My Humps, My Humps, My Awful Writer Humps
By Deri Pryor, Graduate Assistant, Bluegrass Writers Studio
We are almost done with November, hence almost done with NaNoWriMo for some of us. For the initiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a challenge for participants to write a 50,000 word novel within the month of November. It’s not a contest; there’s no prize if you hit the mark, other than the shivering newborn novel in your hands.
I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo in the past. I almost got to the 50K word count once. It took several years of attempting it, then beating myself up for not “winning,” before I realized there were no winners. However, there can be losers. Not because they don’t get the word count, but because of the whole beating oneself up part.
NaNoWriMo takes the rather protracted experience of writing a novel and tries to condense it into 30 days. In his pep talk to participants posted on NaNo’s site, Neil Gaiman talks about the first glorious moments, when you are charging forward, excited, and then the end, the downhill slide “when words and ideas tumble out of your head faster than you can get them on paper.” However, in the middle is the hump.
Gaiman describes it as being just past the midway point, where all hope is lost and you are so disenchanted you are ready to delete the whole thing. It was at this moment that I gave up. Frankly, I physically did not have the strength to give to it. I was a busy undergrad, working almost full-time, and dealing with personal issues. I was not equipped to deal with that moment. In the real world writing scenario, you would give yourself time to regroup, step back, rest. In NaNoWriMo, even the slightest pause puts you so far behind, the scrambling to catch up only makes the stress worse.
In his pep talk, Gaiman reminds us that there is no way over the hump other than to write your way over. One word after the other. I think for those who are consistently successful at NaNoWriMo, this one word after the other thing comes just a bit easier. These are the people who can charge ahead and turn off their internal editor. They get the story down and worry about the details later. Others, like me, who fret over minute details and get paralyzed from moving forward until they’ve sort it out, just cannot thrive in that type of writing environment. I’m not saying it’s ok to just stop and fret; you have to start moving again, but if you have to worry about that one pause putting you so far behind on something, it’s hard to find the motivation to keep going.
I’m not a fan of NaNoWriMo. I’m also not not a fan of NaNoWriMo. I just had to come to the realization that it does not work for me as it does for others. For some it is a fantastic motivator, and some great novels have come out of it. It’s a tool to get people writing every day, consistently, to finish something, and to that end it is a thing of value. I’ve participated in other similar things, such as the Poem-A-Day challenge during April’s National Poetry Month, and have come out the other side with a tremendous confidence boost in completing the challenge.
The benefit of these types of things is that it encourages us to write daily, giving us momentum to write over the humps, and anything that helps us over the humps is a good thing. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to figure out what works for us, and that okay, too. As long as we keep moving forward, we are winners.
Published on November 26, 2015