As we reach the end of November, those of us who are participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) scramble to get our 50,000 words written. Whether you are participating in NaNoWriMo or not, being a writer can sometimes get discouraging. We have to face query letters and being part of the slush pile and waiting long amounts of time and bad reviews and comparing ourselves to other writers and so many other things. Sometimes you just want to give up and stop. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t.
1. A crappy draft is better than no draft at all. Sometimes you may want to stop writing because your draft isn’t going the way you think it should be going. You may feel like whatever you are writing is really stupid or that it doesn’t make sense or that there are too many flaws. Keep going anyway, and finish your draft. Then you will have something to work with. Most of the magic happens in revision anyway, but you can’t revise if you don’t have a draft. A sculptor cannot work with nothing. You have to have a slab of marble or a hunk of clay to start with.
2. Writing should be the fun part. While it may seem like getting published is the ultimate goal, the fun part of being a writer is in the actual creation. Don’t get so caught up in your destination that you forget to appreciate your journey. Sure, it feels good to write “the end” on a manuscript, to have something that is complete. But the act of writing teaches you something about yourself. Don’t forget to remind yourself that you actually love writing. Enjoy the process.
3. You owe it to your characters. If you have created characters that you care about, don’t you kind of owe it to them to resolve their stories? You can’t just leave them hanging. If you’re a panster, don’t you want to figure out what happens? If you’re a plotter, don’t you want to see how your plans turn out on the page?
4. You won’t regret it. No writer has ever said, “Man, I really wish I didn’t write those 10 pages today.” You may be having a lazy day and not wanting to write, but I guarantee you will feel better if you take even 15 minutes to write something. I actually don’t believe that every writer needs to write every single day, and I know how mentally exhausting that can get. But even if you need to take a day or two off every week, even if you can only write once a week, you can still be disciplined about it, and you can still be consistent. And you will feel so much better about yourself if you are.
5. You have control over your writing. You don’t have control over whether or not you get a literary agent. You don’t have control over whether or not a publisher wants to publish your book. You don’t have control over when your book will come out. You don’t have control over how your book will be marketed or exactly what the cover will look like. Even if you are self-publishing, you don’t have control over whether or not people will read your book, whether or not people will like it. You do have control over what kind of stories you write and what your characters are like and what kind of themes occur in your stories. You do have control over what kind of world your stories are set in and what kinds of things your characters say and do.
This is an epiphany I had recently when I went to The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas for a young adult writing residency with Nova Ren Suma. I had been worrying about publishing so much lately, I lost sight of where my focus should have been: on the writing itself. Ever since I have shifted my focus back to the act of creation, I have felt so much better about my writing career.
So if you are doing NaNoWriMo, good luck! (I posted a motivational video about this yesterday. You should watch it.) But whether or not you are participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope you continue to write throughout the year. I hope you take a moment to appreciate the journey. I hope you never stop creating new stories. If you enjoy writing half as much as I do, I hope you will never give up.