I must say: I love these year’s NaNoWriMo stickers. For those who haven’t seen it, or haven’t gotten the chance to get yours yet (they’ll be available again during the Thank Goodness it’s Over party, so be there if you want one!), you can see them all in the NaNoWriMo store, or here:
I think, out of all stickers I’ve seen while I was a Municipal Liaison, this year’s pack contained the most number of pep, and the most I have related to in the last seven years I have been doing NaNo (although nothing will probably beat the 2007 sticker that says, My novel is better than yours! and Don’t bother me or I’ll put you in my novel! Or something like that). While I was thinking of my last pep talk for NaNoWriMo 2011, I found myself thinking of these stickers and realized that there is a really good reason why these became our stickers this year.
Let me elaborate.
1. You are part money, part ninja, part stairmaster cyborg.
Some of you may have entered NaNoWriMo without any thought of all the other things you are also supposed to do for November. Some of you may have thought of all these things, but decided to join anyway, since it’s just writing. What could be so hard about that? And them sometime in the middle of November, you realize how hard writing a novel was, and how many other things you need to do for November. You realize that you can’t be a novelist and something else, too, and you wonder if you are crazy for really undertaking this challenge.
This November, I was not only a novelist and your Municipal Liaison, but I was also an employee, friend, a sister, a daughter and overall in charge for our household things. Suddenly, all my friends wanted to see me. Suddenly there were books I want to read. Suddenly, I had to deal with learning a snake got in our house one morning. I was on night shift, so going out on a morning of a Saturday was torture, and sometimes all I want to do was sleep when I get home and not write. I also had to take a certification exam at work, and my performance evaluation is at stake with that certification. I’m sure you guys also realized how many other roles you had to fulfill during November too: business owner, boss, husband, wife, father, mother, brother, son, boyfriend, girlfriend, student, unemployed but looking for a job, [insert your own role here]. More often than not, we have to juggle multiple roles during November and we wonder for the nth time why even joined this challenge in the first place.
But you know what? That’s the thing: we are never made for simply one role in our life. We are often asked to be more than a monkey, more than a ninja and more than a stairmaster cyborg. Sometimes we have to be both the monkey and the ninja. Being a novelist is just adding another role in our plate, and while sometimes it feels overwhelming, we still somehow can do it. It doesn’t feel like it, but when November ends and you look back, you’ll see that you were doing pretty good being a part ninja, part monkey and part stairmaster cyborg in one.
2. Run whooping through the valleys of your imagination.
Okay, the idea of a “valley” is really not so much as whimsical as it is made, because a valley usually means darkness, or a dark time. People often want to get out of the valley, because the mountain top is better than being in the darkness of the valley.
But here’s the thing about valleys: we learn a lot more being in a valley than being on the mountain top. The mountain top usually means a reward, and but to get that reward, you have to do some pretty difficult things first. There were probably times when you felt dry, felt like you can write no longer. That’s a part of the valley. That’s why you need to run whooping through it — if you keep on thinking that your valley is a sad and dry place, it will take you a long time to get out of it. But if you want to get to your mountain, well, you better hurry and run. Run as fast as you can, and whoop while you’re at it. Because whooping is fun.
The best part is, you’re not whooping alone. Everyone in the region who’s also doing NaNoWriMo is whooping with you. Everyone in the world who’s also doing NaNoWriMo is whooping with you. So run whooping through the valleys of your imagination, because soon, you’ll be out of it and you’ll be able to claim your reward.
3. Whatever you think you are, you are more than that.
Whenever I am doing some crunches (and just so you know, I am so not fond of that exercise), I always try to make myself do one or two more reps when I am done with a set, just because. I remember reading somewhere that the trick to doing more crunches even when it’s painful is to say that you will do ten last ones, and then when you’re done with that, you say just ten more, and so on. Then later, when your entire abdominal area is screaming with pain, you would be surprised that you made a hundred crunches (or even more).
I think NaNoWriMo is like that. When we near the end of the season and our story is hard and our characters are stubborn and you want to do everything but write and you can’t possibly write another word, it’s tempting to throw the towel and quit. But just like doing crunches, don’t. As long as it’s still November, as long as everyone else is still writing, tell yourself that you’ll write 1,000 more words. And then when you do that, 1,000 more. And more. Then you’ll be surprised to see how close you are to the goal, and you’ll just want to keep writing. This year, take this sticker’s message to heart, because it is true. You are more than what you think you are, and you can do more than what you think you can do.
4. Your story matters.
I’ve shared this a couple of times in other pep talks already but for the benefit of those who missed it: I lost NaNoWriMo on my first try. I made it to 33,000+ words and stopped writing because school got too busy and I started to not like my male main character. It was really more of neglect, and back then we had no regional support to get me to writing. I consider it a battle scar, because at least I know how it feels not to win NaNoWriMo out of all my other wins.
And how does it feel not to get to 50k? Well, it kind of sucks but it’s also not so bad. The thing with not getting to the goal then made me want to finish my story and even more determined to win the next year. My 2004 novel was the first I wrote and finished, even if it didn’t make the word count goal that November and I consider it a special one. Granted, it’s kind of cheesy, but you never forget your first child.
The point is, whatever your end word count is this month, and whether it’s your first or fifth time doing NaNoWriMo, the most important thing in the end is that you wrote. And 20,000 words is better than zero. Every word you have written this month is important, and it’s something to be proud of.
Remember this, as November 30 and the end of NaNoWriMo approaches: whatever your final word count is, YOUR STORY MATTERS. So don’t give up on it.
A few days ago, an article came up after the Manila International Literary Festival with insights from local writing “legends” that asked, Where is the next great Philippine novel? If I was there, I would have waved our banner (if we had one, that is) up high. This is my eighth year doing NaNoWriMo and my fifth year as ML and I still stand by what I say about this community: I am among some of the best writers in the country and you guys have never ceased to inspire me.
See you at the finish line.