karmaisawierdname asked you: So I just started NaNoWrimo and I am wondering what we should do if we feel like our writing is kinda going downhill. I was just writing a little bit (and I know I’m still at the beginning but…) and I just thought it wasn’t very good and it really discouraged me.

My dear and precious karmaisawierdname,

Every Spring Bank Holiday on Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, England, thousands of people gather to chase a wheel of cheese down a steep hill. The cheese gets fast—it can go at speeds up to seventy miles an hour and has been known to take out the runners. The winner is the first person over the finish line.

If you win, you get to keep the cheese!

What’s this got to do with NaNoWriMo? I will tell you. Perhaps you envisioned NaNoWriMo as a hard slog up a hill. But it can also be seen as a WONDERFUL RUN DOWNHILL, with trips and stumbles and ridiculous speed. Because NaNoWriMo is not about creating a perfect, complete, “here publish this now exactly as it is” book. It’s about writing a first draft through any glorious means necessary. It’s fast and it’s furious. To me, it is a downhill procedure, and as wondrous as the cheese roll.

A lot of what you are writing may be bad. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THIS. All writing, when you start, is bad. That’s why we rewrite it. So many people look down and see the badness of the draft and think, “Oh no! I am terrible! I must give up at once!” And then they leap out of the window, which is fortunately at ground level, and they land in the bush outside. They have misunderstood how these things go. Things don’t usually just COME FORTH fully formed. They require work. All things. You don’t just sit down and play the piano without hitting some bum notes for a few years. You don’t just get up off the sofa one day and bust into a little Swan Lake. And even if you are an experienced writer, you have never written this particular book before, so you have to learn how to write it. Which means bum notes and tripping over the furniture. There is a built-in phase of BEING REALLY BAD involved in most VERY GOOD things.

And now we’re back to NaNoWriMo and the cheese roll. This is your chance to just DO IT. Join the others and do this thing, run down the hill after the cheese. Feel the wind in your face and the ground under your feet, and if you fall, just get back up. Or roll. It doesn’t matter. Flail. Scream. Do your freaky thing. You’re going down to the bottom where the cheese is, and no one is looking at your form. 

You may even win the cheese!


Auntie MJ