Camp NaNoWriMo is nothing without you, our incredible participants. Today, Camp NaNoWriMo participant Kyle Winters offers you some advice for this last day of Camp:
Hey there Campers! How’s it going so far? Have you been extracting carts full of delicious word-ore from those story-mines, piling it into big, uh, word piles, and… This metaphor has broken down completely. Regardless, I hope you’ve been having a productive Camp NaNoWriMo! I’ve been plugging away on my novella, not always hitting my goal, but making sure that my butt meets chair and my fingers hit keys.
Having a great outline has helped things go smoothly and I’m hydrated, stimulated and not overly caffeinated, so it all should be going like clockwork, right? Why, then, did I wake up in the middle of the night, gripped with a desperate panic?
My heart raced, sweat clung to me, and I had a marrow-deep need to be validated. It was just after 3:00 a.m. and I scrolled through my phone’s contacts, Facebook, and Twitter trying to figure out who among my friends might be awake and able to give me that sweet, sweet hit of approval my brain so craved. Everyone was asleep, and I cursed that all of my friends had avoided crippling internet addictions.
There’s a weird thing that happens when you’re buckling down on a long project where you become like a hermit in the woods. You’re alone with your story, characters, and world for so long that you begin to feel a sense of isolation and unease. What happens when I leave my weird, coffee-stained hermit shack and try reentering normal society, story in hand? Will I be accepted with open arms, or will I be cast out so quickly that I leave a Kyle-shaped dust outline behind, like in a cartoon?
“Regardless of whether you publish what you’re working on right now and gain a million readers, or the story stays yours and yours alone, you get to look yourself in the eyes at the end of this month and say, ‘I’m a writer.’”
Every writer feels this way at some point because writing is profoundly personal, difficult, and lonely most of the time. Maybe that sounds dramatic, and it is, but we’re allowed to be a bit dramatic since we’re among friends here. Pulling 50,000 words, or 50 words, out of your brain and putting them on the page is a very intense, tiring, and sometimes painful process. It’s only logical that your brain would fight back. It wants a cookie, a treat, a reason to keep fighting with itself and all of your fears. It wants you to call a friend at three in the morning and beg them to read your novella just to say something nice about it, and if you don’t do that, it wants you to give up. Don’t listen.
Great authors have finished their works because they knew, in the end, that they were writing for themselves. Every word put on the page was a word they wanted there, and it didn’t matter what someone else said or thought. They wrote because, like you, they are writers and (I know this sounds crazy) writers write. Not to put out in the world or to win acceptance from the unknown “they,” but because it is an act for themselves.
I know right now you’re probably struggling, because so am I. Just remember that we all write for an audience of one, and that audience is you. Regardless of whether you publish what you’re working on right now and gain a million readers, or the story stays yours and yours alone, you get to look yourself in the eyes at the end of this month and say, “I’m a writer.” I’m rooting for you and I know you can do it, because if I can, you definitely can.
Kyle Winters is a seasoned writer and mega-nerd with a decade of creative experience beginning with comics and ending with, we can assume, a Thunderdome-style pit fight to the death. His upcoming sci-fi horror novella will be out by the end of 2018, and if you’d like to know when that happens, follow him on Twitter or sign up to his mailing list. Don’t worry, he doesn’t spam.
Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Michael Dorausch