Done before it started: a NaNoWriMo cautionary tale

I had a great idea for NaNoWriMo this year, one I conceived of months ago and have thought about a lot since then. Unfortunately, thinking is all I did about it, with the result being that my attempt at writing 50,000 words in 30 days died almost before it began.

There is something of a common problem among writers (and I’m not going to get into the philosophical, psychological, and practical battles here about what defines a writer) in that we often don’t write. We want to write. We think about writing. We talk about writing. Then we don’t actually write.

For the past year or so, this has been my shortcoming in the extreme. I actually really do love writing. I crave it, to be honest. I feel more complete when I am writing. Then for a variety of reasons, I don’t actually write.

My caution, then, and my encouragement for all of us flailing writers out there is to not let another November sneak up on us with a years worth of wishing about writing without any writing actually having been done. I’m not saying it will be easy or that it will be good, but if you’re like me, you need to do it.

So let’s.


Philosophy: Knowing one’s place

It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realise you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert. — Jacques Cousteau

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. –1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV)

Western society lives with a strange legacy born out of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution: we have come to believe in the idea of the solitary genius and to believe that only those who fit that category a deserving of success and admiration.

Consider, for instance, the strange popularity contest the American presidential election has become. We invest such hope into our chosen candidates, as if we were electing a monarch or a dictator rather than a chief executive working for a board of 200 million shareholders. And, we are always disappointed in the person we have chosen because, being human, that person could never have lived up to the expectations we had.

Now, I am not suggesting that anyone should give up on the idea of excellence, but even the most excellent among us can only exist as one of us. No one has ever succeeded alone, nor will anyone.

To me, what remains is that we must do two things. First, we must figure out where we fit into the complex web of interactions and relationships we call life. Then, we must figure out how to fit into that place in the most excellent way.

If we succeed, then we will have done more than most have ever done.


Read more at my Philosophy weblog…