Thursday, October 25, 2012

NaNoWriMo Success 5 - Why So Serious?

With commitments being made and the expectations rising, I'm seeing grim looks on the faces of my fellow writers. Anything less than victory of NaNoWriMo would be a disaster.

There is a phenomenon in psychology known as “flow.” When we are in the flow state, that is when we are most creative, imaginative, and productive. We lose track of time and of ourselves. It's a good feeling.

I believe that remembering that writing is supposed to be fun is valuable. Cultivating that idea in the way we approach our work, in our responses to challenges, and in how we introduce changes to our perspectives on writing, is not just a “nice to have.” Fun and having a good attitude can help induce the flow state.

Much of our culture induces negative attitudes toward work, and writers in particular drench themselves in mythologies of suffering and hardship. A quick sampling of discussions on the loops shows complaints about contracts and editors and rejection and unsympathetic families and friends. People agonize over blocks and deadlines and manuscripts that refuse to be finished.

Such negative talk hides what a gift being able to write -- and particularly to tell stories -- is. One writer I know used to work construction. His reaction to complaining writers is laughter. Any job that doesn't force you to haul heavy objects across the mud field in the freezing rain isn't too bad, according to him. But anyone who has written an elegant phrase, or discovered a part of themselves in a character, or created a sequence of statements or events that produced strong emotion in a reader or audience knows that the absence of misery is not the main payoff from writing. Writing, at its best, humanizes the writer and the audience and adds a precious dimension to living.

This does not mean that all is well if a writer slaps a smile on his or her face. Writers never fully develop. They always have more to learn. A maxim among novelists is that the last novel does not do much to help you write the next one. We all need to discover and rediscover the elements of our craft. We need time to sharpen our tools as well as to use them.

This blog offers a number of techniques, tools, and approaches that can help increase productivity, which ultimately provides the opportunity to dedicate more time to writing:
  • Finding the fun
  • Using the timer
  • Working with a partner
  • Reading aloud
  • Keeping a journal 
  • Focusing on emotion
  • And more

One month is long enough to build a new habit, but it's not long enough to acquire several habits. Growing and developing always takes time. So the final lesson is to give yourself the time. Be patient with yourself and don't expect everything to immediately pay off or to be mastered in a day. Take a piece of what you learn and run with it. And then return to your notes and find something else that's appealing, and see if it will fit into your writing life.

Fun will help you find flow. The joy of writing, more than the (sometimes necessary) grim determination of meeting each deadline and achieving each goal will enrich your life and lead to long-term success. So, yes, take your craft to a higher level and rediscover your commitment during NaNoWriMo. But don't forget to have a great time while you're doing it.

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