It’s almost the end of September, which means November is just around the corner. And if you’re a writer you know what that means….
National Novel Writing Month.
Yup. Don’t know if I have the courage yet to try it again this year, but I have done it five times before and succeeded four times, so yeah, maybe I will. But thinking about it earlier today made me think of something I experience every time it comes around. I call it the Ping Pong Effect.
It goes like this. I get ready for NaNoWriMo, and tell all my friends and family that during the month of November I will be writing a 50,000-word novel and don’t count on me to do much of anything else. And then the night before November 1, I start wondering if I chose the right story to pursue. If it’s a steampunk story about Tom Horn (my first project), I start thinking, “What do I know about Tom Horn? What do I know about steampunk? I should just pick something I know about.” And then I switch my topic to something like a virus that causes people who fall asleep to not be able to wake up (my second project). And I start thinking, “Maybe I know more about Tom Horn than I know about viruses. What am I, a doctor?”
Well, yes I am, but not the kind that helps people. In either case, I find one reason or another to start bouncing from one topic to another in indecision, bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball. And often that’s the reason why some people don’t write books. They can’t make up their minds and so they talk themselves out of it.
Even when it’s not NaNoWriMo, I struggle with Ping Pong Syndrome. Celeste and I finished Salome’s Charger recently and in the last days of the project we both talked about the new projects we were eager to start once we were free of our obligations. I was going to get going on my new trilogy that starts with World Without Heroes, and Celeste was going to finish up another one of her books. Then last week I started thinking about a different project that I had put on a back burner and had forgotten.
I think that the problem is simply commitment. I’m like a teenage boy hovering over a phone, trying to decide between calling the sure-thing next-door neighbor girl for a date, or a high-risk/high-reward cheerleader girl. Both involve a commitment, but until he picks up the phone, he won’t have to do either.
But sooner or later, writers have to write. That’s the bottom line.
We’re not here to play ping pong.