You're in the middle of the ride
NaNoWriMo Week 3
warning: flashing gif at the end
While thinking about the theme for this week—the middle of the month, the middle of NaNoWriMo, I cannot stop thinking about the 2001 song “The Middle” by pop-punk band Jimmy Eat World, from their album Bleed American. “The Middle” was inescapable on the radio at that time and I, as a newly-minted drivers’ license holder and the occasional borrower of my mom’s van spent a lot of time in the car, driving my friends around. The song is extremely catchy and very upbeat, and one of the lyrics is what I want to impart to you today:
It just takes some time
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything'll be just fine
Everything, everything'll be alright, alright
It’s not Shakespeare, I know. But it’s effective: to this day, if I’m feeling down, a listen or two of “The Middle” will improve my mood. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, chances are you’re at the point where you’re pretty tired. Your wrists probably hurt. You’ve been drinking too much coffee (stop doing that! Go hydrate!) You’ve come to hate your protagonist, and all of your supporting cast, and you think the world you’ve built is stupid.
I’m here to tell you that all of that may be true, and yet you should persevere. Even if what you’re writing is bad—and much of it likely is—that’s all right. Almost every published work of all time ends up sucking in its first iteration. All you have to do is follow the wise words of Mr. World Eater up there, and take some time. There’s an Ira Glass quote that makes the rounds from time to time that I think is very applicable here:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
This is applicable to more than just the arbitrary nonsense project that is NaNoWriMo. This advice applies long after November is done. By perseverence, you can close the gap between your taste and your talent. Think of this time—if you’re committing to it—as an opportunity to build writing into your daily routine. Even if you are only hitting 300 or 500 words a day, every little bit helps. And regardless, everything, everything will be alright.
As promised, this week’s worksheet tackles our suggestions for how to get through the dreaded middle (beyond the perseverence I discuss in today’s AFN. You can read that here. And below are links to the previous weeks’!
Character (Week 2)
Plot (Week 1)
Rebecca Heyman and I will be doing an Instagram Live on Monday, 11/15, at 11AM ET! Keep your eyes on my Instagram for an opportunity to ask questions, or ask them in the comments to the newsletter/in a reply!
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, books? Is there something you want covered in this newsletter? Do you want to hear my feelings on the NHL’s tentative motions towards fashion? Leave it in the comments or in a reply to the newsletter!
THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY
The last few weeks have been a little depressing to be a hockey fan, and this article sums up the issues very succinctly. The league has no accountability to those who are harmed in its orbit, and players and fans alike are caught up in the NHL’s culture of silence hidden behind a “team first” mentality. And maybe little columns like this are part of the problem: how can I hold the league accountable, while still being excited that Alexander Ovechkin hit 600 assists and is about to move up the list of all-time goals scored? How can I care about the Penguins sexual assault situation and also Carey Price’s rehab and also lament that TJ Oshie is going to be in a boot for another few weeks? I don’t know, man. If you figure it out, let me know. Anyway, here’s Ovi and team dog Biscuit.
My COVID Disaster Wedding by Elizabeth Ann Brown (Slate)
The story of our marriage—not our relationship, just our legal marriage—has more plot than it has any right to. We’re talking hurricanes, an 18-wheeler fire, Pope Innocent III, and, of course, a pandemic. It was an “ain’t no mountain high enough” situation, but with more geopolitical strife and less of Marvin Gaye’s sanguine assurance that everything would work out in the end.
David Graeber: After the pandemic, we can’t go back to sleep (Jacobin Magazine)
At some point in the next few months, the crisis will be declared over, and we will be able to return to our “nonessential” jobs. For many, this will be like waking from a dream. The media and political classes will definitely encourage us to think of it this way. This is what happened after the 2008 financial crash. There was a brief moment of questioning. (What is “finance,” anyway? Isn’t it just other people’s debts? What is money? Is it just debt, too? What’s debt? Isn’t it just a promise? If money and debt are just a collection of promises we make to each other, then couldn’t we just as easily make different ones?) The window was almost instantly shut by those insisting we shut up, stop thinking, and get back to work, or at least start looking for it. Last time, most of us fell for it. This time, it is critical that we do not.
Time Loop Narratives Are About Love by katy (Vaulter 2.0)
Earlier I asked, why do we want consequences? What is it about meaning that matters? And even earlier than that, I gave you the answer. Love and growth. We like when things matter, because that’s how we grow, and that’s how we show love. Think about your favorite time loop narrative. How does the hero escape, alone or with help? If with help, who do they ask it from? Someone who cares about them? Someone they trusted enough to tell the truth to, or who was close enough to them that they knew something was wrong? If alone, how did they do it? Are they the same person coming out of the loop as they were going in? Yes, a lot of media is about showing people go through hardship and come out different. But there’s something special about the time loop narrative because it clearly shows how much love and growth matter.
Who Goes Nazi? | What David Graeber, ‘Age of Everything’ Author, Left Behind | When “cancel culture” means letting go | NFT Platforms have found their new worst enemy: Twitter t-shirt bots | Why most NFT art is so ugly | The Question We’ve Stopped Asking About Teens and Social Media | Walking the streets, looking for a long-lost madam
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.