For those who aren't taking part in NaNoWriMo, here is my pep talk that went out to all the intrepid November novelists today:
Dear NaNoWriMo writer,
The metaphor of writing-as-birth is not a new one—perhaps it may even be a bit overused—but I can’t help but think about it this month. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man; you’re pregnant with a novel—congratulations!
Of course, one month is a pretty short gestation period, but hey, that’s all the time rabbits need, and NaNo certainly requires a “no time to say hello, goodbye” White Rabbit breakneck pace.
I remember how amazing it was when I was pregnant with my kids—each day, my body had transformed into something new. This month, you have transformed, too, moving from aspiring writer to novelist, from someone who has wanted to write to someone who actually is doing the hard, juicy work of getting words onto the page. You have learned new things about the creative process, about the depths of your imagination, about the themes and images central to your subconscious life. And even if you are way behind on your word count, even if you’ve only written the first scene of your novel, you have taken a profound leap. You are a writer now. How awesome is that?!
If your experience is anything my like NaNo experiences have been, this has been a time of exhilaration and frustration, inspiration and despair (and, hopefully, big slices of pumpkin pie!) A journey from that first thrill of conception, through moments when the story feels heavy and unwieldy, to times when it kicks inside you and fills you with awe. And now the end, your due-date, is in sight—at least as far as the calendar is concerned. Now you’re not just pregnant—you’re in labor.
In fact, you’re probably at what midwives call the transition stage—the point where the contractions are coming fast and furious, and you’re almost ready to start pushing your book baby, whole, out into the world. Some people get a rush of energy of at this stage, a super human surge that propels them through the birth—a mad flurry of words, a tumbling of scenes that seem to write themselves toward their own climax. Other people, when they get to this stage, suddenly feel as if they’re going to die. As if they can’t go on. As if they don’t know why they ever wanted to have a baby/sign up for NaNoWriMo in the first place. If you can breathe through this transitional period, if you can find a way to quiet those nagging critical voices and keep moving forward, your story will ultimately find its way into the bright oxygenated air (even if it’s long after November 30th.)
See if you can use this final stretch of time to stretch yourself creatively, to try something new and playful with language, to let your characters surprise you, to let yourself surprise yourself. Never let yourself forget what a profound thing you’re doing. As Margaret Atwood says “A word after a word/after a word is power.” You have that creative force inside you. You are poised to give birth to a whole new world.