A sagacious little green fellow once said, “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” It’s always a good time to heed that nugget of wisdom, but it’s especially applicable this month. For those who aren’t in the know, November, in addition to being the month of turkey, facial hirsuteness, and criminally good deals on HD televisions, is National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo. For aspiring novelists, it’s a time for doing. The goal is to complete a draft of a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. It doesn’t have to be good; this isn’t NaGooNoWriMo. It just has to get done. The idea is that without committing to a deadline and forcing oneself to sit down and write, many would-be authors’ novels will never come to fruition. You’ve got to set aside your anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, ditch your excuses, and use the Mo to Wri your No.
What if completion isn’t enough for you and you want to write a good novel? NaNoWriMo can help you out with that, too. We’ve had multiple authors speak at the library, and after listening to them and picking up various tidbits from others who write, I’ve noticed that the most common piece of advice they have is essentially “just do it” or some variation of that swooshy guideline. According to writers, the grand formula for writing success is 1) start writing and 2) keep writing. It seems totally obvious, and not at all glamorous, but it makes absolute sense, and I think it’s often overlooked by beginners in any field who may instead seek (often erroneously) a magic recipe for reaching the top. Talent helps, of course, and is ultimately necessary in a significant quantity, but you’ve gotta put in your hours. In fact, if you believe Malcolm Gladwell, you have to put in approximately 10,000 hours. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, which our book club just discussed, Gladwell argues that a person needs roughly 10,000 of hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. The number and the universal applicability of the rule are certainly debatable, but I think the general idea behind it is right on: to be truly great at something and reach the upper echelon of those who do that something, you have to bust your butt. Raw talent alone rarely gets it done. So, rather than continuing to hope that the great American novel will one day divinely flow onto the page from your unseasoned fingertips, work on your chops during NaNoWriMo and start on the path to writing virtuosity.
If NaNoWriMo sounds appealing to you and you live in the Benbrook area, the library has you covered. Benbrook Public Library is an official NaNoWriMo write in site, and my colleague, Jennifer, is doing a bang-up job of heading up our NaNoWriMo activities. Click here for a schedule of the write ins and other activities we have scheduled for the month. We encourage you to come in and embrace doing, lest you end up the subject of mockery like this.