Pep Talk - 2008 - Week 1

Sometimes it sucks being on this side of the international date line. Here I was thinking I had plenty of time left to do that pep talk, and you Aussies had to ruin everything for me. XP Sure, I could have done it earlier this weekend, but alas, sloth is my deadly sin.

Poor sloth. I like sloth, I really do. He's my best buddy when I'm home in the evenings, winding down from the day with some poker on TV in the background and a few friends chatting over AIM. Sloth is going to be quite mad at me over the next month, though, even if I am "only" doing 50k. (As you might guess, sloth *really* missed me during November.) >_> But fear not! Despite being typed at two AM in the morning (as all good pep talks and novels should be) I come bearing the key to defeating the word count for your JanNo: knowledge of the enemy.

Now, what is the enemy? I'll tell you what the enemy is not. The enemy is not your novel, your wordcount, your uncooperative characters and muses, writer's block, or all the annoying things like "family" and "bathing" and "sleep" that dare to tresspass on your sacred writing time. The enemy is yourself. (Or, to be more precise, your good buddy sloth. Sloth gets around.) It's the you that procrastinates writing pep talks until the last minute--oh, wait, that's me--the you that says "Just five more minutes, I'm finishing this sudoku/Law and Order episode/forum post/skydiving lesson." There are often a lot of good excuses we can give ourselves, and indeed some of them may be valid, but in the end it gets the same result: you, not writing.

So how do you go about beating upon this beastly yet strangely good-looking and talented enemy? I've said this before, and after all the WriMos I've participated in, I've really come to believe that self-discipline is the key. Having the will to succeed at this is what will keep you in the chair and fingers on the keyboard, even if you have *no* idea what the hell is happening. Even if you use some system of self-bribery (I've found that I take bribes quite well, myself) you still have to have the self-discipline to withhold the bribe until you've achieved your goal. In a way, it gets me all excited because it's almost like I'm a character myself, going up against the huge, seemingly insurmountable conflict and having the iron will to never give up. Because trust me, it's really easy to give up. Without a doubt, there will be some that will give up this year; some from those aforementioned good excuses, and some will just decide that they don't want a novel bad enough to win. We never make it easy on our characters to not give up, and reality isn't going to make it easy for us.

Having said that, here's some ideas for how to get started.

The first twenty-four hours for a Wrimo is always huge for me. It's the moment when all the pent-up energy of the month before bursts out onto the paper in a glorious literary splat. It's always good to take all that energy and use it to take a huge chunk out of your wordcount. So set yourself a really daring goal. If you're going for 50k, and you set yourself a 10k goal for the first day (not that I know anyone that ever does that >_>) that's one-fifth of your month done right there. Set something that sounds impossible, but then commit seriously to it. Skipping into the happy Land O' Anecdotes, this November I set a 10k goal for the first day, despite the fact that I had never done a 10k day before. My best day before then had been 8.3k, and that was when I was still unemployed and had all the live long day to write. Now here I was with a full-time job, and had to get some sleep in there as well. What was I thinking?! Doing the math, I figure I had about eight hours to write that in--two hours after midnight before I slept, and a measley six hours after I finally arrived home. If that didn't sound impossible, I don't know what did. The "secret" to making that goal was nothing more than parking my butt in a chair immediately after I got home, and not stirring for six solid hours as I typed. Yeah, I had dinner at like 12:30 that night but it was so worth it.

After you've set your "impossible" goal, *don't* think about failure. Don't ask yourself "well, what if I don't make it?" Don't even think about that. Referencing the previous anecdote, I had offered myself a bribe of something terribly useful that I wanted for at work, and I didn't even think about not having it after the first day. I still don't know what I would have done if I hadn't made that goal, and it's a nice not knowing.

If you can, I also suggest trying to start at midnight. Your energy will be even more splat-worthy at the very moment of the start of the month, rather than having to wade through sleep and work or school and then try and get your enthusiasm going. Come evening after that work/school/skydiving lesson, you'll already have a start you can continue, rather than having to face the dreaded Blank Page after a long day.

There's a good number of specific tips (such as those in the Pep Talk Archive's first week from last year) that might be helpful; the important thing is to find what works for you. For those of you trying a Wrimo for the first time, don't be afraid to mix things up if your novel or your own location aren't working for you. If you're writing in silence, try turning some music on; if you have music on, try turning it off. Maybe you like to have that inner sanctum, or maybe you draw inspiration from the world around you, and prefer a public location. Even the most iron of wills can be put to the test if your surroundings just aren't working for you.

Well, good writing to all you people who are hitting the new year before I am. I'm not going to say good luck, because there is nothing lucky about a WriMo. There's nothing lucky about setting a goal, working steadily on it, and making it, but there are a few other things about it that are very nice.