Day thirteen of NaNoWriMo.
For the peasants (aka: regular people) who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month—an event that now spans the globe as writers from all walks of life and stages in the writing journey attempt to write a whole new novel in one month (or, at the very least, 50,000 words in one month).
This is my third and worst NaNo. Last year, I wrote the first draft of False Gods during NaNoWriMo, and it seemed like I had struck a healthy balance of imbalance (trust me, that will make sense in a moment
Some days I would write 8,000 words in a day. And sometimes I’d write only 17. I wanted to write that story so badly, was so ready to get it rolling. I never felt burned out of it or uninterested in it; some days there was just too much going on in the rest of life and I was fine with writing very little. Other days it just sort of exploded.
‘Tis not so with NaNoWriMo 2018.
In case I’m not the only one having trouble, here are seven questions to ask yourself during NaNo, especially if the going is rough.
I. Have you picked the right story?
Maybe your idea isn’t ripe yet. Perhaps it needs to simmer for a while longer. This leaves you with a few options.
You can A) try to finish the story anyway, but I warn against this because while art requires discipline, it isn’t something you can force.
B) Try writing another novel, but you probably shouldn’t expect to finish this new one before the end of the month unless you generally draft a novel in just a few days.
C) Write some short stories instead, contributing those words to your NaNo wordcount.
D) Don’t finish NaNo. This is actually fine. It sounds like a sin for some reason (probably because we writers are a bit obsessed), but the world won’t end, my friends.
E) Continue working on the story at a much slower rate, one that allows the idea to grow.
II. How much time are you spending on social media?
For me, the answer is usually way too much. I have grand plans of cutting myself off from social media, but alas they never seem to come to fruition. My copy of Deep Work glares at me from the bookshelf. (Oh, right. I’m writing a blog post about that book, aren’t I?)
However, all of my writer friends live far away, and we connect most easily on social media. So for word wars and encouragement and such, social media is incredibly helpful.
But. Alas. It’s so easy to get pulled into the scrolling quicksand. And then all sorts of life-sucking things like comparison, zoning out, etc. creep in and… ahem, suck the life out of you.
I’ve found that lack of creativity is often directly related to a surplus of time spent in the depths of social media. So if you’re feeling drained, uninspired, depressed, or all of the above, maybe take a break from your social medias for a few days. Or limit your time to fifteen minutes to see if that helps.
III. Are you starving yourself creatively?
Sometimes I get into this rut where I think if I’m working on a story, I can’t enjoy other people’s stories. As if I don’t have the time right now or I’ll reward myself with a book or movie after NaNo is over.
Typically, this starves me.
Reading is one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating things for my imagination, and movies provide a break to simply take in a story visually. When I read for even just a half hour, my creative blood flows more easily.
Perhaps you’re like me. Maybe you need story input in order to have story output at a high rate.
IV. Are you feeding yourself the wrong brand/genre of creative food?
Are you reading/watching/drawing a bunch of things that get your mind exploding in a different genre?
Variety is important in a creative’s diet, but sometimes—like when you’re drafting a new novel–it’s important and helpful to guard your imagination from the wrong genre of inspiration. There are some stories that you know ignite your imagination for a certain brand of story.
The Lord of the Rings will never not inspire me to write epic fantasy.
Dracula will (apparently) never not inspire me to write a steampunk vampire story that’s basically just a fan fiction of Dracula. (Seriously, guys. I have been blown away by Dracula. I was expecting to not like it, but I think it’s better than Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Grey combined.)
The Lion King will never not inspire me to work on False Gods.
The new Star Trek movies (as wild and crazy and sloppy as they can be) will never not inspire me to get to work in the Stars and Soul storyworld (which also happens to be the same storyworld as my NaNo novel this year).
So consume the stories that jumpstart your creativity for this NaNo story. Know the music, books, and movies that make you squirm to create something in the genre of your NaNo novel… because then, hopefully, it will give you more energy to create your NaNo novel.
V. What else is going on in your life that affects your art?
Are you in college? Studying for exams? Preparing to move? Settling in after a move? Working extra hours? Taking care of a newborn? Remodeling the house?
For me, the things that are affecting me the most are my upcoming move to Texas, all the things I want/need to do/say before I make the move, and the release for Stars and Soul (November 20, my dudes).
Stories have always been a sort of refuge for me, and in the past I’ve viewed writing as a sort of refuge, blocked out from the rest of the world. But I know now that my writing is intimately tied to the rest of my life.
If this NaNo is hard, don’t beat yourself up for it. Take a step back to see what in this season of your life is affecting you. It’s important to remember that you are not the same person you were last November. Your life is not the same it was last November. And your life will not be the same next November.
Don’t expect to create in the same way, with the same speed, with the same ease as you have in the past.
VI. And what about God?
Is your relationship with God—the time and attention and desire—suffering because of NaNoWriMo?
Are you writing with God, or are you going at it alone? Are you making time for Bible reading, personal worship, and prayer? Or are those spiritual disciplines—the lifeblood of our relationship with God—getting axed? And it likely isn’t that you don’t want to be steadfast with God; it’s just that work, school, writing, sleeping, etc. quickly crowd those disciplines out.
It is so easy for the glittering, heavily caffeinated fun of NaNo and the new novel and the word wars and the Pinterest board and these characters to silently, deftly, speedily displace Jesus in our minds and hearts.
So think about this question. Dwell on it. Pray about it. Don’t shy away from God or your own heart. Be honest.
Or maybe things have never been better with God. In which case, savor him.
VII. Do you have to draft a new story this month? What is motivating you?
I.e. – why are you doing NaNo? Is it because you’ve always done it? Is it a matter of writer pride? Something all the other writers talk about that you wanted to try? Because you have a story that just needs to be written?
Check your heart. It’s not that any of these are bad reasons to do NaNo. It’s just that it’s okay to not write a new story this month.
Basically, even if NaNo isn’t going as you imagined it would, and you see your friends splattering their 40,000 words all over social media, it’s okay. It. is. okay.
Your life is not writing. Your identity is not writing. You’re no less a writer if you don’t finish your novel this month. You’re no less a writer if you don’t write 50,000 words this month.
And maybe not finishing NaNo is failure.
I won’t say that it isn’t because your definition of failure depends on your definition of success. For some, not finishing NaNo will be failure. In which case, good because it needn’t be a bitter failure. Better for it be a failure that teaches you your weaknesses and limitations rather than it be a “success” that leaves you stress-ridden, depressed, snappy, and unfocused on what will always matter (i.e. – God and other people).
This NaNo’s been tough for me. At the time of this post writing, I’m little over 8,000 words for the month (I should be at 20,000). I’ve gotten stressed about it (surprise, surprise), and I need to daily take a step back and ask myself these questions. Especially those last three.
If you’re doing NaNo and it isn’t going well and you’re stressed, hopefully these questions will help you work through some of that stress.
So, friends. Are you doing NaNo? How is it going? What are your thoughts/advice for when NaNo is tough?
p.s. – people have asked to see the Stars and Soul Pinterest board. You, my friends, are going to get the link first. <3
p.p.s. – yeah, no High Command memo went out last week. It’s just one of those things that may not happen again until I’m in Texas.