How to Keep Going: a Somewhat Rambly, but Hopefully Encouraging Nanowrimo Post

So Nanowrimo’s just around the corner! Unfortunately, I’ll be using most of my nano writing time working on my academic stuff that I desperately need to get finished, but good luck to all those who are properly doing Nano from Day 1 to Day 30! I know that eventually I’ll join in the fray, but not to do what you’d expect.

My last Nano project was a really fun book that’s with my agent right now. It’s one of those weird and wonderful stories I wrote after months of feeling somewhat lost because of the whole publishing process. There’s something about the industry that can make you a bit gun-shy if you become too worried about it. What I mean is, when I first started out writing books, before I even started querying, all I really wanted to do was to tell my stories. My goal was to become an author who would write the kind of books geek kids like me love. But the thing is, there’s so much that happens in the industry, so many aspects of it that can make you start to doubt yourself, that can frustrate you, that can make you feel like your work isn’t good enough, isn’t marketable enough etc. So you start to wonder – how exactly does one write something that’s ‘marketable’? How do you write ‘what people want’? It’s easy to become so frustrated and turned around you stop writing in general.

My last Nanowrimo project was my attempt to break free from all of that. I just wrote. I wrote something that I would want to read, period. I didn’t care at all how anybody else would take it because I knew that, to me, it sounded absolutely awesome and I was sure that there were other kids out there like me who’d find some enjoyment out of it. So I wrote, and for the first time actually won Nano! 50,000 words in one month is something you write when you really, really believe in what you’re doing. It’s a great feeling. I was able to brush it up and after a few rewrites give it to my agent.

Well, that was then. Now I find myself on the cusp of another Nanowrimo feeling the same way I did last time, if not worse.  Yes, to be honest, there are times when we writers can’t really admit how frustrating the life is, but yeah, it is frustrating. Some great things have happened in the months since that last Nano experience, but then there have also been a lot of not so great things, some really frustrating and morale-crushing things too. Things that remind you that you’re just a writer, and as the writer, you’re probably ironically considered to be the least important factor in the publishing process. So much control is out of your hands and there are times when you just don’t know where you’re heading. Sometimes you feel lost in the machine. Disposable, replaceable.

So how do you keep going?

It’s tough because this time I won’t be able to participate in Nanowrimo the same way I did last time. But after I finish my academic stuff (which carries with it a whole other set of stresses), I figure I’ll spend the rest of the month writing a little something off the cuff. And this time, once again, it won’t be for anyone. It’ll be for me. My last book, I was able to brush up to give it a shot for publication. But I do think there are times when you need to write something and take everything else out of the equation. A story just for you. A story that doesn’t need to go through any of the channels. Something that you write for yourself and, if you feel like it, give others a look see without any red tape. I think there are times when writers need to remember that we’re writers first. And there are times when we need to remember why we write – why we do something that’s so hard.

These past few weeks, I’ve been going through some of my old stuff in the family storage. We’ve been wonderful pack-rats over the years – literally there’s stuff in boxes from the 80s that we just never gave away. But being able to go back and look at that old stuff is liberating. Seeing my old writing when I was a kid, and those idea books when I was a teenager, it’s liberating, because I remember a time when I wrote without any kind of pressure. There were no real reasons to be frustrated when I was just doing my thing – when I was just telling stories because I thought the stories were cool. No red tape, no complications, no frustrations, no doubts, just writing. Writing and fun.

Of course I have some nice projects lined up, you know, the ‘for publishing’ projects that you write with that explicit goal in mind. But sometimes, you need to dip back into that really special time in your development as a writer when you were free. Just let go and have fun again, and if you want to share your work, just throw it out there for people to see; no strings. Sometimes you just need to free yourself.

That’s how you keep going.

You know, when I go back and look at some of the reviews for my first book, true some of them were pretty negative, but then there are those reviews that make you realize that yes, you reached someone. Several someones. They get you. That’s part of what gives me the courage to just jump into something new. I’m so thankful to everyone who’s been supportive and encouraging, people who’ve been positive and helped me stay positive, people who’ve told me to keep going, people who care. Every writer needs that because every writer needs to remember that they matter, that their work matters.

I think this Nano won’t be about me reaching 50K words. It’ll be about revival. Rejuvenation. Sometimes you have to go back to writing the way you did when no one and nothing else mattered. And just keep writing.

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