It’s November – the month when many members of the creative writing community take on the amazing/crazy/awe-inspiring/ridiculous challenge known as NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month. Yes, people write a whole novel in a month. A whole one. In thirty days.
For the past three years I’ve eyed the approach of November with a vague sense of ‘maybe I should be doing that’. You see I do have a novel I’m working on. No, wait two novels I’m working on… or rather – let’s be honest now – two novels I’ve left at random stages of incompletion (in one my main protagonist has just made an exciting discovery, in the other she is in grave danger). NaNoWriMo could be the perfect way to get one or the other of them finished couldn’t it?
But I’ve never been willing to take the plunge. “I can’t just write that book, I want to write these other things!” I argue to myself “Well, quite. Not to mention that I need to do this (non-writing) stuff over here!” I agree with myself, “And then what about the kids? How do I pay any attention to them while writing a book and doing everything else?!” I exclaim to hammer the point home.
People do it though, they really do, and they manage to juggle all those things – I’m just not so sure it would work for me. And today I read a post that explained why. It was by the awesomely hilarious writer Chuck Wendig (if you’ve never read his blog just do – especially if you’re a writer. And if you like intelligent sweary rants and are a fan of tangents.) who was listing reasons for and against doing NaNoWriMo. There, in the list of ‘reasons not to’, was the one that made it all clear to me – not just my feelings about NaNo, everything:
“Writers are not particularly good at following orders, I find. In fact, every writer is basically ten ferrets. You can’t control one ferret, much less ten. Ferrets will not be commanded. FERRETS CARE LITTLE FOR YOUR NATIONAL FERRET WRANGLING MONTH (NaFerWraMo).”
That’s it! I thought, That’s exactly it! I’m ten ferrets! I KNEW it!
It’s obvious when you think about it – that’s why I feel dragged in so many directions, that’s why I struggle to do one thing, why my brain is always leaping off and thinking about so many other things at the same time. It’s why I can’t stick to writing one thing (poetry, picture books, flash fiction, short stories, and novels in different genres have all been at the ends of my typing fingers these past few years). It’s why my (long-suffering) husband is always saying “Are you listening to me? Because I feel like you just asked me a question then switched off” and “Didn’t I just say that five minutes ago? Why are you asking me again?” Well no, I’m quite possibly not and yes, he probably did but my ten ferrets are running all over the place so what do you expect?
But it’s ok you see, because the whole process I’ve been going through with my writing over the past three years has basically been ferret training. I’ve bought the leads. I’ve taught them how to sit in a row, how to run in a straight line without getting the leads tangled, how to do tricks.
Because, ferrets are very tameable it turns out. They may not take commands well, but they do respond to reasoning. They’re thoughtful and loyal and ok, they still run all over the place with wild abandon given half a chance but they can be very productive. Sometimes ferrets even write manuscripts and send them to agents.
All writers should nurture their inner ferrets – they’ll pave the way to our success.
*disclaimer* I wrote this post far too late at night for my rational brain to be fully functioning. Please excuse the constant references to ferrets.