Yay! It's November 15th, and that means you've made it to National Novel Writing Month's half-way mark.
If you've been hitting (or exceeding) your daily word count of around 1,650 words, then pat yourself on the back. You drank the Kool-Aid and thrived.
If, on some of those days, you've found yourself staring at a blank screen, my guess is that your problem isn't that you don't make the time or effort, but that some subliminal self-sabotage is at play.
Here are three ways in which you may be holding yourself from reaching your NaNoWriMo goal — and more importantly, your life dream of writing a novel:
1. You haven't done your (creative writing) homework.
Like every task, there is a skill set to learn. In creative writing, this includes plot structure and character development, not to mention such basics as sentence structure and grammar.
Words are your tools. The artistry of fiction comes with knowing how to use them: when to chip away at paragraphs that ramble, how to use less words to create more nuance.
Take time to read other authors who have succeeded with these skills. (My personal favorites, to name a few, are Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Mitchell, Martin Cruz Smith, and John LeCarre.) By immersing yourself in their stories, the art of word play will soon be second nature to you. Eventually you will develop that sixth sense all great writers have: to craft moving sentences from the simplest words.
2. You are writing during a time when you can be easily distracted.
The best time of day to write may not necessarily be when it is available to you. That said, consider the time of day (or night) in which you have the fewest distractions.
If it's while your children are at school, chances are you'll be at work. Make your lunch hour that time—but get out of the office, so that co-workers can't distract you.
If it is at night, turn off the TV and write, write, write. If, like me, it's late at night when everyone else is asleep, take a nap, then set the alarm for midnight and write for a couple of hours. By accepting the fact that your creative clock is different from the rest of the world's, you'll make your goal after all.
3. You are afraid of failing.
Most of the never-been-published authors I know have written wonderful stuff. The writing part isn't their problem. It is fear of rejection.
What they tell me is, “It isn't perfect…yet” or “I'm still tweaking.”
Bullshit! Their manuscripts have been tweaked to death: every word scrutinized, every phrase agonized over.
In fact, they have read other author-pal's manuscripts — those who have been published, and continue to succeed — and have given great feedback to make those unpublished manuscripts even stronger. They have the chops. We've read their manuscripts, too.
Whereas they consciously know that writing is a subjective art and that everyone gets rejections, they don't feel they can bear that rejection themselves.
Are you this person? If so, I want to give you a mantra: “If I don't let an agent read it, it will never be sold, and read by millions.”
Yes, you are holding your book hostage.
I've just played hostage negotiator with you. Set your manuscript free, and enjoy the accolades it is bound to receive.
One issue, which is not self-sabotage, can still get in your way: when the rest of your world is in crisis.
I've known many authors who have been under deadline to deliver a manuscript, but before they could do so, real life got in the way. Let me make this clear: this is not a form of self-sabotage.
It happens to all of us. The fact of the matter is that real life (as opposed to those lives we create on the page) brings with it some real problems. And real life takes precedent over your creative writing goals.
Some of my own deadlines had to be met during a time in my life when those closest to me were going through major health perils. Forget the word “distraction.” During a life-or-death situation, all you can think about is the pain your loved one is suffering, and the heartache you'd feel should you lose them.
As much as you may want to write every day, you have to face the fact that you may not be able to accomplish this goal.
Time to punt.
Deal with the ordeal. Take a breather. Then get back to your writing.
Because, like a true friend, it will always be there, waiting, for you.
IMAGE: F. Scott Fitzgerald, with his wife, Zelda. Talk about a man who wrote, despite adversity! His wife's mental illness was always a distraction, as was his alcoholism. And yet, Fitzgerald wrote until his dying day. Even his unfinished manuscript, The Last Tycoon, is a masterpiece. Talk about consummate word play!