I’m sitting in an abandoned corner at the library, full of coffee, empty of hope. That’s because yesterday, I woke up in the middle of my work day and realized there is exactly one week left until NaNoWriMo kicks off.
This “oh shit” moment is brought to you by Déjà Vu.
Yes, this has happened before. Yes, it will happen again (most likely). Every year in fact. It inevitably gets to be late October and I suddenly remember there is this thing happening in November that I am very interested in but somehow completely misplaced inside my brainspace.
I can attribute that to one thing, the biggest fault I have as a writer, my secret shame: consistency. When it comes to daily writing, I fail. I admit it. I’m a streaky writer (that came out weird…). I’m as streaky at writing as Matt Duchene is at scoring goals*. When I’m on, I’m ON. Remember back in May? (Of course you do, loyal reader). I knocked out the last two-thirds of Gone To Wonder #1 in less than two weeks. It was insane, terrifying, exhilarating. I live for those moments as a writer. But they are rare, and that’s bad. Not just bad for production, that’s a bad habit as a writer, because you lose so much simply by not practicing.
That’s why WriMo sneaks up on me, and why I panic a bit when it does. It’s not simply about not being prepared. I can usually psyche myself up enough to at least start on November 1st (finishing is another matter). It freaks me out because it reminds me that I’m not treating writing like I should.
Look, I’ve come to have a very liberal view of peoples’ habits. I’m not going to say that the only way to write and write well is to be consistent. That may work for some, and it may not work for others. It’s important to find your own rhythm, regardless of what advice people have. But there is something scientific to the idea of practicing. It has to do with patterns of thought. You ever play a game so much that you find yourself dreaming about it? That’s because your brain has been trained to think about that game so much, it can’t stop itself. It’s for that reason that writing can be likened to an addiction, especially if it is going well. You do something so much, and you establish patterns of pleasure and reward, the dopamine singing sweet songs to your neurons, that it becomes habit forming. In the case of writing, it’s a good habit to have, because it means more words on the page and a higher likelihood of improving at the craft.
I think that is part of the point of NaNoWriMo. It encourages people to become writers, and trains them on how to establish consistency, whether they realize it or not. Every keystroke is a drum beat, and you’ve got to keep the rhythm. The years I have won, I wrote almost everyday. The years I didn’t, well, you get the picture.
So here I am at the library, having this little moment of epiphany. I came here to decide what to write (to sequel or not to sequel) and to plan and plot. But I’m realizing now that what I should be preparing myself for as much as the story or maybe even more is how to keep it up, how to keep the drum beating. If I figure that out, I’ll share my secret. If I don’t, I’ll share my failure.
If you’re participating this year, good luck, and feel free to share your strategies below in the comments, for my sake and for others. You can also add me/judge me all November long at the NaNoWriMo website.
*hockey reference ftw. also, hockey season is not conducive to writing, but who cares because hockey.