The High Nanos
High Nano, where the mountains rise out of the foot hills.
Have you been there? I have, and I came back a different writer. No, really I did.
(This article is about NaNoWriMo)
In my first year of writing in nanowrimo , the annual writing marathon, I was proud of myself when I met the minimum daily word count needed to reach the goal of 50,000 words in one month. I tried ways to maximize that word count by fair means or foul and I felt very depressed when the word counter on the nanowrimo graph went back to 0 at midnight.
But as the nanowrimo years went on, and as I wrote my ‘real’ novels, spending years on one volume, making sure that what I wrote was who I am, I realized that I could actually write more during nanowrimo, and faster.
My final word count every November was usually around the 60–80,000 mark, but one year, a nanowrimo in another country enticed me into many many extra sprints.
He had a goal obviously and he wanted to meet it and whenever I was available on line, which was a lot because of the very dramatic and dangerous local circumstances in the country I lived in at the time, I missed out on many client sessions and many social events, sitting in my apartment alone, because I also consequently missed out on a lot of money..
So I wrote with him whenever I could. For the first time, I truly prioritized writing fast in my nano over everything else. And was completely bowled over by the intensity of the experience.
As I wrote, fast and furious, faster than my fingers would go, my mind started to extend even beyond my already quite well extended creative boundaries.
By that time I had written four books and developed several creative writing workshops. I had written full time and almostt full time.
So it wasn’t as if I didn’t know what I was doing. , and it certainly wasn’t that I had not crossed creative boundaries before.
It was just that extending myself in this particular way had never occurred to me.
But that month I tried it for the first time.
In a ‘normal’ nano month (not that there is really anything normal about nanowrimo), this effect already happens. Everything is accelerated. Everything flows in ways that can only happen when you allow your mind to go at its natural speed and not slow it down with doubts and corrections
But when I entered into High Nano I discovered that there is a whole other level that even I, having written professionally and full time for quite a while, didn’t know yet.
And that is this:
A very pure and very dynamic version of the ‘look only forward’ principle which is of course one of the main characteristics of the creative flow.
Even in the normal nanowrimo experience you don’t look back and don’t correct and enjoy writing badly, even writing badly doesn’t even enter into it any more.
But in the High Nanos, all those background thoughts and commentaries disappear completely.
I know what demons I had that prevented me from writing.
Now, I was writing at a speed and also at a frequency of sessions that pushed everything out of the way. My writing had become a great storm that blew everything out.
When you write and don’t stop, you quickly get pass the boundaries of your pre-pre-prepared ideas. All your internal conventions get blown out.
All the bits and pieces that just lie around, unused, in the attic and the cellar of in your mind store get blown out, too, a little later.
And then you just have tabula rasa.
That scares many people but luckily it always attracted me.
I like that tabula rasa feeling.
I am excited as to what comes to greet me.
As of course it inevitably does.
In the High Nanos this experience is multiplied. Squared. Exponentially.
You feel the wind blowing from your back. You are in the wind. You are the wind.
In the High Nanos you get to a point not just where your Spellcheck gives up on you — the famous message: ‘there are too many spelling mistakes in this document and spell check will therefore close down now’ is considered a badge of honour among those who have encountered this fabulous beast. Try to see if you can lure it out!
But the wind is still blowing you further.
Another powerful element you encounter in the High Nanos is exhaustion. Not just imaginative exhaustion but also pure energetic exhaustion. And that means that you have to write while not in possession of your full cognitive faculties. And that’s where the gold lies.
Your ‘correction and control’ faculties are the first to go. You simply don’t have the energy to keep them up any more.
The next thing that goes is your attachment to your ideas. You don’t clutch them to your chest any more. They are too heavy. You need to let them go.
Not your emotions, though. On the contrary, your emotions blow high with the wind! I think I’ve rarely experienced such high emotions as I have when I was writing in the High Nanos. I cried and and I laughed and I held onto nothing.
And then, at some point up there in the mountains of the High Nano, I started to write the book I didn’t know.
Something in my knew it, or knew the path there.
But I didn’t know that book. Yet. I may never have discovered it if I hadn’t written so much and so crazily.
Exhaustion makes you emotional as I know from the night shift.
Inhibitions get lowered. All that remains it the open flood gate of the creative mind. And that is really where it’s at.
I didn’t know and I would never have known about that other, further, absolutely mind blowing level of creativity from my unconscious mind.
Bottomless, endless, and unexpected.
When you write in the High Nanos, you get to a scary plateau where it seems that all ideas are written out.
It’s all empty in front of you.
But that’s exactly it.
You’ve burned through the preparation and also through the stuff stashed in both the cellar and the attic of your mind.
Then you write.
You write what only you can write.
Try it! At least once in your life.
(to be continued)…