National Novel Writing Month: 60,000 words, 30 days, one Patrick Nagel tattoo
There is no official handbook for being a writer. Technically, anyone can be a writer (although when I hear people say that anyone can be a writer, I feel just how I imagine artists feel about those suburban painting 'n' wine places where bachelorette parties get drunk and make art to match their bathrooms). Regardless, no matter how sad and broken the publishing world is portrayed, travel writers, food writers, copy writers, fashion writers, music writers and ghost writers all still exist. Yes, it's possible to be a writer in 2012.
Having been a writer for as long as I can remember, I've made writing my job, working under the broad heading of "freelance writer." I've also attempted to expand outside of my experience as a journalist, working under the title of "novelist." But here's the thing about being a novelist: You can't be one until you've written a novel. And I haven't. But in November 2010, November 2011 and, now, November 2012, I've participated in National Novel Writing Month, and tried (kind of hard) to become a novelist.
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- Tune up your novel-writing skills at MWA University
National Novel Writing Month -- or NaNoWriMo as it's awkwardly been coined -- is a simple and brilliant idea: Anyone interested can commit to writing 50,000 to 60,000 words during the month of November, and if they so choose, stay accountable via the organization's website. Sounds simple, right? It is. Unless you're a writer like me and you procrastinate like that, rather than writing, is your job.
If I write 60,000 words, she's mine.
Knowing how much I love personal challenges, I gave myself a prize at the end of the 60,000 word tunnel: a Patrick Nagel tattoo. I know, I know. The output of a challenge of this nature should itself be the reward. But I'm American, and I can't do anything unless I get something tangible out of it. And if that something is a tattoo of a scantily-clad woman on my bicep, so be it. (Sorry, Mom, and any members of my extended family you may or may not forward this article to.)
But my mom might not have much to worry about: We're twenty days in to NaNoWriMo 2012, and I've barely cracked 16,000 words. I started, as all writers do, with the best intentions. I'm working from a conceptual angle, in that I'm writing a book of short stories based on two albums by a band I admire. (All this really means: I'm cheating a little because my story has been started for me.) Being a Virgo, I even purchased Walter Mosley's This Year You Write Your Novel in preparation for last year's NaNoWriMo, after my very smart Denver Public Library honcho uncle recommended it.
I thought, if I read a book on how to write a novel, I could write a novel. This is not true at all. But it is a great book, and taught me a few valuable things. Mostly, Mosley shares that the only way to write something larger than 500 to 800 words is to sit down every single day and write. For hours, preferably at the same time each day, and to rarely, if ever, miss a day. In essence, this idea is the answer to all procrastinator's problems: Just fucking do it.
If you want to write a novel, write like it's your job. Write like your life depends on it. Write like you really want to be writing every single day, because, if you chip away at all of those other tasks you keep yourself busy with instead of writing, you will see that you really want to be writing every single day. Whatever you do, just write like a motherfucker.
You don't have to have a perfect desk at which to write. You don't have to have a fast computer to write on. You don't have to schedule a time during your busy week to write. You don't have to be in the right mood, have the right thoughts on a storyline or even know what in the hell you're doing to write. You just have to write, starting now, and not stop until your story is done telling itself. National Novel Writing Month is a great reason to write your novel, but today is also a great reason.
Now if I could stop waiting for my nails to dry and my laundry to be done and my underwear drawer to get organized, maybe I could get this novel written.