It’s 9:57 P.M. on July fifteenth. I’m sitting at my desk, staring at a blank page in my notebook with a pencil in my hand and no ideas left in my head. Normally, I’d be thinking about going to bed right about now. Unfortunately, Camp NaNoWriMo is halfway over, I’m three days behind on my word count, and I’ve barely written three pages today.
I have to admit that writer’s block has me feeling as trapped as my characters. That’s saying something, since one of those characters is in a heavily guarded dungeon, has lost his last ally, and is in so much pain that he’s wondering why he isn’t dead right now. I’d like to blame his situation on my characters, but no, this time it’s completely my fault. I can’t deny that. I also can’t deny that his situation is about half the reason for my writer’s block.
I sigh and drop my pencil. I flip back through the last ten pages in my notebook, looking for inspiration and instead finding several spelling and grammar mistakes and nearly falling down a plot hole. I linger for a moment over the plot hole, hoping that fixing it will make my character’s situation slightly less impossible. It doesn’t. If anything, it makes it worse. So, I leave the hole as it is and flip back to my blank page.
I start to pick up my pencil, but stop. The page glares up at me, and I glance at the clock. 10:12. I’ve just spent fifteen minutes getting nowhere. Then again, I’ve spent all day getting nowhere, so what’s another fifteen minutes?
Returning my attention to the notebook, I pick up my pencil and start to jot down a sentence. I stop halfway through and grab my eraser. My character feeling sorry for himself won’t do the situation any good, though I suppose it might boost my word count by a few hundred words or so. More importantly, I’m dismayed enough as it is without my character having a pity party.
Despite my best efforts with my eraser, I can’t get all the pencil marks off the page. The faint lines of the deleted words seem to taunt me. I can’t even come up with a single sentence I like. In the page margin, I calculate exactly how many words behind I am. I should be at twenty-five thousand, five hundred words. I have just over nineteen thousand, nine hundred, which means I’m behind by a solid five thousand. With a mostly stifled moan, I drop my pencil again. Maybe this isn’t worth it.
I flip through the last ten pages again and find more mistakes, more places I should’ve worded something differently, more places a character should’ve said this and not that, and another plot hole. I consider the synopsis of my book. When I first came up with the idea for the plot, I’d been so excited. Now, however, I can’t help but consider how similar it is to other books I’ve read. I slump in my seat. Let’s face it. My story is lousy. I should just give up now. The idea seems rather attractive, in an “I-just-don’t-care-anymore” way. So what if I won’t complete this Camp NaNoWriMo? You can’t win everything. Maybe it’s time to admit defeat for once.
I close my notebook, not bothering to put a bookmark in it like I usually do. I start to stand and walk over to my bed, but stop before I can climb in. I think again about my character. He wants to give up. He has a lot more reason to want to give up than I do. But I wouldn’t let him give up. I never let any of my characters give up, at least not for long. So what right do I have to give up on them?
Slowly, I turn around and walk back to my desk. Instead of sitting down in my chair and opening my notebook again, I kneel on the floor and pull open one of my drawers containing my finished notebooks. One by one, I lift them out: seven black composition notebooks and two spiral-bound notebook. I consider what it took to fill these notebooks. Hours of brainstorming. Hours of trying to find just the right words. Hours of trying to figure out how in the world to get my characters out of the messes I’ve put them in. Hours of not giving up, even when I’m stumped and my characters refuse to cooperate with anything I want them to do.
I look up at the bookshelf across the room. Rows of novels greet my eyes: paperbacks and hardbacks, classics and contemporary novels, fantasies and nonfiction. All so different, but all with one thing in common: the authors didn’t give up. Come to think of it, neither did the characters in those novels. They kept struggling through, even when things got tough, and because of that, they succeeded. I glance at the notebook sitting on my desk. Even without writer’s block, it’ll be difficult to succeed, to achieve my goal of fifty thousand words by the end of the month. But it won’t be impossible. The only thing that could make it impossible to succeed is if I give up.
Is giving up really worth it?
I smile and place the notebooks back in their drawer. I know the answer to this question: it isn’t. And so I won’t give up. I’ll keep working, keep trying to write, and keep trying to figure out how in the world I can get my character out of the predicament he’s in. At least now I think I know how to give him a little hope to keep trying.
I stand. Pull out my desk chair and sit down. And then I reopen my notebook, pick up my pencil, and start writing.