A Camp NaNo Lesson: “Showing Up” For Your Writing

Untitled“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

Gather ‘round, Camp WriMos, and sit by the fire. Have you checked in to your cabin yet? Kept up with your word count? Whether you have or haven’t—or aren’t partaking in Camp NaNoWriMo at all this month—it’s time to face a solid writing fact. Woody Allen says it best, above, but I’ll word it another way: if you want your writing to go somewhere, you need to show up at your destination first. Then, it’ll follow you.

What do I mean by this? Simply that, if you have a goal in mind for your writing (such as getting a novel published or being recognized for your short fiction), you need to think and act as if you have already achieved that goal. This can be done in a number of ways, and all are heavily encouraged: showing up to your writing space every day at the same time, creating a professional brand or image for yourself and your writing, developing a pitch for your novel before even writing it, etc. In fact, there have been a number of discussions on the idea that action precedes emotion and motivation, such as the study that proved forcing a smile actually helps relieve stress. Simply, acting professional will eventually make you feel professional and give you the spark you need to do the work.

This applies not only to writing but to any goals you may have. However, it’s the cardinal rule of writing: if you want to be a writer, you must first write. And that’s what NaNoWriMo and its smaller cousin challenges are about.

Now that we’re halfway through the month, you’re expected to be tired. Frustrated. Whether your word count goal was 10,000 words or 100,000, chances are, the task now seems more daunting than it did on July 1st. It’s a case of those nasty mid-month boogie monsters we talked about last Camp NaNoWriMo, but you aren’t going to let them snatch your plot bunnies this time, are you?

The number one roadblock most people face at this point in the challenge is that their story isn’t working out the way they expected. Either a plot is taking a turn for the worse, or a character is running totally off the outline, or the words simply aren’t coming. That’s okay. It happens, and that’s why this is called a challenge. But the important thing to remember is to show up every day anyway, ready to carve out the next part of your story. Even if you only get a fraction of your daily word count done and don’t manage to hit your ultimate goal for the month, you’ll have walked away with something even more valuable than a fancy badge or certificate: you’ll have taught yourself perseverance.

That’s the real goal of NaNoWriMo. Not to silence your inner editor, not to force out a mess of a story—although those are two big parts of it. It’s to teach you the habits that will ultimately make you a successful writer, because they’re the habits already successful writers have already formed. Even NaNoWriMo’s worst critics admit that, all contempt for the practice of speed writing aside, the challenge teaches its participants the most important lesson in writing: to show up, without fail, even when nothing seems to be happening. Because eventually, something will.

Have you found NaNoWriMo to be helpful in forming good writing habits? Have you discovered that simply showing up is often enough to get the juices flowing? Let us know; we’re always interested in hearing everyone’s creative processes!

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