"Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit." - George Sheehan, columnist, cardiologist, running legend
When I woke today, that nasty little voice told me I couldn't run. I hadn't run in three days. Two of those days were required rest after a 22-mile run on Saturday. The third was an additional rest day because I had a very minor medical procedure. The voice pressed the issue, but I knew what to do. I thanked it for the information, pulled on running clothes, leashed the dog, and headed out the door.
Next month is National Novel Writing Month, that time when hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world join in a common goal: to write 50,000 words (primarily of fiction) in thirty days. Most of me is excited. I can't wait to hang out in coffeehouses hammering out words side-by-side with other writers. I also love compulsively updating my wordcount on the NaNoWriMo website. And who doesn't adore telling their friends about the latest insane plot twist the mind conjured in the writing process.
But as the calendar turned to October and the trees began to show hints of scarlet and orange, that little voice began trying to ruin my fun. "It's a waste of time. You never finish those books. You should keep working on that other book. You'll never publish anything if you keep this up." Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Natalie would call this voice "monkey mind" after the Zen reference to that jumpy, skittery state of mind that tries to distract us from our heart's desire. I'll be the first to admit there is some truth in the little nagging voices. But there's a larger truth I want to remember. Life is very, very, very short. If hammering out 50,000 words during the 30 days of November (that's a mere 1667 words per day my friends) floats your boat, then by all means do it!
Still, I'm going to keep Dr. Sheehan's words in mind. While I'm competitive by nature and I'll be pushing my wordcount as hard as I can, I'm going to try something new. I'm going to challenge myself. Not numerically. I'm not going to try to beat my highest wordcount. Instead, I'm going to plan. You heard it right. I'm going to spend some time during October plotting my strategy. It won't be elaborate. Don't mention the word, "outline." But it will be more structure than the list of semi-related topics or random character traits I usually have by November.
So, fellow Wrimos, ready-to-be Wrimos, or never-to-be Wrimos, I'd love to hear from you. I'm sure some of you are plotters who have a master scheme for your book before the first word is written. How does that work for you? We learned some techniques in MFA school, but I want to hear YOUR version. How do you prepare to write a book? And do you have any wisdom for the new Wrimos? What do they most need to know during October to prepare for the November writing challenge ahead? I look forward to reading your advice.