The first camp, located in a loft inside a converted textile mill in the Berkshires, next to the magic crystals shop and palm reader on one side and the dreadlocks salon on the other, believes in the mystical muse that showers pixie dust upon the agonized writer when it fits her capricious desires, and that an author’s work is (and should be) completely subject to her whims.
Without inspiration, there is no art, and inspiration only shows up once in a while. Forcing yourself to be creative without that tingling excitement and single-focused drive that comes from a lightning bolt of ideas is simply counter-productive, and you’re probably undoing all the good of the goji berries, Kashi, and wheatgrass that you had for breakfast.
The other side of the equation belongs to the one I like to call The Colonel. The Colonel thinks goji berries are for sissies. The Colonel thinks inspiration is poppycock. The Colonel is both your best friend and your worst enemy – but he likes being your enemy a hell of a lot more. “Write regardless,” The Colonel says as he adjusts his monocle and twirls his moustache. “Waiting for your muse to visit is like waiting for the enemy to stop shooting. It might happen, but it’s probably because you’re already dead.”
Normally, I like to walk the line between the two. I like to write as constantly as possible, because otherwise I lose momentum, but I also like to recognize when I’m approaching burnout and need a bit of a break. Full-time writers like to smugly say that if you’re doing anything other than working on your novel, you’re never going to make it in a world of professionals who have nothing else to do but bang away at the keyboard, but I think that’s ridiculous. My life is filled with things other than my book. Even though writing is a very high priority, sometimes I need to focus on my friends or my job or my family. Sometimes other things come first, and that’s a healthy cay to live.
But not in November.
Carefully thought-out time management strategies take a break in November. Because November is all about the rush. It’s a rush that appeases both sides of the writerly divide. In a good November, you can’t stop writing because the inspiration won’t stop flowing. The challenge of coming up with 50,000 words in 30 days squeezes sparks out of your brain that you didn’t even know were there, and puts more pressure on you than The Colonel could exert in his wildest dreams. It’s fantastic and terrifying and exhausting and amazing and it has very little to do with rational thought.
I love a good November. I like the freedom of hurtling willy-nilly towards a goal set by someone other than myself. I love the accountability that NaNoWriMo gives me, and it’s always during a NaNo month that I end up doing my best work. When the 30 days are over, I stay energized and committed for at least another few months, and I don’t have to rely on muses or taskmasters to encourage me. I just write because I want to, and it’s the best feeling ever.
How does your writing style change during NaNoWriMo? Do you love it, or do you miss being able to stick to the plan?