Writing, muscle memory and Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve spent the last couple of days hoping muscle memory applied to writing and, as it turns out, it does not. Not even a little bit. I’ve spent chunks of my life obsessively writing and reading, broken up by similarly sized chunks of NOT writing, of telling myself that I had to be in the right mood, place, time, mental space before I could get back to writing properly. As anyone who fancies the act of writing can tell you, no such ‘right’ exists. You have to sit down and simply write. That impossible. That simple.

I don’t know if it means I’m mentally unbalanced or if I’m supposed to make some crazy attempt at writing it all down, but I live with other people in my head. Always have. As a kid, I’d lie in bed twisting stories, people and conversations into some sense of order until I fell asleep. Sometimes I find myself doing the same thing now, perfecting little bits of conversations that have never taken place because the people holding them have never met, have never shared a word or, as is usually the case, fictional.

I always scoffed at the idea of NaNoWriMo with a “are those people crazy?” mindset. Who could think it was possible to write a novel in a month? It’s not. It’s absolutely, one hundred percent, not in the realm of reality, bat shit crazy impossible. What I didn’t factor was that these folks weren’t writing novels, they were writing shitty first drafts. Guess what? That’s what you’re supposed to do. All first drafts are supposed to be horrible. That’s why they’re drafts-muddled messes of nouns, verbs, heartache and tension existing for the sole purpose of being ripped apart and glued back together in spectacular fashion at a later date.

I’m better with deadlines or a little added pressure to complete something. I work best under pressure and usually did well in school and career options because of that. I need that accountability to something or someone outside of myself. It is that train of thought that led me to actually look into what those crazy NaNoWriMo folks were doing. Confession: I kind of fell in love with lurking around the forums for a couple months. Granted, this was in January and not the marathon-writing sessions of November but the boards were still reasonably active. It wasn’t the actual content of the boards that I liked – lot of it I found to be silly – but the support system that these writers had developed that thrived year round. A simple ‘I’m convinced what I wrote is really bad’ was met with an outpouring of support, reminders that everyone thinks that way about their own work in the beginning, and writers lifted one another up time and time again. It didn’t matter if you had never written anything before, had your work published, or wrote only for yourself, someone was there for the poster with a kind word and a bit of motivation.

So in an effort to kick my own ass and get back into the habit of writing on a more regular basis, I’ve decided to attempt Camp NaNoWriMo this year. Don’t let the juvenile looking site and idea of summer camp throw you off. It’s basically like the November writing marathon but held in April and again in July on a smaller scale and you can set your word count goal. No need to struggle toward that 50,000 word goal if your true goal is more around 30,000 or 10,000 or as high as 90,000. It’s all up to you. So I set my goal of 35,000 for the month, too short for a full novel but somehow less intimidating than seeing a giant 5-0-0-0-0 in my face for the next four weeks. Today was my third day of actual writing and I’m in the neighborhood of about 4700. Seems like an ok start.

Has anyone done NaNoWriMo before, camp or regular? Did you make it or drop out halfway through like I fear I’m going to do? I’m hoping making my participation public knowledge will force me to work that slump I usually hit a few weeks into a new project. It’s that whole accountability thing again. Even if no one else cares, I’ll know that I put it out there that I was going to do it and didn’t follow through. If you’re participating, let me know or hit me up on twitter to say hi.


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