Pre-NaNoWriMo: You are not a bad writer

 

Once again, it is that time of year. This is the week before November. The week during which an entire subset of society cannot be counted on to do anything other than panic. The week before National Novel Writing Month begins.

Every year since I started this blog, I've written a pre-NaNo freakout post. This is this year's.

 
WELCOME
WELCOME
 

Also, every year I have explained what NaNoWriMo is, so if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you're either new (in which case, WELCOME. I'm not crazy. Ignore the gif. *gestures hypnotically*), or you haven't been paying attention (in which case we need to work on your interpersonal skills. I feel like this relationship is really one-sided).

Actually, I'm going to do something different this year. Because I don't like repeating myself.

Instead of a half-hearted What-Is-This-Madness post as in 2011, or a wishy-washy Should-I-Do-This-Yes-Okay-Maybe post as in 2012, or even the classic reverse-psychological I-Can't-Do-This-WHICH-IS-WHY-I-MUST post as in 2013, I am going to write what can only be called a letter.

 
 

Yes, a letter.

A letter to you. A Dear-Reader of sorts, except if you're a writer or an artist of any kind, really, this is especially for you, because I understand that NaNoWriMo can be a daunting, looming monster to some. I get that writing 50,000 words in a month probably looks pretty impossible right now. And quite frankly, I know how it feels to give up before you begin. It's so hard to feel like you're good at this when you might not even have a completed first draft.

I have been that person. In many ways, I am that person still.

here's to us.

Now, at this point, you're probably gearing up for another silly pep talk. This is a good thing. This means you are smart enough to anticipate crap-spinning. Congratulations!

I am pretty good at spinning crap, if I do say so myself, but that's not the goal today. Today I'm confiding in you.

Hi. I am a 21-year-old writer who has been calling herself "aspiring" for approximately 12 years. I'm getting tired and impatient. I'm desperately insecure. I went through four years of overpriced schooling to "polish my style" and "find my voice," and am now working a job that has nothing do to with books and which leaves me precious little time to do anything else. I'm in the middle of two novels, one of which I haven't touched since NaNo 2013 primarily because I got too discouraged to keep going. 

If I measured myself by the standards of non-artist-types, I could probably be considered what they call "a bad writer." Definition: a person out of whom words do not flow like magical fairy rainbow blossoms at all times, but rather who face a daily struggle to arrange even a single sentence on a page.

My guess is that by those standards, you're probably a bad writer, too.

If so, I have good news. We are together on this. I suck at writing sometimes. I suck at writing a lot these days.

Here's the thing, though—I am not a bad writer.

You are also not a bad writer, and I'll tell you why; if you have this passion, if you get even slightly excited by the prospect of spending hours at a laptop/notepad making stories out of nothing, if you have ever stopped what you were doing to scribble down a story idea, if you think about characters until you feel like you might burst unless you make them come to life—this is what you're supposed to be doing. 

If you called me up right now, if you teleported to my doorstep (that's creepy... don't do that), I would say this to your face with 110% conviction, no matter who you are, or what you've been told. Screw the writing professor who said you probably weren't good enough. Screw the beta reader who made you feel awful. Screw the agent who said, "Thanks, but no thanks." Screw them.

 
seriously.

seriously.

 

you were born to do this.

It is okay to suck. This is me, giving you permission to suck. Because... well, let's backtrack for a second and think about NaNoWriMo with some perspective.

It's just 30 days.

Out of 365, this is just 30 days, during which time you get to dedicate maybe 30 hours or more solely to making stuff up. Let me say that again. You GET to make stuff up, and it can be whatever you want it to be.

You hate the ending of that movie you watched? Awesome, me too. So how might you have written it? You get that tingling feeling in the pit of your stomach when you stare at a really interesting Pinterest photo? High-fives all around! What comes to mind when you think about the possible backstory?

That month we call "NaNoWriMo" is nothing but a very compressed, very concentrated dose of what has now been dubbed "literary abandon." Definition: writing for fun.

That's it.

NaNoWriMo is not a competition. It's not about wordcount. NaNo is a way to remember what it's like to write for fun, like we used to do when we were kids, when we made up stories to act out with dolls and pretended to be reckless explorers on a sea of playground gravel.

Remember when you played make-believe without a second thought? Remember when you realized that you could do this for real, you could be like those authors whose books you grew up cradling to your chest under the covers at night? Remember when you discovered that you had the power to create something new all by yourself?

Remember when you began to tell stories?

This November, I plan to dust off that novel I never finished, the novel I gave up on because I felt too much like "a bad writer" to touch it again. I know it's not done with me yet, because my main character still bangs on the walls inside my head. She's still shouting, she's still kicking and fighting and begging to be heard. I can't ignore her forever.

Maybe you don't have an idea to go on, and you're freaking out. So start something on November 1. Anything. You don't have to share it with anyone. You don't have to know where you're going. It's yours.

You have a voice that nobody else in the world has or will ever have again. You have a strong, unique, weird, beautiful, funny, snarky, poetic, amazing voice. And if you don't tell your stories, the world will never know how much you had to give. That's a loss for the world. Your silence is a LOSS.

It can start in November. It can start today. It can start whenever you want it to.

You have a voice.

So use it.

Happy pre-NaNo, guys. Let's write books.

--Samantha Chaffin

***UPDATE: Because I love you, I just created a shiny new Facebook header for mah WriMo peeps. Click the image to download the full size version!

 
 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, add me on the site and I'll add you back and we'll prance through shimmering fields of literary abandon together.