Camp Nano – Steady Over Swift

The beginning of Week 3 is upon us! Week 2 has been conquered and Camp Nano is half over. Whether “conquered” looks to you like a triumphant king-of-the-hill moment, or more like crawling that last ragged inch, gasping for air…it’s okay. New day, new way. For many campers, the beginning of Week 3 symbolizes a glorious, almost magical time when the weight of Week 2 Blues is lifted, and suddenly the future looks inspiring again.

It can be hard not to manically pursue that fresh burst of inspiration, especially if Week 2 dragged your story down an alley, brutally mugged it, and left it for dead. But is it really wise to throw yourself with abandon into a nonstop stream of Week 3 writing to catch up that word count? Or is there a better way?

I sometimes feel I have the great (mis)fortune of having a lot of experience in recovering from a bout of writer’s block. In fact, I’m in one right now (which is why I’m writing this blog post instead of drafting Book 5 – whoops!). One thing that the fight against writing blues has taught me for certain is this:

Momentum is more important than inspiration.

“Inspiration!” is sort of a catchword for writers, especially those newer to the craft. The mythical notion of that bolt of inspiration setting your fingers flying on the keys is more than tantalizing – it’s a pot of gold at the end of every writer’s rainbow. But the more I’ve listened to the masters of the craft and the more I’ve had to drag myself out of block after block, the more I’ve also learned about the importance of writing without inspiration in order to maintain momentum.

This was part of the purpose behind my last post on “Write 100” – keeping the words flowing even during the Week 2 Blues. The reason this is so important is that momentum, as a simple law of physics, continues to carry you forward whether the “motivation” to move is there or not. As the saying goes, “an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

That’s not to say that an unbalanced force won’t come into a writer’s path at times, completely derailing all well-intended momentum. But as a general rule, momentum is a reliable forward motion. Inspiration is not. Of the two, inspiration may be what starts your story, but momentum is what will actually see it through to the end. If you rely only on inspiration to write, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting. If you rely on momentum, you’ll get the work done no matter what.

And the biggest key to momentum is steadiness.

Everyone is tired of hearing “slow and steady wins the race,” so I won’t go there. But consider that rather than capitalizing on a massive spurt of Week 3 inspiration to boost your wordcount, you could portion it out instead. Use the inspiration and renewed excitement for your story to look ahead! Craft a story map, rework an outline, jot down notes for a few consecutive scenes, etc. Don’t just pour that reawakened writing vigor into the current scene, but spread it out toward the ones to come. This kind of forward thinking is what encourages momentum, which can become like a boulder rolling down a hill, picking up speed and eventually smashing the walls of writer’s block in its path.

It can be hard at times, especially with the deadlines of NaNoWriMo on the horizon, to write steadily instead of all at once. But like sailors, we need a steady breeze, not just a hardy gust, to fill our sails. By that kind of wind, we can pilot our ships – our stories – safely to shore.

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