One needn’t even be swift as a coursing river–moving at all is a step in the right direction. But somehow, even taking a daily brisk and metaphorical walk in the writing business seems to take as much discipline as, you know, taking a daily brisk and literal walk.
I totally am and entirely am not disciplined.
Here’s how I mean. I do NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month; the challenge and a community built around the challenge (originally only in November but now available in April and July) to write 50,000 words in a single month.
The first time I took the challenge, I was fourteen, not a writer, and had no idea what I was getting into. I failed with 30,000 words. The second time I took the challenge, I was fifteen, slightly more of a writer (thanks to those 30,000 words), and had somewhat more of an idea of what I was getting into. I won with 50,000 words.
Every year since then, I have written at least 50,000 words in November. Sometimes in the summer “Camp NaNo” programs as well. Every time since the first that I told myself I’d take the challenge, I’ve had what it takes to bust through the “finish” ribbon.
Which is the strangest thing, because that is the only time that sternly telling myself I’m going to write something = writing something.
The entire rest of the year, during all the interim months, I could hardly dare to call myself a writer at all. Maybe I start a short story. Maybe I brainstorm. Maybe I even write a whole short story, or a blog post! (Let’s not get too crazy, though.)
But if I tell myself, “Look here now, girl; I mean for you to write 500 words a day on any one of your projects,” then I bomb out in a week. If I tell myself, “Look here now, girl; you can have weekends off, but please do it five days a week, at least,” then I persist in failure. “Look here now, girl; at least finish this 25,000 word story—that’s half the length of NaNo.” Oh, sure, I managed. It only took me the scattered efforts of a year and a half.
The trouble my main character has had in getting me to post 100-300 measly words on this blog with any consistency serves to underscore my point, I’m sure.
And yet. If thousands of people turn to me and say, “Look here now, girl; we’re writing 1,667 words per day for 30 days—care to join us?” I say “Why, certainly, good sirs.” And even when a thousand participants don’t even begin, and a thousand here fall off the bandwagon, and a thousand there quit at the finish, and a thousand more can’t catch up because they put off their daily count for too long, I write those 50,000 words.
Every time. For six years. Clearly, this takes more discipline than many people posses.
So why can’t I bloody well make myself write at any other time of the year?
I don’t know. I might not ever. God knows I’ll keep working on it. Sy has managed to get me posting here at least once a week, so maybe there’s hope for it. Maybe in six more years, I can make a Mulan-style training montage of how I became such a prolific uncageable writing-beast.
All I know is, tomorrow is the first day of July NaNoWriMo. And that I owe National Novel Writing Month for my career of choice. And that at 150,000 words a year plus overtime, maybe, just maybe, I can call myself a writer.
So look here now, you; I’m writing 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Care to join me?
It might make a writer out of you.