Pep Talks from Lindsey Grant (2012)

Dear Writers,

I got a rocky start to November and my NaNoWriMo novel. I was called home for a family emergency and ended up staying through the first of the month. A country away from NaNo HQ, I watched the website struggle as writers around the world came online and started writing their novels.

My own novel felt thousands of miles away, too.

I wrote a measly 1,300 words on November 1 and remained stalled through a hectic weekend that allowed no time for writing.

Come that Sunday, I confess, I panicked a little.

Perhaps some of you have had a similar experience. Especially those Wrimos along the East Coast, dealing with a flooded home, no power, a yard full of felled tree limbs, or worse. Suddenly, this creative adventure felt completely impossible; this much-anticipated project seemed secondary to just about everything else.

On Monday, roughly 5,000 words behind, I felt I had a decision to make. Was I going to power forward and see what happened, or call it a loss and chalk it up to life interfering with my best-laid plans?

As with most things that require effort (going to the gym, cooking dinner, folding laundry), the prospect of giving myself a pass was sorely tempting. But when faced with the prospect of leaving those 1,300 words untouched, and the remaining 49,000 words unwritten, I felt an even more urgent sense of panic. In that moment, I realized just how much material I was holding in my mind. New additions, scenarios, and descriptions started springing up everywhere. Were they cohesive? Heck naw. Did they fit with my original plot? Nope. Did it ultimately matter? Not really.

Perhaps more surprising to me on this pivotal Monday was my how much I really wanted to get writing, and right then. The balance of my story was urging me on, encouraging me to forge the path to “The End.” Not later, when life cut me a break and my weekends would be wide open and catastrophe-free. Now.

With my Google Doc open, my email and browser closed, and my phone on silent, I started drafting all the ideas that had piled up like overenthusiastic bumper cars in my brain. And within two hours, I had clawed my way through almost 5,000 words. And they weren’t all bad!

Today, as I write this pep talk, I still feel fatigued and trepidatious. What else does the universe have in store for this month? Can I sustain this momentum? Can I stretch this story arc to 50K, and beyond? I don’t know. But I do know I want to keep trying.

For those of you who have contemplated abandoning your novel—or already have—I invite you to sit down, look at your novel-in-progress, and envision a November without the rest of the story you’ve started. Imagine your laundry is folded, your pillow creased from adequate use, dinner is cooked, socks are matching, your shoes are shined… but no novel.

Do you feel, like I did, the tug of longing? An insatiable curiosity to figure out something you don’t yet fully understand? A certainty that this novel needs to come out, and now?

Good. Follow that feeling. Hold it in her your mind, and return to it when these moments of doubt and deep-seated soul fatigue arise—and they will. Life can be amazingly inconvenient, and sometimes just downright mean. But our creative spirits are an antidote to these surprises, and these struggles.

Draw on yours to forge ahead. I’ll be there with you, banishing the thought of a world without my story. Our stories.

Let’s go write them.

6,608 words

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the kids these days would say, “It’s go time.” The moment when you challenge your novel to a street fight. When you say, “Hey! I am in charge here, and I am gonna write you all the way down to Chinatown.” We don’t wave white flags of surrender here. There are no word counts too low to deserve a final push for glory.

Because even if you don’t hit 50,000 words, you wrote to the end with an abiding belief in and a passion for the stories that only you can tell.

Because, just as you couldn’t know on November 1 what surprises lay in wait for you in the dark corners and back alleys of your novel, you still can’t anticipate what unexpected amazements await you between here and “The End.”

Because even though these aren’t the final days of dedicated creativity in your life, they are the make-or-break final moments of this wildly inspired project. And you owe it to yourself—and your novel—to give it all you’ve got in these remaining hours.

We’ve all had moments this month when our feet faltered, when we lost our balance and it looked like our novels were going to get the best of us. When the enormity of the unknown overcame us, and we felt unable to keep spinning our stories at a pace fast enough to keep us in the game.

Forget those past failures and doubts. The time for shadowboxing with your Inner Editor has passed.

Take your novel in a lovingly aggressive headlock and whisper, “I’ve got this thing.”

Take that white flag, just begging to be waved, from your pocket. Use it to wipe the sweat from your face, and then toss that flag aside.

Now is the time to tie your shoe laces, stretch your fingers, and throw that first forceful swing. The first of many that will carry you to victory, whether you hit 50,000 words or not.

43,735 words (and still swinging)

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