NaNoWriMo – Relax & Float Down Stream

With only 4 days left to the start of NaNoWriMo 2012 I wonder how many fellow Wrimo’s can sense the icy fingers of panic start to slither around their creativity.

Maybe the calm before the storm of words is giving you second thoughts about your story boat. Is the idea of setting sail on a sea of words, plots and characters too much to handle? Perhaps you’re starting to rethink the sturdiness of your boat – is it too flimsy for the high seas? Is it a vast cruise liner packed with random characters and a thousand sub-plots all screaming for attention?

Are you worried that at some point your vessel will crash into an iceberg? In this metaphor that’s the equivalent of The Lifeless River Bed of Despondency and Meh.

Fears and doubts about starting your NaNo project are perfectly normal. The hardest part is casting off those guide ropes and pulling away from the jetty. Those first few words, and indeed that first page, can feel like paddling a rubber dingy across the gulf of space.

Would it put you at ease to know that I’ve edited the first line of this post a dozen times because I was worried it didn’t sound punchy and attention grabbing?

There is a cure for NaNo panic, dear blog reader, and it works in harmony with Embracing the Icky Sticky.

You’ve probably heard it said a gazillion times – take a deep breath and relax.

Try it now.

Scroll up to the photo (click it if you prefer a larger image) then take your hands away from the mouse and keyboard.

Take a deep breath. Hold it for a second. Then release and relax.

Imagine stress and anxiety as an actual fog of negativity. Positivity is a soothing vapour of tranquillity. Inhale and imagine that cleansing steam entering your body, purging the bad junk and Essence of Blergh. Exhale to push it away from you.

If it didn’t work, try it again. And again. And if it still fails then perhaps you should consider the possibility that you’re a robot programmed to feel stress. But you’re not, are you? You do feel better, right? That’s the spirit, dear NaNo writer, I knew you had it in you.

That’s great Dave, thanks, but I can’t keep taking deep breaths every time I feel stressed about my NaNo project.

You can do exactly that. It’s about taking a step back and using a quiet moment to gather your thoughts. It works in the short-term. If you’re prone to hauling around a lot of doubt you’re going to need a more robust set of tools to seek out and destroy that irritable Essence of Blergh.

To illustrate those tools we’re going to turn to The Beatles. When writing I switch between a variety of musical styles, from Drum & Base, D and Trance to Opera rap, Heavy Metal and cheesy chart pop tunes. Music can be a powerful ally when seeking inspiration. One track I love is “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles, but the modern version by Carla Azar, used in the movie Sucker Punch, is simply stunning.

I’ll put the track at the bottom of this post. It’s well worth listening to it all the way through.

The lyrics are particularly fitting when it comes to purging the Essence of Blergh. Take a gander at the lyrics:

Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void
It is shining, it is shining

Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being

Love is all and love is everyone
It is knowing, it is knowing

And ignorance and hate mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing

But listen to the colour of your dreams
It is not leaving, it is not leaving

There are more lyrics at the end but I have no idea what they mean or how to use them to illustrate my point! Stick with me, dear NaNo writer, I promise not to go all hippy and Zen on you. I’m aware there are probably plenty of hidden metaphors and  philosophical insights behind the lyrics, and I’m not trying to explain the why’s and how’s.

I’m simply using them to illustrate a set of tools for tackling your NaNoWriMo project.

How to use the lyrics to purge the Essence of Blergh!

# 1 – Take a step back.

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream

It is not dying, it is not dying

This is the most important tool, especially for NaNo Virgins. You are the captain of your writing boat and you are there to guide it. Setting sail in a rush and without preparation is a quick route to beaching your boat in The Lifeless River Bed of Despondency and Meh.

If you’re worried about your project then take a moment to survey the route ahead.

Tune out the panic, the stress and the: “Oh shit what have I got myself into?” feeling. Listen to the rhythm of your own ocean and don’t stress over what other captains are doing to prepare. You can take notes, sure, but trying to mimic what every other captain is doing will only complicate things.

You’ll know when you’re ready to set sail. The tide will feel right, you have your NaNo supplies, music, caffeine, peace and quiet, etc. Let the words come and float down your own stream. Use your own voice to fill the sails of your story boat.

Leave the shore behind you and enjoy the euphoria as those word waves lap around your story boat. Your NaNo project is off to a start. It is far from dying because you have used the most effective tool – taking a step back to savour the adventure ahead.

# 2 – Navigate with emotion.

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void

It is shining, it is shining

NaNoWriMo is about laying out your story in one month. Use the time to let every thought, emotion, character nuance, scene, plot, random idea and the Icky Sticky take shape.

Yes, take time to plan what you want to write and think ahead where you can, but this month is also about your emotional state of mind. Your story boat is skipping across the word waves – embrace the exciting winds of opportunity, dive into the intoxicating lands of creativity.

Surrender yourself to the blank canvas of your imagination.

Don’t hold back.

Pour your heart and soul into it.

Allow your brain to use your fingers to guide your story boat into that void and enjoy the ride. Whoever reads your tales of adventure later on, remember you’re reading it first. You have a front row seat of a story that has never been told before.

Let your story boat glide across those glorious wave words and you will shine.

# 3 – Trust your inner writer.

Yet you may see the meaning of within

It is being, it is being

Writer’s are always writing, even when they’re not.  Back in March I wrote a piece called The Flow of Inspiration, where I talked about my inner writer and how he is always there, just behind my eyes, observing and taking notes.

He rarely sleeps because he’s busy watching my dreams. He remembers things I forget.

I mention this here because it’s important to trust what your inner writer tells you. It’s important to check your facts because you can bet your readers will point out any obvious mistakes.

My inner writer will often lean forward and remind me of something I’ve missed or something I need to help with, like a scene, plot twist or quirky character. Today, whilst in Cambridge, I walked past a scraggy smelly hobo with wild eyes, stubble and a red scarf. He had a strange stumble or lurch to his walk. He barked at a woman coming out of a shop then spat something large and wet on the pavement.

I saw him for about 10 seconds and whilst I can remember him clearly now, I know my inner writer has taken a detailed account of his appearance and mannerisms. At some point I’ll need a particular character and my inner writer will lean forward and remind me of the weird hobo I past in the street on a wet Saturday afternoon.

If you haven’t already experienced this, you will. And then you’ll understand the importance of the inner writer hidden within you. You’ll become close friends. Trust me on this.

Writers may say there are many reasons why they write, and for me it comes down to this: “I write because I must.” The same as I breath because it keeps me alive.

I’ve learnt that one thing differs between those who write and those who don’t – writing is a state of being, it is who they are. They are compelled to tell a story. Not to dumb down or insult any tradesman whatsoever, but I’ve yet to meet a plumber who plumbs because he must. I’ve said before that if the world fell away, if everything was lost in ruin, I’d scrawl words on stone with my blood for want of a pencil.

To write is to be who you are. Trust that instinct.

# 4 – Love your craft. Learn from your craft. Know your craft.

Love is all and love is everyone

It is knowing, it is knowing

In life there will always be knowledge to gain, new things to discover and new tools to add to your box of tricks. I’ve been writing for many years and I’m still learning my craft. NaNoWriMo isn’t just a month of writing madness.

It’s a time to learn more about the craft of writing, whether you’re a pro or a NaNo Virgin.

I don’t claim to be a wise old owl with a font of knowledge about writing, but I know I love my craft enough to keep on learning. Knockbacks are a necessary evil, though I wouldn’t call them evil in that sense. I call them learning curves. If someone gives you negative feedback, learn from it and take even the smallest snippet of knowledge that will help you the next time you sit down to write.

The process of NaNo can help you learn from your mistakes, from grammar and spelling to plot mechanics and knowing when to embrace the Icky Sticky. To grow as a writer is to love everything about it.

Love everyone who reads your work because they can offer clues on how to improve.

Knowing how to love your craft is a key tool to writing.

# 5 – Believe in yourself.

And ignorance and hate mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing

I’ve ground to a halt on this one as I can’t find a way to build a helpful tool out of it. I guess it could tie in with # 4 in that you shouldn’t be ignorant of a chance to learn something new. A dead story, one that never dug itself free of The Lifeless River Bed of Despondency and Meh, could be the result of not believing in your ability to captain your story boat.

After setting sail on the NaNo Sea you need a sense of belief to get you through the rough times.

Believe in your inner writer. Believe in your craft.

Believe in your ability to learn and grow.

# 6 – Give your dreams a chance.

But listen to the colour of your dreams
It is not leaving, it is not leaving

There was a reason you started NaNoWriMo. Because you wanted to tell a story. You wanted the challenge of making the dream of writing that story a reality. After all the advice has been given, after all the pep-talks, words of wisdom and cheering “GO! GO! GO!” your NaNo experience comes down to one thing:

Listening to what your dreams tell you.

Be a writer and tell your story.

Write for you. Write with passion. Love it. Live it.

As promised, Tomorrow Never Knows, the Carla Azar version, which I think rocks!

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13 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – Relax & Float Down Stream

  1. I’ve sent a last minute question to NaNoWriMo, but just in case I don’t hear back from them in time, do you know if there’s an upper age limit to participating in the challenge, as I’m not convinced I qualify? D:

  2. I’m already giving up lol in proofreading my 2010 NaNo project, I discovered the 6k words I lost held quite a bit in terms of story progression and action that I can’t get back… Now I’m not sure if I want to continue working on my 2010 project and finish it before starting the 2012… I’ve got less than 48 hours to decide lol We’ll see what happens

  3. Pingback: Nano Day 2- part 2 -Turtles | Chillers And Thrillers

  4. Pingback: Weekend Writing Prompt #13 & NaNoWriMo Tips! | Dave Farmer

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