Five days into National Novel Writing Month, my word count goal is 10,000 words. This is the turning point for me.
I can rattle on for hours in a chat room, my fingers flying as I describe a day, rant about inequities, or spar verbally. Who counts those words? No one. They're just for recreation. Well, that's what NaNoWriMo is supposed to be, too.
The whole point is to silence the inner critic that sits around watching you, bitterly smoking cigarette after cigarette, saying things like, "Why bother trying to write a book? It will be a stupid book. No one will ever look at it. No one will ever buy it. Your little dog Checkers could write a more interesting book than you can." That inner critic is what keeps people from writing their stories (and some of the stories are horrible, we do have to admit that) just as the inner musical talent agent keeps people nowadays from singing aloud.
When I was a kid, my mother used to sing, loud and strong, old forties songs and musical show tunes. We'd sing together sometimes, and the sound was beautiful. She told me that her brothers all sang, too, as well as their mother. "Our house was always full of music," Mom told me. By the time I was in junior high, singing out loud (except at summer camp) was so declasse no one I knew would have been caught dead singing outdoors. ("Whaddayou doin'? Tryin' out for the Monkees?") What a horrible loss, all those wonderful voices forgetting how to sing. Including mine. I've forgotten how to sing for fun.
When I discovered NaNoWriMo, I was surprised to find that there were stories lurking in my head. Thousands upon thousands of words, and so many comments, characters, plots, conjectures, conclusions -- it was like finding a buried treasure.
A treasure chest full of wonderful things -- and then the Inner Critic shows up and says, "Dummy. That's just a piece of glass. Oh, and that? Who would ever wear something that gaudy? What's that? Girl, that plotline is done to death, no one wants that kind of stuff any more. Hmpf, those aren't real gold."
It's Day Five of NaNo 2006 and my Inner Critic has shown up, chewing gum loudly and twitching the leg crossed over the opposite knee. "Do you really have this much time to waste on a pointless project? You're writing practically random garbage. You can't write a murder mystery story, you're too dumb. When you get 50,000 words, you are going to be so embarrassed by that adolescent-sounding crap you'll end up quitting writing completely."
Turning point. Last year I heeded the critic, quit trying, bagged on NaNo and went on to do probably many more valuable things during November.
I can't remember a single one of them.
This year, I will remember: The whole point of doing NaNoWriMo is to write every day, and to have fun doing it. No one has to like the story, all that matters is that I'll like doing it. And no, it's not going to be good -- 50,000 words in 30 days is at best going to be a jumping off point. There might be a kernel of inspiration in the finished product; or it might just be a very good exercise in jump-starting creative freedom. This is the task: write, write, write, and enjoy it.
Why is that so hard?