So I did this National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) thing in November which was pretty sweet. What the organizers would do is send out “pep talk” emails to keep everyone writing and motivated and stuff. One of the emails was from David Eggers. He wrote, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, which is one of (in the top 5) my favourite novels, so you can imagine my surprise/shock/WTF…seriously? reaction(s) when I opened up my inbox and there was an email from the author of one of my fav books.
Anyway, here’s the email. It’s about procrastination.
“Dear NaNoWriMo Author,
Is procrastination a problem for you? Really? You think you have a problem?
Here’s procrastination: The organizers of NaNoWriMo asked me three months ago to write this pep talk, and I’m only writing it now, after blowing three deadlines, after avoiding ten reminders. I was asked to write a pep talk for NaNoWriMo, and I’m actually writing it after the month started. So whatever procrastination problems you have, I probably have you beat. I’m the worst, and I’m getting worse every day.
It’s a very strange thing, because we all think writing should be fun. That is, when I was temping through most of my twenties, wondering what it would be like to write for a living, hoping for such a life, I thought it might be pretty sweet. I thought if I ever got to write for a living, I would feel pretty lucky, and that I would be so appreciative that I would bound out of bed every day and, like a goddamned adult, I would write as much as I could every day, and get work done in a reasonable amount of time. Again, like an adult.
Instead, I need, on average, 8 hours sitting on my writing couch to get one hour of work done. It’s a pathetic ratio. I stall, avoid, put off and generally act like someone’s making me do some terrible job I never wanted to do. I blow pretty much every deadline I’m given.
Just like I blew the one for NaNoWriMo.
But then, when things are late, and I’m feeling like an idiot, and I feel like I’m letting down someone (like the people at NaNoWriMo, and you), I finally dig in and get started. And then I write, and I write in a fury, and I even, sometimes, enjoy writing.
And that’s why I love NaNoWriMo. It gets you started. It gives you the impetus to finally start, and/or finally finish. Knowing there are thousands of others out there trying to do the same, who are using this ridiculous deadline as cattle-prod and shame deterrent, means goddamnit, you better do it now because you know how to write, and you have fingers, and you have this one life, and during this one life, you should put your words down, and make your voice heard, and then let others hear your voice. And the only way any of that’s going to happen is if you actually do it. People can’t read the thoughts in your head. They can only read the thoughts you put down, carefully and with great love, on the page. So you have to do it, goddamnit. You have to do it, and you can step back and be happy. You can step back and relax. You can step back and feel something like pride.
Then of course you’ll have to revise it ten or twenty times, but let’s not talk about that yet.
Write your goddamned book now. The world awaits.