I had never tried NaNoWriMo before, but I had a manuscript that needed a rocket strapped to its word count to get it over the line. I decided that NaNoWriMo could be a way to give myself a target, accountability, goal or whatever you want to call the Endgame. I threw my hat in the ring. Now, a disclaimer. I wasn’t aiming for the official 50k word count. With my schedule, I just knew it wouldn’t be possible. But I thought a thousand words a day was reachable, and 30k would have taken my book to 60k by the end of the month, which would have put me almost over the finish line for a terrible first draft.
I have to say, there were some challenging days, but all in all, it was surprisingly smooth. There were some days when I didn’t make the thousand words, but I was disciplined and caught up in the following days.
So was it NaNoWriMo that helped me hit the 30k word target? Was it a particular month of the year, or a hashtag and thousands of social media posts to help me get through it?
Nope. It wasn’t.
I have learned that I need someone to turn in my work to. I need a teacher, boss, needy friend, or fellow Pens writer to expect my work to be at their desk at a certain time. I need to hear them tutting at me as I fall short of the target. This sucks to admit it, but I think I’m driven by guilt. The guilt of not reaching the target, letting down the team, and letting down myself. I can only start letting down my hair once I make the team happy (and I’m in that team too).
We all live by deadlines. Heck, life is a deadline, split the word up and The Dead Line feels pretty ominous. So whether we like it or not, deadlines, either set by ourselves or others, get shit done.
Now don’t get me wrong, I always resented a bossy boss. Such a person would make me nervous and help me hate my job even more than I already did. But that’s a different set-up. That’s a boss telling you to do things you don’t really want to do anyway, which adds a layer of yuck to the overall arrangement. When I write my stories, I really want to do it, but my lazy, procrastinating, dreamy brain tells me to put it off, and that’s when I need a fiery dragon around. I don’t need it breathing down my neck with rage and terror, as dragons do so well, but to simply ensure I get the job done. I know it’s a dragon without the heat, and that’s enough.
Now, I’m not sure that being driven by stomach-crunching guilt for missing my own goals is a great way to live my writer’s life, but look at it this way. I still don’t have this book over the line, and I only need about another 7000 words. Without the pressure, I don’t seem to perform. It’s almost like I need to request another mini-writing goal to get it finished with someone shouting at me, “GET IT FINISHED”.
So, I don’t need NaNo, I need nagging.