Camp NaNoWriMo and the Procrastination Monster

Some of you may remember my first post about Nano, where I described it as a lesson in self-torture, an insane endeavor that I would gladly never partake in. Well, time to eat those words. Thanks to a friendly kick-in-the-butt sponsored by the REUTS Publications version of the Camp NaNoWriMo competition, I am now five days into self-imposed insanity.

“But it’s July,” you say, “Isn’t Nano in November?”

Why yes, yes it is. Fortunately, the Office of Letters and Light, founders of the original National Novel Writing Month challenge (NaNoWriMo for short) finally realized that November was just about the worst possible time for anyone to attempt this manic exercise in writing hell and created the twice-yearly Camp Nano project, inflicting their misery on writers in April and July as well as November, and thereby enabling my panic-inducing mission during the hottest part of the year, when my brain melts like a tub of ice cream and my muse decides Alaska sounds like a lovely place to run off to– alone.

But despite my cynical sarcasm, I do believe that the idea behind Nano is a good one– for everyone else. It forces writers to duct tape their inner editor’s mouth and just write. To push through that first draft of crap and complete the bones of a novel in a single month. Will that novel be anywhere near publish-ready? Heck no! But it will be done. That feeling of accomplishment can motivate a writer to either revise and edit that horrific mess of a manuscript or more likely, throw it onto a bonfire, roast some marshmallows over its carcass and move on to the novel that will be publishable. Because now they know they can do it. And that’s an enviable feeling. One I would love to experience.

Which is why, when the idea for an in-house version of Nano was raised at REUTS Publications, I foolishly volunteered. It’s no secret that I’m highly dissatisfied with my level of productivity and have been looking for a way to fix it for a while now. Will Nano be that fix? Doubtful. I suspect that I’m just not built to write this way.

Where most people wrestle with an inner editor, I wrestle with the fact that I’m 3/4 editor, making the practice of writing what I instantly know is awful far more difficult. I’ve had to restrain my editor side with a straight-jacket chained to the wall to keep her from getting in the way. And I can still her screaming at me through the duct tape to revise what I just wrote. Needless to say, this is going to be an extremely interesting month.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to document the lessons I’ve learned about Nano and my dangerous dance around a mental breakdown. It’s likely not going to be pretty, but it will definitely be snarky. 😉

What have I learned after week #1? That one of the most sure-fire ways to get the Procrastination Monster to rear its hypnotizing head is to impose a deadline on your muse.

I don’t know about yours, but my muse is the most spoiled, self-centered, entitled brat I’ve ever met. If she doesn’t get things exactly her way, she’ll just straight disappear, pouting for weeks at a time on a beach somewhere, sipping fruity drinks to drown her irritation. So I knew when I said, “be here, this time, every day,” we’d have a problem. And sure enough, she lived up to expectation. As soon as I imposed a strict regimen of focus, she decided to sic the Procrastination Monster on me, resulting in a typical writing day that goes something like this:

Stumble out of bed, grumbling all the way to the shower, where I finally start to wake up. Excitement for all the many tasks I’ll accomplish streams through my head and I start mentally writing– blog posts, scenes from Unmoving, random to-do lists, etc. (What? Some people sing in the shower, apparently I write.) By the time that’s done, I don my super-woman cape, completely enthused and set out to tackle the day.

I sit down at the computer, all those lovely snippets of words still echoing in my head, and do what? Open my internet browser, glance at MSN’s homepage and hey, look, some dude caught a 200 year old fish. That looks cool…**clicks to read stupid article that has nothing to do with my day.**

5 minutes later, I realize I’ve been distracted and close said stupid article. I’m gonna write now. But maybe I should check my email first, just to see what’s up. There could be something important in there. **Logs in to first email account and proceeds to waste ten minutes deleting the pages and pages of spam it attracts like a magnet.**

Nothing good in that one, let’s see what’s up with account number two. **Logs in to second email, reads over all the various blog posts from awesome bloggers I subscribe to, sinking an hour and a half into informative procrastination.** There’s also a new submission for REUTS, a weekly update of all our awesome endeavors with a few discussion points, and some misc. emails from the authors I’m lucky enough to work with. (I love opening my email and finding REUTS stuff. Best part of most days!) So I dig in and start responding.

3 hours later, I’m finally done. (Yes, I’m slow and take my time, what of it?) Woo-hoo! Time to write. This time I do actually open the file, but I suddenly realize it’s laundry day and I’m wearing my last pair of jeans that actually fit. Horrified at the prospect of having to squeeze into too-small jeans, I leave the computer and throw a load of denim in the wash.

Alright, crisis averted, so back to the computer. I look at the title page of current WIP, ready to dig in and be productive. (By now, those glorious snippets from the shower are fading.) Oh, I haven’t checked Facebook yet….I wonder what everyone’s up to? **Meanders away from the document and browses Facebook newsfeed, looking for inevitable drama.** 20 minutes later, I reach the end of anything interesting and, satisfied with my dose of daily gossip, return to manuscript-in-progress only to realize it’s been way too long since I last worked on it and crap, where was I going with this scene?

Since the wisps of inspiration from the shower are now long gone, I decide to read over what I’ve written so far in the hopes of picking up the narrative thread. Who should decide to join me but my Editor-in-chief side, and she’s not going to let me past that sentence until I’ve fixed whatever’s going wonky somewhere in the center. More valuable creative minutes are lost to revisions until finally, task-master EiC is satisfied. Now I get to actually create, right?

Nope, because the laundry just stopped, and I really should eat something.

Another 2 hours pass before I finally make my way back to the computer. The laundry’s folded and put away, and I found something to munch on, so I should be all set. I cue up the spot where I left off, sure this time of where I’m going with the scene and….oh hey, Twitter. I wonder what’s happening over there? **Boots up shiny new Twitter account and gets lost in trying to figure out the intricacy of hashtags and @-signs.**

Eventually, I manage to frustrate myself and log off. I look up at the clock. “Son of a biscuit-eating monkey-nut, it’s 3:30 already? Where did the day go?!” I now have a half hour left before I have to pick Hubby up from work. Frantically, I go back to the neglected manuscript, the cursor patiently blinking at me like it has been all day, and finally manage to write something. Then I log off the computer, call it a day and return to life offline.

Meanwhile, my muse is sitting back, arms smugly crossed, laughing at me. (Yeah, I told you she was a brat.)

By now, I should have 8,065 words to actually be on track for successfully completing Nano. My actual word count? 1,997. (That, children, is what it looks like when someone gets bit in the face by the Procrastination Monster.)

So Round One of this battle clearly goes to my muse. (Well played, Muse, well played.) But I’m not giving up. I still have time to make up the lost words, to find a way to separate the Procrastination Monster from it’s tricky little head. If anyone has some tips from their own battles with the creature, I’d love to hear some victory stories. Leave them in the comments below. I have a feeling I’m going to need some armor to survive whatever else my muse has up her sleeves. 😉

7 thoughts on “Camp NaNoWriMo and the Procrastination Monster

  1. This was the topic I was working on this week! My wife wanted me to write about procrastination, and I had been putting it off. I hope you don’t mind I borrowed the “procrastination monster”. I gave him a name.

    • You procrastinated writing about procrastination? Lol. I’m pretty sure there’s some irony in that statement.

      Of course I don’t mind! Take him away! Maybe he’ll stop harassing me while you borrow him. Although, be careful what you wish for. Once he strikes, he’s a hard little demon to shake. 😉

  2. You certain we’re not the same person? You just described my average writing attempts to a T!

    Oh, and you missed out ‘finding time to write a 1500-word blog post’ as well 😀 Although I’m delighted you did, as it has entertained me no end.

    You got the link to that 200-year-old fish story by the way, it sounds like a must-see… 😉

    • Lol. Good, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun writing this one!

      You’re right, I did leave off writing my blog as another means of procrastination. I also didn’t mention the daily sentence I have to serve at the dreaded Day Job. So maybe not every day goes as described. Sometimes you have to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of humor though, you know? And more often than I’d like, my writing gets derailed by some variance of what I laid out. 😉

      You really want the link? Here it is: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/07/seattle-man-catches-200-year-old-fish/ It’s not really as fascinating as the Procrastination Monster had me believing, but it’ll waste a good three minutes or so for you. 😛

  3. I forgot to add:

    Generally, the only thing that drags my muse out of the pub where she’s to be found knocking back absinthe-and-cokes and flirting with anything in trousers, is the thought that unless she gets on and prompts me to write, I shall never fulfill my life-long dream of becoming a professional novelist and will die alone, unloved an unfulfilled in a tiny attic room somewhere, reeking of cats and stale red wine. Harsh but it works.

    • What’s with muses and a tendency to be alcoholics? Lol. At least yours has a sense of self-preservation that calls her back to work. I don’t think mine would care. She’d rather be stubborn and sullen on her beach somewhere. Which, really, who could blame her? I’d rather be on a beach sipping fruity drinks too! 😉

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