As we round the corner into the last week of November I wanted to drop a line for all of the people who might be struggling to make it across the finish line with their NaNoWriMo project, or who might be struggling to complete anything in life.
Here’s my tip.
Write it down.
For writers, this tip is especially important because your novel should have a purpose beyond entertainment. The Harry Potter series is immensely popular with children and adults BECAUSE there is a real moral tale being told in a world of wizards and unicorns. Beyond the sparkly bits that delight the conversation is a message, a reason, a purpose for this tale to exist. If you are having trouble finishing the end of your novel it might be because you have lost sight of your purpose for writing it. And chances are if you are having trouble getting to the end of anything, it’s because you’ve forgotten why you started.
Don’t just dream about the end results. Don’t just talk about how you can accomplish things. Sit down. Write it down. Now think of a list of things you can do that will get you one step closer to your goal. Write those down. Now organize those steps into things you can do right now, today and things that you can do later.
When you’re all done, look at it. I mean, really look.
Once upon a time, I wanted a house and a husband and a dog. My goal was to find a man and settle down and build that life. I wrote it down in all of my bucket lists and five-year vision plans. I was going to find Mr. Wonderful and build that white picket fence kind of life. Year after year, list after list, I went back to the same vision until one year I took a good hard look at what it would take to make that life happen for me.
Then I asked myself, why aren’t you doing this?
There’s a good chance that if you aren’t doing what’s necessary to get the things you want its because you don’t really want to do it. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we want the things that our society or our friends and family want for us or for themselves. The truth is that no matter what you want in life, there is a cost, and if you’re not willing to pay the cost then you don’t want it bad enough. So, let it go and allow yourself to find something else that you really want that’s just yours.
Writing things down, whether its scenes for your next chapter or a list of goals for the month, is a powerful tool. Journaling as an exercise helps us to gain clarity and insight into our own minds and motivations. Planning, as an exercise, helps increase productivity and reduces stress. Taking notes by hand in class increases memory and information retention.
So if you are struggling my recommendation is to sit down and write out what it is that you’re doing and why. Then decide what you’re willing to do to make it happen. Get analog with it and use pen and paper. Revisit those words and that page whenever you are getting tired and want to quit, or when you seem to be failing. Remember why you started this in the first place and what you’re willing to do to be a success.
NaNoWriMo is a test of endurance. It is a time when a lot of people discover that they don’t really want to be novelists. It’s also a time when people rediscover their spark and ignite their passion for words. If you are struggling with writer’s fatigue, or any fatigue, my recommendation is to revisit your reasons for starting. Write them down. Make it plain. And if “because I couldn’t imagine NOT writing” isn’t one of them then perhaps writing isn’t the career for you.