What do you do when you experience a total lack of inspiration to write? Commit to writing a novel, of course! Sounds like lunacy, I know, but it’s what I’ve decided to do this year as a result of my complete lack of inspiring thoughts at this year’s writing retreat.
Actually, let’s call it the 2nd annual family writing retreat in hopes that we do something like this every year because it truly is so much fun. Mitch’s family and I go to a rental house someplace beautiful in or around Austin. For 2 or 3 days we write by day and tell scary stories by night. There’s delicious food, beautiful natural views complete with deer who walk right past your window, and a group of like-minded artists who just want to create.
It’s the perfect setting for writing something great, and yet, this weekend I had nothing. No inspiring thoughts or ideas ready to flow from my hands onto the page. Not a thing. And having nothing to write is a big bummer for a weekend that’s meant to be dedicated to writing.
As I sat and drank my coffee this morning, looking out on the stunning view of Lake Travis from our bedroom balcony, I started to wonder what was in my way. I talked about my lack of inspiration with Mitch and his mom and we decided that the thing that holds me back from writing is my need for my work to be perfect (and on the first draft, no less.)
Any writer will tell you the idea that your first draft will be anything worth reading is simply nuts. But as a freelance writer, when content equals money, there can be a lot of pressure to simply get something worth reading on the page the first time so you can get your check and move on to the next one.
And when it comes to my personal writing on my blog and for sites like Literally, Darling, where I have more freedom, I put that same pressure on myself because I think this is my time to shine. To write what I really want to write. Though the motive is different, the result is the same – intense pressure to get something published.
So, when I think of my dream, and I’m talking THE dream – to walk into Barnes and Noble or Target and see a book I wrote on the shelves – I imagine the utter distress I put myself through when writing something short and sweet like a news post for INSIDER and think how in the Hell am I supposed to write a book?
Forget the fact that I don’t typically write fiction and the idea of a gripping, deeply personal memoir terrifies me to my core. The very concept of something, anything, novel-length just feels unattainable.
And yet, it’s the dream. It’s the thing I hear most from family and friends:
“You should write a book.”
“Have you ever thought of writing a book?”
“I’d love to read your book one day.”
So how do I bridge that gap? The large, looming, inescapable, mammoth gap between what I want to achieve and what I feel I can conceivably do?
The only answer that makes sense to me is to just do it. Prove to myself, even if only once, that I am capable of writing 50,000 words so that the next time I try to do it I can look back and say you’ve done it before.
I’ve decided to join NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a non-profit organization that holds a yearly worldwide program in November that helps writers achieve the goal of writing 50,000 words, just above the minimum length for a piece of writing to be considered a novel, in one month. It’s completely free, though you can donate, and writers are supported throughout the process with goal setting, virtual badges for hitting writing milestones, and an online community of writers all participating with you.
I’m excited (and yes, scared) to announce publicly that I’m doing this, but I think the most important part of this experience will be getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new.
The caveat to my participation in NaNoWriMo is that I cannot do it – truly, it simply won’t be accomplished – if I hold myself to an unreachable standard of perfection. If I spend more time re-reading and editing and judging my writing the way I do on one-page personal essays and 500-word news articles there’s not a chance in Hell that I’ll write upwards of 2,000 words a day.
What I need is the freedom to just get 50,000 words down no matter how shitty they are. If the story is completely unreadable and it’s by far the worst thing I’ve ever written, it won’t matter, because it will be the longest thing I’ve ever written.
And that will be something worth being proud of.
Check out my NaNoWriMo profile and let me know in the comments if you’ve done it before or if you’re participating, too!