Now what


Four of my daughter’s friends are participating in NaNoWriMo. Two of them have finished already. The other two are on pace to finish as well.

That is so impressive. I can’t imagine writing fifty thousand words of a novel in three weeks when I was in eighth grade.

The two girls who are "done" are both having the same problem. They have reached fifty thousand words but their story isn’t finished yet. There are people to kill off and relationships to resolve. What should they do?

Keep writing, of course.

But it’s hard. A goal is a great way to focus. It’s motivating. You need to produce so many words or pages this month so you set about doing it. You figure out how much you need to write each day to stay on pace and you settle into a routine.

Really, the whole purpose of the goal was to establish and maintain a routine until it was — you know — routine.

And then you reach your goal and it’s hard to continue. The goal we set here at PragProWriMo was artificial. It was a trick to force you into a habit of writing. It was a device we used to turn your "someday I’ll write a book" into actually writing a book. For many of you it worked. Over at the mothership, NaNoWriMo, thousands of people who have always wanted to write a book will have written 50,000 words by the beginning of next week.

Then what?

Well, writers write. Even three weeks into this experiment you’ve proved to yourself that you can write. Now you need to keep finding time each day to do so. I’m warning you, it’s hard.

Someone I follow on Twitter wrote this morning that her gym had closed and her new gym is twice as far away. This is someone who went to the gym religiously and tweeted about how much she enjoyed it and about her success going. Now she tweets, "Getting remotivated is taking its toll."

My life is littered with habits I got out of—going to the gym is one of them. I loved going to the gym. I went a lot before I was married and continued the first few years of our marriage. Then my workout partner stopped going. Slowly I got out of the habit. Each year I go back for two or three weeks but it never becomes a full habit again.

So you’re coming to a very important point in your career as a writer. You’ve spent this past month developing your habit of daily writing. Next week when you reach your goal you can stop and be fully satisfied with what you’ve accomplished. You can be satisfied with what you’ve done and you need not ever work on a book again.

I want you to think this week, before you come to the end, of whether you want to continue or not. If you do, then it is time to start moving the finish line. If you want to be a writer then next Monday can not be an end.

Getting remotivated after you cross the finish line is tough.

This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.