I participate in NaNoWriMo every year, but it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. The thing I want you to know, as we go through the month, is that you don’t have to feel pressured into writing. So I want to talk a little about some commonly passed around advice that can make you feel like a failure.
You must write every day. Well… no. You can actually have a successful career and be a binge writer. You can write most days, but have a structured day off. You can write randomly. You can write on a strict schedule. Ultimately, it doesn’t actually matter what your writing process is, because the reader will never see that. Now, writing every day does some useful things. During NaNoWriMo, I do, in fact, write every day BUT during the rest of the year I just write most days. The thing that is useful about “write every day” is that it forces you into the chair on days when the story is difficult or you’d otherwise make an excuse.
The problem with “write every day” is that it can make you feel like a failure if you aren’t writing because of travel, or depression, or exhaustion, or just because you need time to sort out a plot point. You aren’t a failure if you don’t write every day.
A writer, writes. Okay… sure. That’s true. But it’s easy to misconstrue those three words into thinking that if you don’t write, you’re not a writer. Know what? A plumber is still a plumber even when not plumbing… or whatever it is they do. Point being, that if you need to take a break the universe won’t reach out and take your writer badge away from you.
You must submit your fiction. This is true, if it is fiction you want to sell. But it’s totally okay to write things just for the fun of it, with no intention of ever having a career as a writer. We allow that with every other art form, but there’s a societal pressure to publish that I think is really harmful to a lot of early career writers, or people who simply enjoy it as a hobby. You’re still a writer, even if you never publish a thing. You may not be an author, which does require publication by dictionary definition, but you’re still a writer.
You must… Any teacher, including me, who starts a sentence that way is about to utter some bullshit. What they mean is “this works for me and I’m telling you hoping that it will work for you, too.” Name any rule, and I’ll be able to find you an example of published fiction which breaks it. Also? Blind adherence to rules is a good way to watch fiction stagnate. The rules might help you with things that you struggle with, but all of them can be broken.
The bottom line is that as a writer, you need to figure out what works for you. If that’s NaNoWriMo, awesome! If it’s not? Also awesome! If you don’t know what works? Try stuff. Maybe even use November to experiment. If you don’t? Still not a failure.
What’s some writing advice that you’ve struggled with?