Swoon Author Karole Cozzo: Don't Force It
has come and gone in the blink of an eye. For some people, that’s a good thing.
Some people are chomping at the bit to string up those holiday lights before
they’ve even digested their turkey dinner. Some people are already scouting
cyber Monday deals. Some people, oh I don’t know, might be going to a
no-kids-allowed resort in Riviera Maya at the end of November and can’t
frickin’ wait for these last few days to pass (Mama’s gonna sleep in, y’all!).
Then there are those people who signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016, those who hit the ground running, fueled by caffeine and sugar, brimming with ambition, knocking out word count goals that never saw them coming. You might be one of those people. You might have collected badges, proudly posted images of your pretty upward diagonal graph, and had not a moment’s doubt that winner’s certificate would soon hang on your wall.
And then… maybe you hit a slump. Had a few days of writer’s block. Stopped looking at the graph altogether. Couldn’t quite bring yourself to even open that Word doc because the looming failure of not finishing Nano was something better best ignored. As November draws to a close, if this sounds like you, if you’re feeling panicked, like you must finished come hell or high water, I just want to say to you…
Don’t force it.
There is drafting, and there is forcing. Please don’t force it. I have written some of the worst crap imaginable when I’ve attempted to force it.
On a semi-unrelated note, I’m training for a half marathon. I’m not a natural born runner – I don’t even particularly enjoy running – but I have this goal and I greatly enjoy the process of working toward goals and surprising myself when I achieve them. As my training runs have increased in length, it’s become increasingly difficult to fit them into an already busy family schedule. And when conditions were unfavorable on scheduled run days, I used to try to force my way through them. Then one day this summer, the humidity was so was bad, I actually felt my lungs seizing up and struggled greatly to take every breath, pressure mounting in my chest. I knew my body was talking to me, telling me loud and clear that it wasn’t an issue of mind over matter, and I needed to stop. I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, force it. I needed to take a break. And if I hadn’t, I probably would’ve ended up doing more harm than good, potentially setting myself back further.
I’m a pretty stubborn person (#understatement), but I learned to listen to my body that day and accepted the fact that sometimes you simply can’t stay on track or on schedule, because it’s not in your best interest to do so, no matter how much you want it to happen, no matter how strong your motivation.
My writer’s brain is a lot like my body that day. There are times when for various reasons – real life distractions, mood, work-related stress, fatigue, etc. – its functioning is just not optimal. I usually have chapter and word count goals for each week, and I hate how defeated I feel when I don’t meet them or have to revise them. But over time I’ve learned that the “bounce back” phenomena is pretty strong, and by not forcing it, I usually end up in a better place when I allow myself to take that break, to step away, to let it happen naturally.
NaNoWriMo will draw to a close, but I promise you your WIP is not going to disappear in a puff of smoke when that happens. If your creative impulses, energy, or time bank are drained at the end of the month, please don’t beat yourself up. Please don’t try to force it. Word documents open… keyboards function… magic happens… every month of the year.