National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) begins in less than 36 hours. I am always, ALWAYS excited for November 1 to hit. It’s a time of year people who live to write have a legitimate excuse to do more of it than they have time for – and I love that. We all do.
I’m still excited. But possibly for the first time since I joined the NaNo community in 2008, there’s a little fear and anxiety dimming my anticipation. For the first time, I’m legitimately afraid I won’t be able to make it to 50,000 words this year.
Long story short, I’ve already had to drop multiple writing projects this year because I couldn’t balance everything. What if NaNo becomes just another abandoned commitment?
The logical part of my brain knows I’ll be fine – writing a novel is sort of like doing homework: starting is just a hurdle you stumble over and then things don’t seem quite as bad as you thought they would be. This is a new feeling for me, though – at least in terms of novel writing. This part of me screaming “you cannot do this, do not do this” – I don’t recognize it. Where did it come from … and why won’t it shut up?
I hate to break it to you, but there is no remedy for doubt. It will always be there, if only in the back of your mind, prompting you to wonder if you’re making all the right choices. There are things you can do to quiet it down – writing even if you aren’t confident; trying your hardest; not giving up, even if it means adjusting your own self-expectations – but in many ways, you can, should, also embrace it.
“I can’t write 50,000 words in 30 days this year,” my brain tells me. But actually, I can. I’ve done it before – eight times – and I can do it again. It will be a challenge, and it may not be in my best interest to try, but that does not mean I am incapable of attempting it – or that I shouldn’t at all.
The reason you should embrace doubt is not just to retort with a mental or verbal “Yes, I can” – but also to sit down, make a schedule, write 1,667 words every single day in November and prove your doubt wrong, no matter what it takes. There is no better incentive than proving doubt insignificant. Doubt is doubt. It is a bad feeling that prompts many negative thoughts and behaviors. But in many ways, it’s there to encourage you. It’s taunting you. “Ha, ha. You can’t do it. No way.” You can – and it might take doubt to help you realize the only way to beat it is to do the very thing you have come to believe you cannot do.
I don’t know what your biggest hangup is, as a writer. But what I do know is that you have doubted yourself before – once at least, but likely many more times than that. Your only regret will be that you never tried. Trying and failing – or trying and deciding it’s not going to work, willingly setting it aside – you will learn from and overcome that. Not trying at all – that will destroy you. Even when you doubt, all you have to do is try. And revise. And try again. It sounds impossible … but it isn’t. It’s possible, as long as you’re willing to make an attempt that counts.
I won’t promise that I’ll make it to the finish line this year if there comes a moment I decide it cannot be done. But you can bet I will try, using that fear and doubt and anxiety as fuel to keep going even when it gets hard. Whatever goal you’re working toward in your writing in the weeks to come, I hope you’ll do the same. Try. That is all I ask of you.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.