The Halfway Hump

I figured I’d update you all on my progress sooner than this–but I’m not surprised why I’m only here now. I haven’t written anything today. (Please ignore for the moment I’m an afternoon-evening-night kind of writer, so it’s not late enough in the day for this to be atypical yet.) And yesterday? My smallest wordcount all month. Yes, I was riding a night of no sleep, I had work and a workshop and they both overlapped, and I was preoccupied by math and hexaflexagons all day, but I wrote fewer pages than I had on any other day all month.

And the worst part is I didn’t care.

It’s happened. It always does. The Halfway Hump.

I speak of this primarily in the context of NaNoWriMo, but in theory it can be generalized to apply to all human endeavors. To truly grasp just what has happened, I wish to share with you some of the random snippets I’ve posted on Facebook so far this month in regards to NaNoWriMo. It will say lot–in many ways.

  • Nov. 1: So the Astralian (a living star. Literally) was supposed to become his pet, but instead he’s become it’s eternal servant. And I still have two pages to reach today’s quota! #NaNoWriMo
  • Nov. 3: Is it so wrong, I ask you, that I’m writing my novel the way I’d like to play a good video game? My physically weak protagonist was thrust into a war much larger than himself, then he met a hunter-warrior who, with a bit of fanfare, joined his party, and now–now they’re venturing forth to find a healer to join them. Ah… All those years playing Golden Sun, Final Fantasy, and Tales of Symphonia have finally payed off! #NaNoWriMo
  • Nov. 3: No…! The wordcount updater isn’t working! What will I do? … How about present a nasty little tongue twister care of this year’s story? I bet you can’t say “Bjorn stabbed the skewered squirrels’ sticks” three times fast! #NaNoWriMo
  • Nov. 4: Gotta love it when a child of Darkness appears and starts throwing poison darts at you while you’re trying to get some shut-eye. #NaNoWriMo
  • Nov. 5: I’ve got it! My novel is totally the Lord of the Rings meets Percy Jackson! #NaNoWriMo
  • Nov. 6: Best name ever: Farsuthe. #NaNoWriMo
  • Nov. 8: Note to self: “Pussy” and “pus-like” are not interchangeable. #NaNoWriMo
  • Nov. 11: ** Bjorn has left the party. ** And then… my story broke. I feel like I’ve got the right direction, but… It just isn’t working. Introducing a new character in chapter eleven is awkward, but I feel like it’s time he arrives. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.
  • Nov. 12: My story’s finally back on track! But I’m a little concerned about it now… every time I try to write someone evil… I feel… excited. IS THAT SO WRONG? #NaNoWriMo

This is more than a list of random statuses, and we needn’t have any experience in statistical analysis to derive meaning from it. Let’s look at the first few posts: They came quickly, full of enthusiasm and excitement. Then they began coming less frequently, questioning and contradicting myself. Finally, they were doubtful, sporadic, showing signs of periodic motion as equilibrium was slowly lost.

And now I’m here. The Halfway Hump.

It happens every year, and so I’ve come to expect it, not berating myself when it arrives, but accepting that I need a low-word day rich in distractions to get back on track–and that’s okay. So, if really it does always happen, and if I indeed have witnessed it happen to others, why? And is there anything we can do to avert it?

Let’s begin with a model.

The Typical NaNoWriMo Experience (Enthusiasm vs Time)

If you take some sin and the natural number e, you get this lovely sine.

It’s easy now to see precisely what happens at the Halfway Hump. We begin with high enthusiasm and motivation, but after that peak, it slowly wanes until we reach the bottom. On the bright side, now that we have made it halfway, we are propelled forward with rising excitement to reach the end–and at the end, we have once more attained peak pleasure and enthusiasm. This persists partly through the month of December when TGIO parties and read-ins occupy our time, but soon the holidays and offseason reduce our NaNoWriMo enthusiasm indefinitely.

It seems, once I put it into a picture, the amount of words needed to explain the Halfway Hump completely dropped off–and during November, anything that reduces your wordcount is not typically ideal–but since this is not my novel, it is neither here nor there, and given you’re probably coming off the hump yourself, the fewer words with which I retain you, the better.

So what to do once we’re here?

Obviously, time will cause us to recover–but we must remain proactive. Hands held at a proper angle above the keyboard or pens properly gripped with non-life-threatening force will help shorten the duration of your particular experience. Writing regularly, even with low levels of motivation, will indeed cause you to push past this point in your story onto better days–or at least help alleviate feelings of being behind.

What do I do? I give myself a chance to reboot. I allow myself that one day to be subpar, but then I get back to it. I see my goal is in sight, I pace a lot, talk a lot to myself about what’s going to happen next, and then I go for it. I make myself copious amounts of tea, and being that I’m usually not writing, I drink more tea than usual (typically, it sits there while I’m in my own little world until it’s cold–then I drink it quickly). If necessary, I even make myself some strong earl grey, a ritual I use to bring in the NaNo and perform to revive it.

But you? You should try finding your own rituals–mine are not guaranteed to work for you as well as they work for me. Whatever you do, do not despair or lose hope. We are all right there with you and we will climb out of this massive plot hole together. Are you willing to join me? Then take my hand–or my power cord. Currently, my hands are little full with my computer in one hand and some tea in the other. I’m sure you understand.

Keep calm, my friend, and write on.

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