A Pep Talk for the Lawrence, KS, Region – NaNoWriMo 2016

Filed Under: Writing

I wrote this pep talk for our region, and I like it quite a lot. So here it is for you as well, in case you need it.


I’ll be honest with you because we’re friends now (I decided that for us) and you don’t lie to your friends: I should be working on my novel right now. I’m writing this at the beginning of week three, much later than I promised Neil I would, and I have about thirty minutes before I’m supposed to catch the bus to school.

Because we’re friends, I’ll also take this moment to be vulnerable with you: writing is hard when you’re a busy adult with many important things to do. It’s hard to choose to carve time out for something deeply personal when everything else seems more pressing. Why haven’t I folded the laundry? Why aren’t I volunteering at a soup kitchen? Shouldn’t I be spending more time with my family? Is this really the best use of my limited time on this crazy earth?

I cannot answer these questions for you (1). But I’m your friend now, and we’re going to face those things separately and together, as individuals and writers. For me, those questions all come to the same fear: if there isn’t a tangible, quantifiable benefit to this, how can I justify doing it?

If you’re anything like me (2), you’ve been taught to value output and productivity; having something to show for your effort is your measure of success. If you have “nothing” to show for it, then it wasn’t worth it. You wasted your time.

I’m learning and teaching myself that this concept is BS. I want you to remember that every time you decide that it’s not worth the writing because you have “nothing” to show for it, because it’s not perfect, because it’s not what you imagined when you sat down to write.

You have the writing. All of those words are strung together in a way that only you could have built. And it may not be perfect. It may not be salvageable. (It probably is, though.) But even if you never touch this piece of writing again, it has taught you something. You have touched it, and it has touched you; it’s part of your path as a writer.

Even if you’re not on track to “win” NaNoWriMo this month, remember why it is you’ve chosen to do it. Think about your novel and what about it makes you excited. What about it makes you want to ignore the dishes and stay up just a little bit too late to sneak out those extra words.

Winning isn’t the point of NaNoWriMo — anyone who says otherwise isn’t paying attention. The point is to look at yourself in the mirror and realize that you are a writer. And you can keep being a writer, every day and for the rest of your life if you decide that this is the badge you want to wear. (3)

Take care of yourself, and keep writing, friend. The writing is the thing. A purple bar is just a bit of code on a silly website that you won’t visit again for another 11 months anyway.

Your friend now,


(1) Questions I can answer include: Where is the bathroom at Dillons? When does the writers’ group meet? Can I come to writers’ group after NaNo is over? (Yes.)
(2) You might not be, I am not the mold on which other humans were built, thank goodness.
(3) And if you’ve tried writing and decide that being a writer isn’t for you? That’s okay too. Ask me about the year and a half I decided to try being an artist.

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