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Getting un-ready for NaNoWriMo

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this blog post about getting ready for NaNoWriMo and finding the approach that worked for you. I told you how I’d written a synopsis and how I’d begun to flesh it out. Fast forward a few days, one week before Day One of NaNoWriMo, and I threw away my synopsis.

Not physically, but I realised it didn’t work for my story, there wasn’t enough tension and the cut in the middle was wonky. That week, I had one full day to me to brainstorm this writing project and get it back on tracks. I spent it doing anything but that. I was getting second thoughts about everything, from my characters to the scope of my story, thinking that it wasn’t good enough and that I didn’t want to write it. The trouble is, I’m very good at convincing myself that I’m not good enough. As a friend told me, it’s like having impostor syndrome without actually having anything to judge. So of course I wondered why I inflicted this on myself. Not the negative thoughts, no – why I tried writing anything at all, since it was so hard.

And that’s where I stopped and wondered where these thoughts came from. And I understood that it was just a matter of self-doubt and self-criticism pushed to the level of self-sabotage. I was unconsciously talking myself into not trying to write that story. If you’re like me, here are some questions you might be asking yourself:

  • Am I afraid to write it and find out that it’s crap?

That’s what revisions are for.

  • Am I afraid to choose the wrong approach to my story?

There is no limit to the number of time I can draft it. Try!

  • Am I afraid to reveal too much about myself in what I write?

Only you will know how much you put. Some people may make assumptions about how you must be like the heroin, when in fact you’d poured yourself into your second character all this time. Most of your readers won’t be people who know you. However, there’s a chance that the right readers will find your story and be comforted that somehow you managed to write the story they needed.

  • Am I afraid not to finish NaNoWriMo?

Here I say, and so what? You haven’t signed a contract in your blood to get to the end of a mad challenge that is a sure way to burn-out. Instead of writing 1667 words a day, try writing your story one word at a time. It will take the time it will take, but who said someone else knew better than you how you do things?

NaNoWriMo isn’t the goal here. The goal is to set up a sustainable routine that will get you to the end of your first draft, no matter how long it takes. You may already have a synopsis, you may go in in full gardener mode. But putting the first words down is a great way to shush the voices in your head that tell you you can’t do it. That synopsis I’d thrown away? I found myself going back to it unconsciously as I wrote the first couple of scenes. Maybe I can get a story out of it, after all. And maybe you can, too.

a collection of china teacup, each one in the square slot of a cupboard.
When all is stored neatly, before the pre-NaNo tempest.

Do you suffer from creative self-sabotage? How do you fight it?

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