Today is Monday, November 14. We are two weeks into the NaNoWriMo process, and by now most of us have either taken a big chunk out of our story process, or we have begun to despair. Are your plots coming along? Are your characters coming alive? Do you feel like your NaNo project is something you want to continue with?
And if not, what do you do? How do you write when you don't feel like writing?
This last week has been hard for many of us. In fact, I've given into despair more than a few times over the last six days. There was even a day where I did not write a word, which makes this NaNo much different than past years for me. Writing is a way of life for me. I make very little to no money on it, but it's my life regardless. And I write to feel like I'm doing something meaningful, like I'm adding to this world and not simply taking away.
But in those dark moments where it's so, so hard to create, what do we do?
It can be hard to center yourself. To look at what you're writing and convince yourself that there's any meaning to it at all. Why does it matter, when there are already so many books out there? Why do you matter, when there are so many better authors? One thing I can tell you, and this is absolutely true, is that despite the fact that we live in a world with 7 billion other people, there is no voice like yours. None. Even if every single other author out there decided to write the very next Harry Potter novel, they would all be different. Certainly there would be some similarities: fantasy elements, magic, dragons, wizards. But the story itself, and all the little details that make it? Yours would be different. Every time.
Writing when you don't feel like writing is no easy task. In fact, sometimes writing can feel like a downright chore. One famous author once said, "I do not like writing. I like having written." And for a lot of us, that's exactly it: looking back at what we've created and feeling a sense of accomplishment, and sometimes, pride. Writing one word at a time, one letter at a time, is a daunting process. But being able to look back at a finished work? That's everything.
If you find yourself despairing at the state of the world, or at your own thoughts, think of writing as a solace. No matter how good or bad your work might be, it's still a world that you're creating free of the trappings of the real one. Your reality can literally contain anything. Anything. And you should use that. Create new government orders, create new genders, create new magic spells and weapons and species of creature. Really let yourself go in the best way.
One thing I tell myself when I don't feel like writing is that I will feel SO much better afterwards if I do write. Even if I spend an hour writing nothing but absolute shit, I won't be able to feel guilty for having not written. The words are still there. To be thrown away or edited or whatever, they are still there and they are yours. And as Jack London once said, you can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.
So you don't feel like writing. And sometimes you have to give yourself a break. And your story might not feel original and your characters might feel flat, and you might feel like you're creating the worst work of fiction ever seen on this planet. And even if you did, you'd be known for that, and you'd STILL be ahead of the people that never wrote a word.
Even when you don't feel like writing, you should. Push yourself and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish. There's a power within you that you're not even aware of, and it grows and grows. Write the kind of world you wish existed, and make it the best one you can.