“I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now: Don’t think!”—Ray Bradbury
The shared pressure cooker of NaNoWriMo accomplishes so many things. First is how it takes this task, drafting a novel—a task that is only and ever done alone, by a single person sitting with her thoughts and a blank page—and transforms it makes it into a group effort. Those thousands of other writers who are also drafting their novel may not be right next to you at your desk; they may not be shouting encouragement as word joins word, sentence joins sentence, and page joins page while you write; they may only be an amorphous sense of camaraderie as you labor over your work. But you know that they are out there, struggling as you struggle, and that gives you heart as you work.
Which is vitally important, because the other great thing NaNoWriMo does is enforce speed. You must Leap Before You Look (per Auden); you must write quickly, with great focus but not so great as to slow you down. No one would ever suggest writing carelessly, but if taking care means you’ll stop dead in your work to ferret out the meaning of a sentence, or of a character, or to suddenly dive into a rabbit hole of “research”—why, then, write carelessly.
Whatever you do, don’t give in to that critical inner voice that insists a sentence is limp, a point of view wrong, a scene off-kilter. It may be somewhat correct (that sliver of correct is what makes the critical inner voice so invidious). All of that may be true, but for now, you’re creating versions of what’s in your head so that later you can take it apart, see what’s working and what is hopelessly wrong, and then rework it to bring it closer to fine. So squelch that voice. It has no business weighing in when you’re creating. Let it know that it will have its day soon enough. And then push it off stage.
But for now, know that the core movement of NaNoWriMo is to let go. Lean into speed and feeling and see where it takes you. If you must think at all, think about how you can always fix up your work later. But you can’t fix something that isn’t drafted, and what this coming month is about is piling up pages of story.
Ray Bradbury described his method of writing thus: “Throw up in your typewriter every morning. Yeah. Clean up every noon.”
NaNoWriMo is all about the throwing up part of that activity. You will have time after the draft is done to go clean up you work. (Which we will talk about in due course come December. All good writing, after all, is revision.)
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