Shattering Myths and Misconceptions

Shattering Myths and Misconceptions, or

What I’ve learned about myself from less than a week of NaNoWriMo

Myth #1: Writing Takes Time

I have always operated based on the belief, backed up by years of experience, that in order to write, I need several hours to sit and let the story coalesce in my mind before the words will flow.  I knew it would always be the case, because it always had been.  I needed large swathes of BICHOK (butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard) time in order to get anything written.  So, when I only had 45 minutes available, I wouldn’t even try to write, I’d just tinker and plan.

Five days of trying to hit 1600 words a day has completely shattered that belief in me. The first day, I managed to crank out 800 words of narrative in less than an hour from when I cracked open my laptop.  Much of the rest of the writing since then has also been in short bursts of frenetic writing, all without frittering away two hours navel-gazing and calling it ‘thinking’. The truth of the matter is, I planned ahead this time.  Not in the sense of having written an outline ahead of time, because I always have an outline.  I always know the major scheme of what I am planning to sit down and write.  The difference this time is I wrote up beforehand a sort of shorthand jot of the progress of the scenes I had planned.  And that wound up breaking down the nitty gritty into more manageable chunks, so that when the time came to sit and put fingers to keyboard, the story was all ready to be put down.

I’m probably not explaining this very well, because we’re talking about the extent to which I planned ahead, which is just points on a continuum, so not a discrete yes/no switch I can point to having been flipped.  But the point is that by doing just a touch more background legwork ahead of time, the actual time spent BICHOK plummeted for the same written word count.

My mind is blown.

Myth #2: I Can’t Turn Off My Internal Editor

Once I got past the navel-gazing stage and actually started clicking away at my keyboard, a large part of my writing time has always been backtracking and perfecting the sentences that I had just written.  I could’t move ahead unless I was satisfied with what was behind.  Needless to say, this leads to glacial progress, and by the time you finish one paragraph, you’ve forgotten what was going to be in the next one, and all forward momentum is lost.

As they say, “The perfect is the enemy of the good”

Over the past 5 days, I have been able to forge ahead with bits here and there that I know are not good enough, and I know I will need to change later. Not going back now is bugging me, but it’s not the screaming necessity I always believed it to be. It’s finally and ignorable itch, rather than an all-powerful need. And I am beyond thrilled at this development.

I can’t believe what this has done to my productivity!

Myth #3: I Can’t Make Writing Time, or Write with Distractions

If the previous two sections didn’t convince me I could boost my productivity enormously, this one drives it home.  I remember reading a comment by an author (whose name I can’t remember) that she shared a taxi from an airport to a hotel with Neil Gaiman once, and Neil was scribbling in a notebook for the entire ride.  The point being that when you’re a writer, you can make the time to write wherever you are.

It’s not that I didn’t believe that it applied to me, it’s more that I didn’t believe I was capable of it.  Well this week has certainly changed that attitude.  The kidlets had no school on Tuesday, while the wife still needed to work, so that meant parenting duty and writing time overlapped.  Normally (see my posts about this past summer), this was a zero-sum game, and no writing would get done, losing out to the parenting.  But somehow, I got nearly 1,000 words written.

Over the course of this week, I have written while the kidlets were running around, singing, yelling, and watching TV – all in the same room as me, and in many cases, all at the same time.  And yet the words still came.  Plus there was time for the playground, and homework, and meals, and baths.  So, not forsaking the parenting for the writing, either.   I have written on the couch beside my wife, having an intelligent conversation.  And I have written coherent continuations of started paragraphs in several small fits and spurts, picking up where I left off without trouble.

I didn’t think I was capable of any of this, just a week ago.

Parting Words

I neet to wrap this up, because the 850 words I’ve of this post don’t count towards my NaNoWriMo daily word count.  My point is just this – I knew I was going to use NaNoWriMo to get a great head start on the first draft of my book.  And I already have, at almost 9,000 words in.  And I had hoped I would learn something, and maybe even push towards being a better writer.

I definitely have.  And we’re only 5 days in.  I can’t wait to see how the next 25 go.

Here I Go,

Matt

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About Matthew Shean

Matthew Shean is the author of several forthcoming novels and myriad short stories. He received his Ph.D. from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York, NY, and spent 20 years as a research scientist throughout the northeastern United States. He now lives in Long Island (against his will), with his loving family and disdainful cats.
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2 Responses to Shattering Myths and Misconceptions

  1. Ana Love says:

    Great post! I definitely shattered myths and misconceptions these past three days and it was very liberating, especially since I’m a college student and most people have told be it’s impossible to do both

    Liked by 1 person

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