I think (as a writer and a perfectionist) that perfectionism and writing go together better than most things.
That is, everything else you do, you just DO (or don’t, because you know it won’t be perfect).
With writing, everything you do is part of the process. You can always remind yourself that “Now isn’t forever.” It is a fabulous step away from crippling perfectionism without surrendering that important part of you that desires excellence.
The familiar mantra, “real writing is re-writing” can remind us the great freedom we have as writers: we are not bound to what we first see. This trains us in the great freedom available in the rest of life as well, a freedom to explore and experiment and remember/realize that LIFE isn’t a finished product either!
So with that in mind (and as a reiteration of yesterday’s urging) Make the decision NOW to leave your critical, editing, perféct-as-you-go mind locked. up.
This doesn’t mean you have no standards at all!
For example, speaking (as I was yesterday) about momentum in your month of novel-writing, if you’re bored and slowing down, that’s a fabulous clue your reader will feel the same way. If the scene you’re “supposed” to work on isn’t exciting enough, and you don’t immediately know how to change that, working out of order is completely acceptable.
I started my first NaNo novel in 2006 by describing the transformation of the wicked stepmother into a water dragon, whose own weight then drags her into the sea. It was a postlogue if anything, but it was the most vivid image in my mind, starting out. I wanted that woman to get the power she always wanted, and have it not be what she expected. I wanted that image in my mind as I described (and endured) her cruelty in other parts of the book.
So: 50,000 words, on a new work of fiction, in 30 days.
The main point of “30 days” is to invoke the power of deadline. Many people perform best (or at least they think they perform best) when there is some external motivation providing a framework or structure for the goal in front of them.
The truth is that willpower is a muscle. It is a limited resource, and the less it needs to be exerted in one area, like decision-making (Will I write?), the more you have to apply in other areas.
The creator of NaNoWriMo, Chris Batty, urges participants to load up on coffee, chocolate or any other “motivating” or “vice” food they want for the duration of the project. Psychologically this is good advice: by removing the effort one may have applied to healthy eating, you’ve essentially freed up that much more mental muscle to apply to this other, short-term goal.
The short-term nature of this goal is another reason for the 30 days.
Writing a novel is an intense, I have to say God-like experience. You are creating a world. Not out of nothing, so we don’t match God there, but out of a Frankensteinian collection of hungers and memories and myths.
I have never had as much writing-compassion from the non-writing people around me as I do in November. They try to understand that I’ve got a leg in fairyland. It makes more sense that I’m pulled away, that I’m not all here.
The years I mentioning it ahead of time I got a pass to be hyper-focused on this “extracurricular” project, just because it was November and I made it clear how important this project was to me.
Revisions are a challenge for this same reason: I’m a generally responsible person with a pretty solid set of expectations when it comes to food and sanitation. And my children’s behavior and language-development.
Finding the time to leave this world and immerse myself in the one I created—that will not happen. I have to create that time.
But that comes later—with the releasing of the inner editor from its box of confinement when November is over.
30-days also gives the people in my vicinity a count-down of their own.
So maybe meals aren’t quite on time, maybe the bathroom didn’t get cleaned this month. Not to worry: Mama will be back soon. Just watch the calendar– count the days!
For now, if you ever get approached by a wild-eyed individual garbling on about NaNoWriMo (sometimes insisting that you should join in), you should understand the basic outline:
The goal is 50,000 words on a new work of fiction in the 30 days of November. It is not something you win without dedication, but it is imminently, and fantastically, doable.
Take the jump. It only seems scary.
Share your title in the comments if you have one.
The story I’m working on this year will be called Stolen.