Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? How are you doing? As we get close to the middle of the month, I thought it would be a good idea to check-in with other members of the #amwriting community to see how it’s going.
This is my second year attempting NaNoWriMo. (See this excellent post by Everett Maroon for an explanation of the event.) I tried last year when I was in the midst of revisions for another book (not the time to do NaNo I learned) and lasted all of five days. So, I’m doing better this year, since here we are on Day 13 and I’m still writing!
Here’s the calendar I have hanging by my writing desk (yes, there are red walls in that room) and you can see I’ve marked off the days that have elapsed in November. Those little smiley faces are the days where I actually wrote something.
I used to give myself a gold star on my calendar on days I produced writing. On the day I discovered that the craft store that used to carry my treasured gold stars no longer did, I was momentarily devastated and bereft. They did have smiley faces, though, so they have had to take the place of gold stars. They’re almost as good, but not quite.
Two things are apparent from the above photo: (a) I am motivated by silly things like gold star or smiley face rewards (still stuck in third grade perhaps); and (b) I am a binge writer.
I learned about “binge writers” in a book provocatively titled “How to Write a Lot,” by Paul J. Silvia. This book is not one of those passed around by fiction writers and recommended in workshops, but since it’s subtitle is “A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing,” it’s aimed at a different audience. I learned about it from a history professor who was in the midst of writing a non-fiction book, and despite the fact that I disagree with the author’s characterization of binge writing as a “wasteful, unproductive strategy,” he makes a number of excellent points.
Since Silvia wrote this book for professors who often view writing as a chore to be avoided while they devote their time to what they really love (their research and teaching), the book focuses on practical advice for getting something done. His audience are people who already have something to say, maybe even a lot to say. They’ve done the work and they just need to write it up. Silvia says, in the introduction to his book, “We won’t talk about insecurities, feelings of avoidance and defensiveness, or inner mental blocks that hold people back.” Instead, he says, “Writing productively is about actions that you aren’t doing but could easily do: making a schedule, setting clear goals, keeping track of your work, rewarding yourself, and building good habits.”
In other words, he is advocating much the same thing as the NaNoWriMo folks: make a schedule, set a daily, weekly and monthly goal, keep track of your work, and, in addition, do it with about a half million other people who will cheer you on!
The NaNoWriMo folks make all this easy by giving you a pre-set schedule and a way to keep track of your work. They cheer you on via Twitter and Facebook and email. For me, though, the most important part of it is the validation. I especially like the “stats” chart on my NaNo homepage. Well, I don’t actually like it right now, since I’m behind, but I am very motivated when that bar graph starts getting taller.
My binge writing days are really obvious in this graph (those are the days where my progress goes from near-flatline to soaring) but without the days of binge writing (which seem, to me, to be more about being on a roll) I would be woefully behind and might have given up. I’m sure I would feel better if I’d written 1667 words every single day, but I find I have other roles in life that often call me away.
So, I’m a binge writer, I suppose. Right now, I don’t have time to worry about that since I need to get back to my novel after a long weekend devoted to other work that could not be set aside. All I know is that my word count today is 16,258 and it’s supposed to be 20,000…so I’m going to go dump out a few more words.
See you at the finish line and let me know how you’re doing!