Must. Stop. The Voices. Nanowrimo internal dialog

There are anti-nanowrimo voices in my head.

Their chattering is a consistent and slightly ominous low murmur until I sit down to write. When I sit down at the computer with intentions to “crank” out however many words I’ve fallen behind, the volume of their commentary rises from a whisper to a ruckus to a veritable keening.

It’s not pretty.

There are three conversations in my head: one that’s designed to distract me from the task at hand; one that’s hell-bent on convincing me that I have no business writing anything, let alone a novel; and a third one that wants to edit, edit, edit until the proverbial cows come home.

So, while I’m trying to craft a single, salvageable sentence, my lovely and charming mind is doing this:

Distraction Mind:

  • Maybe I should double-check and make sure that Carbonite is actually backing up my Scrivener files. Does it do that automatically? Perhaps there’s a help file I should check or a help desk I can call.
  • Maybe I should visit the Nano forums. That’s half the fun, right? Why do Nano if not for the camaraderie?
  • I should really find a new conditioner. This one leaves my hair all limp and tangled.
  • My Q3 quarterly taxes are overdue.
  • Are my favorite jeans clean?
  • I need a break. I’m going to Facebook for some LOL cats.
  • If I don’t email that client back, she’s going to be pissed …
  • I’m hungry. I can’t write on an empty stomach – maybe just a spot of toast and tea …
  • I should start my Christmas shopping soon.
  • The cat’s shaking her head. I should clean her ears.
  • I wonder if I should work on that other story …

Inner Critic:

  • You are so far behind. You’ll never make it. May as well give up now.
  • These other people are Real Writers. You’re a fraud. I bet they’re all tons better than you.
  • You can’t tell this story. Are you kidding? You can’t even tell a simple joke!
  • This is all a waste of time.
  • You’ll never get published.
  • That thing you just wrote? It makes NO SENSE. No one would ever believe that. Stupid. Rubbish.
  • Do you even KNOW who your character is? I didn’t think so. Hack.
  • What made you think you should write anyway? This is probably all a big mistake. Definitely.
  • Why am I doing this again?
  • It doesn’t really matter if I win or lose … won’t make a difference either way.
  • You’re vain. SO much going on in the world today and all you care about is writing a crappy book? Lame.

Eternal Editor:

  • If today is the 14th, that’s 14 days times 1,667 words per day = 23,338 words … so, if I’ve only written 12, 342 that means I’m 10,996 behind … which means … oh, crap.
  • Spellcheck will only take a minute …
  • Where’s my thesaurus?
  • What’s the name for those things that girl put in my drink … is it a “tincture?” Where can I look that up? Maybe I should be a bartender.
  • I should set up a reference chart and some character profile sheets and make a map and draw the interior …
  • Should that be a comma, or a semi-colon?
  • Does this make any sense in terms of story structure?

… you get the idea.

I’ve lost my Nanowrimo Zen. I need to get back to beginner mind. I need to wipe the slate clean, surf the waves of blissful ignorance, and just write – damn it!

My first Nano back in 2009 was a wild ride of I-don’t-care-what-this-is. I had no plot and no problem writing anything and everything – just to get the words down. This year, I’m much more hung up on wanting something that I can actually turn into a viable manuscript. I believe in the idea and don’t want to muck it up. Unfortunately, that fear is paralyzing me and sucking all the fun out of my Nano experience. I need to step away from my expectations and get back to being in the moment and not trying to ensure any particular outcome.

If you’re doing Nano, how are you faring? Are you having any of these conversations in your head? How are you getting your internal voices to shut the hell up so you can get back to work? Are you ahead of the Nano schedule? Behind? Thinking about giving up? What’s happening in your world?

Image Credit: Kaptain Kobold

50 thoughts on “Must. Stop. The Voices. Nanowrimo internal dialog

  1. Wonderful analysis! I swing between sybil like voices and a mind like a plate of cold spaghetti. Thanks to you, I feel almost normal. Bless! 😁

    • Oh – “plate of cold spaghetti” … great imagery! πŸ™‚
      We’re all “almost normal” … it’s the abnormal bits that make us worth knowing, right?
      Good luck & keep writing!!

  2. I have shoved my inner editor into a closet and shut the door, but I do write notes to myself for when I rewrite. I found myself writing OMG can this be worded anymore awkwardly today. But left it and carried on.

    I just did the math. Icky, stupid math and discovered that I am exactly 7,314 words behind. I really did not need to know that. But if I write a measly 1888 a day, which is completely doable I will complete my masterpiece on time.

    I know Nano is a crazy endeavor. It is my first time attempting it. But can I tell you how much fun I am having writing it. And writing everyday. I carry my characters with me all day long and sometimes they give me a whole new direction than I thought I was going. Last night right before I fell asleep a new character popped into my head. He was still there in the morning so I wrote him and his sub plot in. It amazes me how well I could see him and how well I could see everything in the room with him.

    I love this so much.

    • YOU have the right approach going, Susan! Keep that editor in the closet (though a little water and a crust of bread once in a while might be in order). Forget the icky, stupid math and just do what you’re doing. Commune with your characters and have FUN! (I’m going to try and take a page out of your book later today – Wheeeee!)

  3. I’m finding it easier than last year despite having nothing planned at all this year. I had my opening scene and that was it. Yes. You need to step back, release all expectation. Give yourself permission to write some crap because buried in there will be some gold.

    • I found it easier the year I had no plan, too. Maybe that’s the best way to go at this thing – just let ‘er rip! πŸ˜‰
      Here’s to finding the gold.

  4. After I laughed outloud I muttered, “Oh Jamie. So honest.”
    Took the words out of my head. I’m at the stage of talking to the voices. “Shut the hell up.” “This is your first time, stop berating yourself for not meeting the daily goal.” “Look how much you’ve developed the story.”
    “Don’t give up because once you do, you always will.” “This is what you wanted. This is what you love.”
    “Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up….”

    Sometimes it’s important to have the last word with the voices.

  5. Yes, yes, and omfg yes. I’m actually keeping par on NaNo with almost exactly the right number of words to get me through each day, but it’s getting harder and harder as the days go by. In particular my issue seems to be that I have all these images in my mind about how certain scenes should play out and then when I sit down to write them the proper words just won’t come. So I end up sitting there for ages at a time, staring at the page, refusing to write crappy words in place of the ones I know are in my mind SOMEWHERE. It’s really quite foolish, but that internal editor…she’s a cruel and unusual b*tch. πŸ˜›

    • Oh boy – I know that scenario.
      Here’s the thing – when they tally nano, no one reads anything. You could seriously write your name 25,000 times and still be a “winner.”
      When I get stuck, I start with: “I have no idea what to write this scene about except that I know Josie has to do something interesting, but what can she do in a bar. Wait – she’s in a bar? Holy cow. I didn’t know that. And who’s that cute guy across the room. Wait – is he with THAT girl? No.”
      … and so on until something gets rolling.
      It’s all part of the process.

  6. Jamie,

    One interesting aspect to all this is that you have written here- in a lucid, flowing, and rhythmic way- about your struggles to write. It’s a great piece of writing about your inability to just write.

    For me I believe the essential thing is acceptance, not resistance. I can’t silence those inner voices. I must let them come- and let them go. Trusting myself.

    Also, not looking back. And never, ever, judging myself. However I spent those past hours, including staring at a blank screen, that’s all done and gone, This moment only.

    Can’t wait to see the novel that will emerge from your talented hands.


    • Hello, Tom! So nice to see you here. πŸ™‚
      Thank you for your compliments and encouragement.

      Acceptance is something I’m cozying up to, for sure.
      Though I will be somewhat disappointed if I don’t clock in at the requisite 50,000 words, I know in my heart that I have been doing some really good work off the page. The story that I’m working on is coming together in very cool ways and signing up for Nano is the reason I have spent so much of this month’s “brain time” noodling away on how things will play out for my characters.

      At first, I WAS beating myself up for being SO far behind, and then I realized that everything I’m doing is part of the process – part of MY process. They are all valuable and part of the journey. No sense in putting the cart before the horse. As my mom says, “Any writing you do is worth the time you’ve spent.” And, as you’ve said, it’s this moment only.

      Thanks for coming by.

  7. I’m currently at 20637 words, and I’ve often thought about giving up because I’m neglecting everything else in life for this (we had homework? THAT PROJECT WAS DUE TODAY? Sure we can hang out… in December). But I’ve built myself a net of support from family and friends, who are constantly encouraging me and helping me along. Having a ‘reward’ for myself at the end – a celebratory night out with the fam – also pushes me along. And finally, I feel like I need to do this, just to prove to people that I can. Hang in there everyone, it’s almost half way over πŸ˜‰

    • Awesome, awesome, awesome.
      I love your commitment and the way you’ve built that support network.
      No writer needs to do this alone.

      I have a feeling you’re going to make your goal – good luck and keep writing!

  8. Yeah, some of those are kind of familiar… I’m doing OK, only a little behind and it is hard to keep up or catch up. Most days I just plug away and am glad to make my 1667 but sometimes it flows better. One of these years I’ll actually manage to decide on my nano more than two days ahead so I can actually plan the outline. And it might help if I hadn’t decided to go for one across 3 time periods, one of which I’m not very familiar with… but hey ho, where’s the challenge in that! πŸ˜€

    • You were a late joiner, too? I decided at the last minute and – in a fit of exhaustion at the end of a long day – signed up on a “whim.” Silly me.

      I agree – though I’m definitely a planner, there’s a lot to be said for just diving in and seeing where things go. I may have to start doing that NOW … just so I’m not driving myself mad!

    • Start something else! πŸ™‚
      36K is fabulous.
      Start another journey. Do a prequel or a sequel or something totally unrelated. Doesn’t matter.
      Just need more words.
      You’re gonna make it!!!!

  9. “If you’re doing Nano, how are you faring?”

    I’m doing all right. πŸ™‚ A little behind, though.

    Still, I think you and I are in the same boat. I feel like I want to MAKE something of this, rather than just write a bunch of crap.

    “Are you having any of these conversations in your head?”

    Hoo boy, am I! πŸ˜€ But also add my Stubborn Pride along with Panic Mode about the word count, and you’ve got it just about right.

    “How are you getting your internal voices to shut the hell up so you can get back to work?”

    Honestly? Just sitting down and writing.

    Also, I’m on anxiety meds, so that helps. XD (They aren’t just for NaNo, but they definitely help FOR NaNo!)

    “Are you ahead of the Nano schedule? Behind?”

    A bit behind, which is odd. Last year when I was working, I was a fuss-budget about keeping up with it. This year, I have no job, but keeping up with it has been something of a struggle. (It seems that if I don’t work at keeping it up in the beginning, then I just fall behind naturally. x_x;;;)

    “Thinking about giving up?”

    Nuuuuupe. Gonna keep on keepin’ on until I either end up with a coherent rough draft, reach 50,000, and/or November ends.

    “What’s happening in your world?”

    Not much right now. XD Perfect time to get these novels situated.

    • Keep on truckin’, Liz!
      I’ve got to do more of your “sitting down and writing.” That’s really the only thing TO do, isn’t it?
      RE: having more time, but getting less done – happens to me all the time. I guess that’s why they say if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. πŸ˜‰

      Good luck and glad you’re not giving up!

  10. I am not dealing with the distraction mind very much but the “you’re not a real writer” is hitting me a lot. This is my first nano and I am loving the experience. Doubt my story is worthy if being published (not much plot) but I am so stinking proud of it I keep wanting to show everyone. So the inner nano first timer is jumping up and down saying, “look at my book look LOOK read it read it. No wait let me just tell you it’s soooo cool!” While the critique in my brain is saying “don’t let anyone read this. They will be embarrassed and not know how to tell you that you have written 50,000 words of nonsense!”

    • Hang onto that enthusiasm and ride it for all its worth! πŸ™‚

      My first (and only other) Nano WAS 50,000 words of CRAP, BUT – I had a great time writing it AND it gave me some characters and ideas that I will pull out and use in future work.

      No writing is wasted.
      Revel in your excitement and joy. Let it lift you up and carry you along. That’s the REAL value of writing anything.

  11. So far, so good. I just hit the 30,000 word mark. However, I’m terrified to stop for even one day because I’ll just turn that one day into two, then three, then four. You get the idea.

    • 30K?!? Nice going!
      I’m envious.
      Though at 30K I’d probably feel like I could kick back for a day, you’re smart to keep your momentum going. You never know when life might throw you a curve ball. Best to get those words under your belt as soon as you can!

      Great job!

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  14. I’m 6500 words behind, but I’m one of the municipal liaisons for the state, so I feel a bit of extra pressure to push on and finish. And that extra pressure is really helpful! I had a slow start, because of stuff going on at work, but I’ve been consistently meeting my daily 1667 since the 9th, and use weekends to power through double word counts. I try to look forward to 12/1, when I’ve got 50K more words and know more about this book that I did 11/1.

    • “… know more about this book than I did 11/1.”
      THAT is a brilliant goal. I love it.

      Though I am egregiously behind in word count, I definitely feel like I know more about my book than I did on 11/1. In fact, I started out with the intention to write a completely different book, and then this one popped into my head and we’ve been getting to know each other ever since.

      Do I feel guilty that I haven’t put many words down? Yes.
      BUT … I am amazed by and thrilled about all the pieces of the puzzle that are falling into place. I haven’t felt this creative in a long time. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for sharing & good luck hitting that 50K!

  15. I don’t know what is going on in my head, only that it’s a lot. Thinking about giving up on Nano or just starting with a new story, but what? Maybe rebel and write about my own life because so much is happening, but what’s wrong with the old novel?
    That kind of qeustions are often on my mind πŸ˜›
    And NOW I’m going on with writing.

    • I’m right there with you!
      I’ve bounced stories a couple of times, but you know what? I don’t care. As long as I’m dedicating time and brain cells to being creative (and getting as many words down as I can), I feel like it’s all good.

      Write whatever comes and you may be surprised at what you end up with!

  16. Wow, your head sounds like mine!! I am SOOO far behind, I probably won’t finish. In time, at least. I will finish! That’s what’s been good about Nano. It gave me the push I needed to get the seed of an idea that’s been floating around my head (with the voices!!) and start putting it down on paper. For me, 10,000 words is an amazing victory. So I’m happy even if I don’t make it by Nov. 30. Good luck to you in your Nano writing!!

    • Defining your own terms for victory is a super smart thing to do, Aimee. πŸ™‚
      Congrats on your 10,000 and on the commitment to finish … on your own schedule!

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  21. Jamie – i have jumped into 2013 with both feet. I just (yesterday) submitted a fiction entry to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. I already feel like a winner because i did what you talked about and submitted. It is a celebration day as i feel so good about actually taking the chance. Win, lose or draw i now have a marketable manuscript!

    • That’s fabulous, Joe! Huge congrats to you for taking that leap. πŸ™‚ Just keep on leaping, and before you know it you’ll be in a whole new (and exciting) territory! Good luck!

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