Writing has never come easily to me. It’s always been a delicate dance of determination and shame, shame which has also driven me to grueling bouts of revision. A story is whittled out of me with painstaking tedium: I write, revise, write, revise, write, revise sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. After a particularly harrowing bout of toil, I often stare at the screen in resignation, the critical voice in my head nagging, “Who will want to read your work?”
My tendency to revise as I go can also be a positive thing. For instance, I’m far from the type of writer who slams out a draft and then sits back, basking its glaring newness with a sense of finality. Indeed, none of my stories ever feel finished; even after a piece is published I read it again and wish I could have continued tweaking.
However, this tendency also leads, on occasion, to stagnation. I can make myself absolutely sick of a story, begin to resent its very existence, and tuck it away in a drawer or file folder, leaving the characters frozen and unfinished.
That is where NaNoWriMo comes in. I’ve heard some writers brush it off as a useless trend, a 50,000 word fad that “less serious” writers engage in for the prestige of “winning.” To be frank, I’d never given it a second thought, myself, until this year. Until now, I’d always have workshops to give me deadlines, and before obtaining my MFA, I was intensely productive. My graduate program afforded me the time and luxury as well as the fire under my feet to face my insecurities and write regularly.
Then came the 40 hour work week, accompanied by three freelance gigs and two volunteer opportunities, and my life became ordered by a hierarchy of survival that shuffled creative writing to the bottom. Creative writing has been allowed such little precious time that I’ve let my insecurities and incessant revisions descend over my pages like a fog in the night, obscuring the stories I need to tell.
This year, NaNoWriMo will be the blaze to dissipate my fog. No revising. No second guessing. No time for insecurity. I have one month and 50,000 words and no excuses. Will I make it to the shining, 50,000 word finish line? Likely not, given my responsibilities and needs for sleep and nourishment. But will I engage in the delicate dance of worry that so often commences in my consciousness? No time. This month, I will undergo a march of triumph. I will get as close to 50,000 words possible and I will not revise one sentence until it is over. For me, NaNoWriMo will be more than a test of endurance; it is a personal challenge I am setting for myself to break out of my rut and into the worlds of my characters.
I invite you to join me. This is a time to break free with our writing. Save the worry and the revising for later. Pure production and perpetual motion. Turn the critical voices in your head down and crank up positivity and determination. We are most purely writers only when writing, and NaNoWriMo provides us with the reminder to not let anything get in our way, not even ourselves.
By Erin Christian