Underneath my yellow skin

Breaking free of my mind shackles through NaNoWriMo

I’ve been in a writing rut for quite some time, and while the product is still decent, there is a sameness to it that bothers me. Most of my protagonists are Taiwanese American bisexual older women with black cats who do taiji. In other words, me. I don’t have a problem with that because there are exactly none of those in fiction, but it’s not a stretch for me to write. Oh, also they are empathetic, yet prickly to a varying degree. It’s fun to write the characters, but I feel as if I’m coasting.

It’s November, which means NaNoWriMo. As I’ve written in the past, the stated goal of 50,000 words a months (starting a new novel) is not an issue for me. I write 2,000 words a day as it is, so I can meet the goal without breaking a sweat. In the past, I’ve set other goals for myself, such as writing 5,000 words a day (made it), edit a novel (easy-peasy), working on something I’m already writing, and whatever else I felt like doing. It’s become a Thing to set your own goals for NaNoWriMo, so much so that the NaNo rebels as they are called have their own forums on the website. I’ve been a rebel more than I’ve been a regular in the past five years or so.

This year, I thought about NaNoWriMo about a week ago, remembering that it was coming up. I’m going to Philly this Thursday for five days to visit my BFF, so that has to be factored into NaNoWriMo as well. I’m bringing my laptop when I go, but we have a lot planned, so we’ll see how much I actually write. I wasn’t sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year, and I knew if I did, I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do.

Look. I understand the sentiment, and it was a great way to get me to write on a daily basis when I first did it…ten years ago? Something like that. That was the best thing about my MA program, by the way (Writing & Consciousness)–it got me to write every day. For the first few NaNoWriMos I participated in, that was good enough for me. I felt virtuous for writing the 2,000 words a day (I rarely wrote less than that), and that was the whole point of NaNoWriMo.


Fast-forward ten years, and I’m past the point where I need prodding to write every day. I do that automatically, and truth to be told

::looks both ways::

I’ve gotten bored with NaNoWriMo. Even with the rebelling I’ve been doing, it’s not been much of a rush for me in the past few years. So. I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to do something completely different. I don’t want to get into the details before I actually do it, but it’s time for me to just try some of the things rattling inside my brain that I haven’t put to paper yet. Why? Maybe it’s an idea that doesn’t seem worthwhile or is half-baked or not something I think I can do well. Or, in the case of what I’m working on, a different format.

Here are my rules for this NaNoWriMo. One, if I start to feel constrained by what I’m writing, I start over. I’ve already done that because my protag was beginning to sound like others I’ve written. Two, my protag is not going to be empathetic, which is really difficult for me I have a very high empathy meter, and it’s as natural to me as breathing. It’s strange because it’s coupled with a sense of detachment from people in general, but that’s not the point of this post. Three, no ruminations about the rich inner life of the protag. I can go for paragraphs in this fashion, and it’s hard for me to put a lid on it. It’s because in my brain, everything is connected, and I spend a lot of time pondering said connections and what it means in real life. Four, cutting way back on the backstories. This relates to the previous point in that I believe that we are shaped by the events that have happened to us all throughout our lives. I can do backstory for pages on end, and I have. I’m going to try not to do that in this piece.

I’m expecting to have to cut out a lot and starting over more than once. I know I’m going to be uncomfortable from time to time with my main character, but that’s a good thing. I want to be pushed out of my comfort zone to jump-start my creativity, and I have to be comfortable with the idea that I will fail. I hate failing, but I know it’s a part of the creative process. I also know that I can abandon the project whenever I want. In fact, that’s a good part of NaNoWriMo–it’s one month. Anything done during NaNoWriMo can stay in NaNoWriMo.

I’m trying to go in with the attitude of anything goes and not to be too attached to anything. We’ll see if I can keep it up for a full month.

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