Pep Talks from Lindsey Grant (2010)
Because I am neither superhuman nor magical, feeling powerless is an occasional and unfortunate fact of life. I have no control over the person in the car next to me and whether they’re paying any attention to the road while they eat that giant burrito. I can only hope that my rent check won’t get lost in the mail, that the recipe will work as it says it will, and that the all-important email I just sent reaches its intended destination.
And don’t get me started on not having control over my own actions! I often oversleep, forget commitments, break a favorite dish (or somebody else’s), ruin my best shirt (or somebody else’s), and I famously say too much at just the wrong time. (Does this sound familiar? I hope so. I’ve been told it is normal, which is a small comfort.)
But this is why I love NaNoWriMo. As a writer, I am the master of my domain. I’m the boss; the most magical genie; the lord and ruler of every character, creature, and event in the world of my creation. It’s a pretty awesome feeling, having all that power.
In addition to having full control over every event in my story, there is the added benefit of deciding where and to whom these things happen. If I want to visit a place that doesn’t even exist, I can write it! I don’t often have the budget or the time to travel someplace far away or fabulously exotic (especially in November!), but I can do the next best thing—travel there in my mind—and it’s completely free. As Commander in Chief of my novel, I can also create the characters I’d like to meet—or defeat. The possibilities are limitless, and I find that to be tremendously satisfying. At last, my say-so is the only one that matters!
As we write our novels this month, join me in taking complete omnipotent ownership of our novel-worlds, where we, the writers, reign supreme and unopposed.
We mustn’t forget that with absolute power comes—you guessed it—some responsibility. Once we’ve created these realms, we have to remain stalwart in our unshakable authority. I hear that minions—especially fictional ones—need daily instruction. At least 1,667-words worth. Don’t forsake your kingdom if it starts to seem silly or pointless, or you have no idea what your next order ought to be. Any command will do! Your characters, the weather, the birds and whales, the flow of the rivers, the path of destiny, and every last plot element all bend to your whim.
All together, let’s laugh in exultation at our total domination!
Now let’s go do some writing.
Week Two has a bad reputation. Heck, we even capitalize it! A couple days ago, I saw that a Wrimo had posted, “I’ve been Week Two’d” as her Facebook status. Sounds painful doesn’t it? For participants everywhere writing a novel this November, this has become the week to survive.
But does it really have to be that way?
I think it does.
There is a saying that anything worth having is worth fighting for. I think about this every time I eat shrimp. What a pain in the neck, right? But the frustrating peeling part and the endless dilemma—legs or tail first?—make that shrimp even more delicious and worth the trouble.
If your novel is a shrimp (and whose isn’t?), then Week Two is that danged shrimp peel. It tests us, asking, “You don’t really need to write this novel right now, do you? Why not just shut off your computer, call it a day, and write your novel some other time. You’re only into Week Two; it’s not too late to back out now!”
You may be sitting there thinking, “Well, maybe that’s true,” but the answer is definitely a foot-stomping, extra-emphatic no!
Week Two is a battle for your novel’s future, and you are going to win it.
You’ve been carrying around a story for a while now and you finally started writing it. Getting started is hard enough, but then you went on to write for a full week, bringing your story to life and making your noveling dream a reality. You’re well on your way, writer, and you have come so far already! Don’t let your inner editor convince you that this isn’t worth your time, or that you should start over, or—even worse—that you should start over some other time. For this novel there is no “later.” There is only now.
And when you reach November 30 with the rough draft of your novel in hand, the struggles you overcame this week will make that already-triumphant moment even more incredible.
The world needs your novel. This is the time to write it. And it is infinitely worth fighting for.
Let’s go do it!
Wrimos, we have one weekend left in our month-long mission to write a novel. If your experience has been anything like mine, you are still behind, it has been an insanely busy week with work or—if you are in the US—Thanksgiving, and the novel needs some serious love over the next few days.
If you feel uncertain about whether you can do this, never fear! I have been mulling over this very subject and I have the answer: You can!
As I was pondering my atrocious word count and wondering whether I could get my NaNo-novel back to good, I got to thinking about this summer when I was exploring the ruins of an ancient town in Greece. There, the water for the town was drawn from a cistern deep in the ground. If you had the nerves for it (and a light source) you could go down into that cistern, 199 steps into the ground, to see where the well was.
I was excited and feeling outrageously adventurous. This was what questing was about! Journeying deep into dark places to see ancient relics and feel the power of the ages! Or something like that.
The actual business of descending into the cistern was something altogether different. The stairs were dangerously smooth and broken in places. The tunnel was pitch black and much shorter than I am at 6 feet tall, and grew increasingly narrow towards the bottom where the stairs were so steep they
were more like a stone ladder. I had to feel my way forward, I fell countless times, smashed my head on the low stone ceiling, and walked through many spider webs.
There were plenty of moments when I wanted to turn back, uncertain that the pain and panic was really worth it. But I thought, “I have come this far. So what if I’m afraid of the dark and terrified of spiders, and I am claustrophobic and I can’t see a foot in front of me with this stupid flashlight and I might be bleeding from the head.”
So I kept on and made it to the bottom of all 199 stairs.
And there, in the weak beam of my flashlight, I saw a discarded McDonald’s french fry carton.
But after standing there for a moment casting my flashlight around the two by three foot swath of dirt, I also saw ancient carvings on the wall that looked like faces but were barely discernible after so many years. And I thought, “Ahhh, here no man has gone!” (At least not since the french fry guy left his offering.)
At that moment, the webs and the broken stairs and the fear rising in my gut with each successive step was all worth it—forgotten even. In the face of grave uncertainty and distress, discovery prevailed.
It’s a brave thing you’re doing, novelist, descending deep into the dark recesses of your imagination where the end may not be clear, and your doubts about the outcome of this creative adventure can feel overwhelming. Your novel may have some discarded garbage in it too—I know mine does!—but it’s also full of unexpected miracles. Don’t let the garbage deter you—stay in it for the magic bits. They’re there, and they demand that you write write write until the very end.
We can do this, and then we will stand together in awe of all that we’ve discovered.
This is it, Wrimos! The moment when you defy the limits of what is possible; when your lungs are burning from the effort and your muscles tremble with exertion. You’ve got sweat in your eyes and stains on your shirt but it just doesn’t matter—’cause you’re in it to win it.
50,000 words, that shiny purple winner bar, your winner goodies, the title of author, and eternal bragging rights are there in front of you just waiting to be claimed.
Victory is within reach, writer!
If you’re already sitting in the Winner Circle holding your certificate and wearing your winner shirt, congratulations! I can’t wait to join you. I still have many thousands of words to go before I can claim NaNo triumph, and I’m committed to noveling through these final hours of November. I plan to fly across the finish line along with all you Wrimos still writing toward your NaNo win.
Let’s do it together!
Your fellow winner-to-be,