(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)
Lots of ups and downs this week. A good day of writing on Sunday, followed by a bout of stomach flu/food poisoning on Monday (which also yielded a higher-than-average word count, thanks to having to have something to do between acts of worshiping the porcelain god), followed by a couple of days mired in court intrigue*, and ending up today with a somewhat unplanned trip to the movies.
But in spite of all of that, I am well over 30,000 words into this story, and things are beginning to roll. There is no hope on earth of finishing the story in the next 20,000 words, but at least it will be well begun!
Sadly, this week saw several of my WriMo buddies drop out of the race, for various reasons. I understand that; life happens, and there’s no shame in that (says the woman who didn’t even try in 2007, because we were refinishing two floors’ worth of wood flooring that month).
But in watching the various lists and communities that are part of the NaNoWriMo experience, this week also saw a lot of–to be blunt about it–whining.
I’m not going to post any specific examples here, but some of the common themes I saw this week were:
– I did okay the first day, but I haven’t been able to write anything since.
– I get distracted too easily by my job/boyfriend/girlfriend/television shows/lifestyle.
– I just can’t find the time to write.
– When I do write, I get bored with my characters/story after five minutes.
– I don’t know where my plot is going.
Now, I could address each of these excuses/reasons for not writing, but after I thought about it, I decided that there actually is a common theme among them.
These people aren’t writers.
Now, I will be the first to agree that the writer’s journey is different for everyone. 1,667 words per day for 30 days is not the be-all and end-all. It’s definitely not “The One Right Way To Do It.”
But if you want to be a writer, you’ve got to write. And what struck me about all of these people was that they didn’t really want to write. They wanted to sit down at a computer and have a perfect, well-written story magically fall out of the sky and into their keyboards, with little or no effort on their parts.
After all, maybe they don’t have the muscle and footwork to be a star linebacker, or the skill and fine motor control of a brain surgeon, or the talent and good looks to be a movie star. But they passed high school English, so that should have taught them everything they needed to know about how to write. Right?
What they don’t seem to grasp is that none of these people can do what they do without an investment in certain skills and plenty of practice. You don’t just show up at a hospital one morning, put on a surgical gown and some gloves, and start carving away at people’s heads. You go to school for many years, and you study and learn and practice.
And if you want to succeed at being a writer, just like those other professions, you have to practice. That means you sit and you write. Maybe you don’t have a plot. Maybe your characters are boring. Maybe what you’re writing right now will (and should) never see the light of day. Lord knows, buried in the depths of my storage unit are spiral-bound notebooks and floppy diskettes full of writing that no one but me will ever get to read. There’s one particularly soap-opera-ish series of stories that I started in college and continued to add to for the next eight years or more that is truly dreadful. Plot? What plot? Characters? Seriously? Can you say, “Cardb0ard”?
BUT…after you do that long enough, then you start to see how bits of plot can come together, how characters can come alive and be made to interact, how pacing works. You might discover that the act of writing can be satisfying in and of itself. Once that happens, you will find the time to write. You will set the distractions aside at least once in a while. You’ll learn that you can write even when you don’t feel like it.
Maybe you won’t write every day. Maybe not even every week, or every November. But you will write.
And that’s what separates the writers from the wanna-bes. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, making the words happen.
Okay. I’ll get off of the soapbox now.
Just get out there and write something this week. Okay?
* In the story. Not in Real Life(tm).