Today is the perfect day to write.
I say that, of course, because being outside today is like being inside a bowl of vanilla ice cream–there’s a pretty fierce blizzard happening right now. But I also mean it’s the perfect day to sit down with your pen and paper, or with your laptop, computer, writing tools and just write. No more excuses.
You may or may not have heard about NaNoWriMo, the month-long contest to finish a 50,000-word novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30 each year. I participated in the contest for the first time last November and it taught me something really simple and important.
I can write 50,000 words in a month.
I was busy in that month, too; it wasn’t like I had nothing on the go. But the key was that I had a goal to work towards and I challenged myself and gave myself permission to achieve that goal. And 50,000 words breaks down to 1667 per day, which makes it seem a lot less scary.
So now I have a 50,000-word novel written and I did it by just writing. I ignored (i.e. battled) my inner critic that told me I was writing absolute shite; it was a hard battle sometimes. Our inner critics are loud and strong and they’re used to getting their ways. Now the novel needs to be edited and really, I should and more to and blah blah…plenty of work needs to be done on it but at least I’ve got a starting point, or a ‘shitty first draft‘ as Anne Lamott calls it.
So if I can do a novel in a month, why don’t I do a novel every month? Because I don’t sit down and just write. I’m stymied by the fear that my writing is terrible and that anything I write will be doomed to the depths of writerly hell, or something as equally dramatic and unlikely. I think the most likely outcome is that what I write will come out as simply mediocre to begin with. Even mediocrity is a curse to my perfectionist habits–I aspire to be a great writer, not a mediocre one–but seeing the success of some current books encourages me because I know that quality does not necessarily factor into the success of a novel, depending on other circumstances.
That’s really the key. I can’t control who loves/hates/is indifferent to my writing but I can certainly do my best at it and whatever the result is should be good enough. I need to just write, get out of my head and onto the page, and so do you. Edit later. Or don’t, because if you can sell your book without having to edit it, why not save all those painful hours? But the first step is to just write, even if it’s a shitty first draft. Give yourself the permission to create the material and then plan to refine it to your standards later.
Now is the time; today is the day. Push everything else aside and just write.