You’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), that November frenzy to write a novel of 50,000 words (from scratch) during the month of November. I like the idea, the whole quantity over quality nature of it and that staggering energy, but it reminds me of the time I tried to run Bay to Breakers without training first. Halfway through, my friends were already miles ahead of me. My knees hurt. I was covered with sweat. And I told myself–very melodramatically–that I would never attempt to run long distance again (which I haven’t–not really anyway).
My attempt at NaNoWriMo bore a similar result, but unlike the marathon, I had been “training” for it, in my own way. I was writing regularly and writing a lot. I was two weeks in and I simply petered. I don’t like failing. And more than that, I don’t like committing myself to something and then abandoning the cause.
Looking back, I realized that me and NaNoWriMo, we just didn’t jive. There’s a list of reasons, but most importantly, because I believe writing is more than just getting the words on a page. That’s important. It’s crucial, especially if you haven’t for some time. But for me, writing was less about quantity and more about keeping your butt in the seat, day after day, hour after hour, even if (especially if), you stare blankly at the page. I learned that from Greg Martin (who advocates the use of a Treadmill Journal to help writers keep on track – you may want to give it a try!) and then I heard it reiterated over and over again by writer after writer. As many of us know, writing is rarely an act of starting from scratch, but an act of believing the mess we made on our original try is worth shaping into something worth while.
I have noticed through too many conversations with other writing friends, that we are our own worst enemies. We talk ourselves OUT of writing more often than we talk ourselves INTO it. And so, for me, the March’s main purpose is to built a solid, lasting writing life. Sound like a good idea to you? JOIN THE MARCH!
This blog originated when I was an MFA candidate at the University of New Mexico. I was writing my dissertation (a novel titled The View From Here), and I think I wanted another reason to distract myself. I posted writing advice and inspirational quotes and other things, mostly to give myself pep talks. People seemed to need the pep talks, too.
Since then, I keep up the blog because I enjoy it. We get criticism and craft advice all over the place. We are told that art is not important. Sometimes, we even believe it. So, why not add some encouragement to what can be a discouraging process?
If you choose to accept it, the challenge is simple:
1. Make a commitment to write every day this month. The trick here is that you set your own standards. Whether its 15 minutes a day or 5 hours a day, you know your schedule and you should keep it. Skip watching television. Give up that extra hour of sleep in the morning. Whatever it is, if you want the time, you have it. Push all the excuses aside.
2. Decide upon a monthly and daily goal. So maybe you treat Writer’s March as a second NaNoWriMo. Or maybe you use the month as a NaNoReMo (National Novel Revising Month). Or maybe you are a poet and you want to write a poem a day. Or a short story writer who wants one solid, ready-to-submit story. Or a playwright or a screenwriter or graphic novelist. Whatever the goal. Set it now, the beginning of the month, and then work every day to achieve it.
3. Find a writing companion, if possible. I had a teacher who required writing partners. The task: to agree on a time to write every day and call the friend up, commit to the two hours (or three or five) with them, and then call them back when done. I had friends in high school who used to do this when they were running. 5am every morning before school, and the only way they kept going was by knocking on each others’ windows. Why not do the same? This year (2014), I’ll also try and check in with you weekly to see how the writing is going.
Interested in writing with us? JOIN THE MARCH!