create. Don’t worry if your creation is perfect immediately.
Just don’t stop.