I’ll let you in on a little secret about myself. I’m not a real writer.
I’m more of an edit-as-I-write-er. I’ve never understood the concept of rough drafts; typically, I think and think and think about what I’m putting on the page before my fingers even hit the keys. Then I go back and polish – but usually, what I’ve written right off the start is very close to the final draft.
I’ve always known this isn’t typical of the average writer. One of my college instructors – my favorite one – told me that everyone has different methods of writing and that self-editing isn’t the worst thing a writer can do.
Another college instructor – my least favorite one – was quite literally stunned when I told her I found the process of writing to be hard. She felt that editing was the hard part, and when I explained that I don’t edit much after the words are on the page, she grew quite snotty. That’s not how real writers do it, she said.
I may not be a real writer, but I want to be. I want writing to be the easy part. I want to love it. I want to get all these ideas and people and places out of my head.
But my ideas all seem so perfect when they’re trapped inside my head, and I fear that the process of writing them down will mar them. I fear my writing skills aren’t up to the challenge of capturing the story I want to tell.
So, naturally, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo).
Over the month of November, I have to write a 50,000 page novel in order to complete the challenge. The point is not to write a beautiful piece of fiction; the point is to get words on the page without overanalyzing or self-editing as you write.
The whole prospect of it terrifies me. I have enough ideas to fill a four-book series, but even so, I don’t know if I can let go of my ego long enough to tell the story in its rawest form.
What if my great ideas aren’t so great in the end? What if my characters are flat and my plotlines nonsensical? What if I don’t have the chops to make it as a real writer?
When I expressed some of these doubts to a friend a little while ago, he offered me the smartest advice about writing I’ve ever heard – advice that I hope will guide me through the month of November.
He said that writing is “an exercise in convincing yourself nothing is ruined by writing it down before it’s ready.”
For me, that’s the real challenge of NaNoWriMo, one I’ll have to overcome if I ever hope to be a writer.