NaNoWriMo 2017: Why I Plan to Fail Beautifully During National Novel Writing Month.

Even if NaNoWriMo sounds nonsensical to you, or you, too, have given up in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, be encouraged. Falling flat on your face may be a good thing.

I am all hat and no cattle. All bark and no bite. I dream big and freeze on “Go!” I plot and plan and fail to follow through. I fail to commit. I blame my “editor hand.”

My high school creative writing teacher explained it like this: your non-writing hand is your editor hand. It will try and interfere with your writing hand at all times. Do not let your editor hand interfere.

My editor hand has reorganized and reorganized each sentence I have ever written since I can remember. (Even now, it is reorganizing the previous sentence.) I revise ceaselessly until the assemblage of words pacifies my mind. Even then, much like an oil painter, I touch-up here and tamper there when I should give up the brush and walk away. Sometimes, like a river rolling over stones, I polish and polish until every last stone erodes.

To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.

Norman Maclean – a writerly hero of mine –  is talking about fly-fishing, but I believe he is also talking about writing. Writing is art and good art takes time, which is unfortunate for my non-Christlike impatience. As for “grace comes by art” – well, that is a post for another day.

I miss the boat year after year. Remember? For all my dreaming and story plotting, I have no cattle to show. No bite. I freeze on “Go!” I tweak as I write and whittle at what I have until I grasp nothing.

I am not a sculptor, but I must believe that Michelangelo chiseled David completely out of the marble before he polished the edges. Margaret Mitchell wrote by hand Gone with The Wind before her editor suggested she call the main character “Scarlett” instead of “Pansy.” Margaret’s editor hand did not stop her to mull over better names.

So why do I let mine? Why do I let my editor hand hold me hostage in chapter one, in paragraph one, in sentence one? I know I should write that shoddy first draft, but I fizzle out fast. I crash and burn.

A wicked disease fuels my editor hand: perfectionism. And a wicked sin fuels my disease: fear.

There. I said it. I am afraid to fail.

Fear has fooled me ever since I can remember. But I know now that to do nothing is to fail.

Failure is not bad writing. Or an unfinished manuscript. Or an incomplete plot. Failure is to never fall flat on your face.

I want trade my hat for a humble herd of cattle. I want bite, not noisy barking. When the race pistol fires, I want to run and not freeze. I want to make it past chapter one. So, I plan to fall flat on my face during National Novel Writing Month (aka: NaNoWriMo) 2017. I plan to fool my fear and fail beautifully.

 

Leave a Reply