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NaNoWriMo 2023: ‘Done’ does not mean ‘perfect’

Like many writers out there, I have suffered through paralyzing bouts of… whatever you want to call it: writer’s block, blank page phobia, perfection paralysis, fear of failure. It’s what has held me back from writing the story that’s been brewing in my head for months and, in some ways, years now – despite thinking of it when I wake at 3:30 a.m. or when I’ve grown distracted in a meeting or when I’m on a walk, or-or-or. I am sick of thinking in circles and want this novel out of my head and on paper!

That’s why this year, for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo), I will put fingers to keyboard to chase this story out of my head. What gave me the courage to start? I’ll start with a few mantras I’ve started repeating to myself. If you’ve been struggling, too, maybe you can join me.

You can’t fix what doesn’t exist. Will my first draft be perfect? Ha! Not even close. Nor will my second or third or, dare I say, my fourth. But if there is no ‘first draft’ that’s, yes, ugly and disjointed, there will be no second, third or fourth to improve upon.

The first draft is for the writer; the final draft is for the reader. I don’t know if this story will ever make it onto shelves, but it certainly never will if I don’t first write it. Guess what, dear writer? If you write that first draft and it’s awful? No one else but you ever has to read it. If you write that awful first draft, read through it and cringe, but you also have ideas on how to rework things so they flow better? You can now work on your second draft of a real, live novel!

A completed story is not a perfect one. In fact, no story is perfect. It’s the reader’s interpretation of a story that makes it perfect for them. All a writer can do, as Hemingway so aptly stated, is ‘write hard and clear about what hurts’ and put in the effort to polish the story until reflects the message it is intended to communicate.

And so, at 11:59 p.m. on October 31, I’m going to sit, fingers poised above my keyboard, and allow the words to come as they do, and not worry if they’re perfect, or even the right words.

As our dearly departed and deeply missed Hagrid once said: What’s comin’ will come an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”

What’s your goal, writing or otherwise, for November? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Let’s chat in the comments and, if you’d like, follow along on my NaNoWriMo journey.

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