NANOWRIMO DEFEATS THE DEADLY DUO
Fear. I could probably write a thousand blogs about it. I have written a few. This is the newest installment. Call this one, ”The Terror of Trying Something New.” Perfect. The need to do something perfectly feeds and fuels fear. Fear and Perfection: The Deadly Duo for a writer. I have written six entire novels, two of which have been published, I’m grateful to share. I think I have found my voice, but I’m not sure if that hasn’t made me think I am limited in some way in what I write. First, I am a mystery writer, born from a lifetime of reading and loving mysteries. I enjoy many kinds of mysteries, including traditional, police procedural, domestic suspense, and cozies. I love it when a mystery takes me to a new location or returns me to a beloved one. Transplant me back into time and I’m there with the protagonist into challenges of the era. But I wondered, could I possibly write in one of the unchartered venues or subgenres? Would the Deadly Duo prevent me from even trying? Enter NANOWRIMO, the annual November challenge to writers to write a 50,000- word novel during the month of November. I’d tried once before, but given up when I realized 50,000 words in 30 days does not allow you to be perfect. For reasons shared only with my therapist and well beyond the limitations of this blog, I need to be perfect. But the gentle side of living past the age of 60 has shown me I can try anything if I give up on the notion I must be perfect, so even though November was scheduled to be the month from hell for me, I said, why not? Since I was already giving myself the option of being humanly imperfect, the relief I felt was liberating. Hell, if it doesn’t have to be perfect, I could try anything. I chose a protagonist who was far younger than I am comfortable writing. Her past suggested her story would fit the suspense, if not thriller, subgenre. The location was urban, not island or small town. It was exhilarating to dabble in previously unchartered choices that risked imperfection. The more daring I became, the more excited I got, and the less frightened of failure. After all, it’s only NANOWRIMO, right? When I realized early on that having cataract surgery on both eyes in the same month might impact my word count, I was tempted to say, I’ll never get the 50,00 word count and wished I could count the number of characters or letters I had written. I was ready to quit. But my protagonist, Olivia, screamed at me and said, “What? You’re going to leave us on the page in this mess?” I started writing plot points and ideas on brightly colored post-its and stuck them on a board so I wouldn’t lose the thoughts that were coming to me so rapidly I was afraid they would be gone if I couldn’t write them on the page. I’d never done this before, although many of my talented writing colleagues use this technique. Soon the board was nearly filled with fluorescent stickies where I had spilled my brain. I was on fire. And if a particular idea didn’t work, wasn’t perfect enough for my unrealistic self-established standard, I could take it down, crush it in my hand and toss it into the wastebasket. A revolutionary act for a perfectionist. I had declared war on the Deadly Duo. Will I finish in time to meet the 50,000-word count by the deadline.? I honestly don’t know. I’m trying, but hey, I’m not perfect. Will I finish this book. Hell, yes. I’m on fire and the Deadly Duo won’t stand in my way, thanks to NANOWRIMO. And guess what. I’m having fun not being perfect. Does the Deadly Duo affect your writing or reaching other goals? What is NANOWRIMO teaching you?