Pep Talk from Kevin Wilson

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

Here you go.

A pristine, untouched month.

An empty screen.

Blank pages.

Before the writing actually starts, the possibilities seem without limit. This is the moment that will soon end, so it’s important to enjoy it.

The minute a word is committed to paper, as soon as a path is chosen, it gets harder. You now have one day less of time to write the novel. The writing that occupied that entire day is perhaps not salvageable. How in the world did this ever seem like a good idea?

Except it is a good idea. You are embarking upon a month-long incantation that might, possibly, produce magic.

And that is what everyone wants, something magical and transformative. Everyone wants to write a novel that succeeds in all the ways we want a story to succeed. And I doubt there is any pep talk that could enumerate the great things that can come from this endeavor in a way that equals what you’ve already considered. So, instead, I offer something that might be less pleasing now, but hopefully gains power in the immediate aftermath of this month. Regardless of the words that fill those pages, whatever story you choose to tell, the great discovery of this month will be the stack of pages that bears the words that did not exist a mere month before. You will possess the evidence of time spent at your computer, unspooling the narrative in your head. You will have hard evidence, and this will always grant you conviction.

Padgett Powell, who was once my professor, told me often to embrace failure. He wanted me, even if the story didn’t amount to much, to dig into the writing and know that failure was possible, even probable, but to always look towards the moment when the story ended and I was left with those pages. “Even if you are the worst writer in the world,” he would say, “at least you’ll have the evidence.”

And since you are not the worst writer in the world, even though you may think so after the first or second day of this month, you will have a stack of pages that reminds you again and again and again that you can do this. The next time you are stuck, you can dig into your file cabinet and produce the evidence that you can make something worthwhile.

Let this be one of the joys of NaNoWriMo. As the month progresses, as you print out another day’s worth of writing and add it to the stack of pages, embrace the sheer delight of seeing the world of your making assemble itself before you. The story within those pages will hold the real power, but don’t underestimate the weight of the physical object. You are building something that will sustain you long after this month is over. You are bringing something tangible into the world. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

Kevin

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