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Participant Pep Talk from Mary M.

photo of Mary

Hey, pal. You standing in the corner. You—yeah, the one who's kind of avoiding eye contact and pretending to be fascinated by your feet because you're behind. You're bored. You're frustrated at yourself and your story and your homework load.

Please—come on, now—smile. Breathe. Keep breathing; it's necessary for life. You, my darling, reckless writer, are going to be okay. 

You will finish the race and you will have run well, no matter what. You won't finish because you pat yourself on the back; you'll finish because you will carve out spare minutes and stray thoughts and write. You will make the time to do what you love.

Which is writing, by the way. 

Right now it doesn't feel like it. It's incredibly easy to quit, and it is equally tantamount that you do not quit. Write something, any little bit of a scene, that makes you fall head over heels in love with the magic of your story. No one in all the rings of galaxies and seacoasts has ever read this story, and no one ever will unless you sit down and write. Please write. Make every scene a love letter to the dreams you harbor; find that flame that made you start this wild ride in the first place, and if your novel has changed, then light a new fire and huddle by its warmth.

Why does this random person care if I write or not? you ask. Here's a new story for you: I have attempted NaNoWriMo every year since 2010, when I wrote an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink novella about a hunt for unicorn poachers. Surprisingly, it wasn’t worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, but I finished it. I wrote a book. And millions of people across the globe say that they will write a book someday, saying those words for weeks and decades as their hair grays and their somedays move further and further into the future, just out of touch, a graph never quite reaching its limit.

Honey, get with the program. You’re doing something most people in life never push themselves to do. So write. Write. Always write. I want you to take a chance. Perfectionism steals your joy and crushes the crazy, messy, absolutely fascinating process you’ve got going on. Maybe you won't win NaNo; maybe the word count will end up just out of reach. It's very, very possible, and it has happened to me. But if it's true for you on December 1st, then I am proud of you. You wrote. You loved a story, and that's what kept you writing. And there is so much value in that.

You are young and looking at the world with fresh and precocious eyes. Write with love, for yourself and your words and your fleeting world. Write. Do this—because NaNo is about telling a story, but that story isn’t just the one novel you’re writing at this moment. It’s so much larger than that. It’s the story of your brain, the story of your growth and development and maturity and tears. 

Keep writing, pal. You’ve got this. You’re telling the tale of a writer, and that story never really ends.

~Mary McColley is a seventeen-year-old writer from Maine who spends a lot of time staring at the sky. Her main hobbies are running, eating peanut butter, quoting Mulan, and being the section leader (read: monarch) of her flute pals in marching band. She is currently writing a book of poetry and prose on the theme of home. She wishes you the best of luck in your writing. Please bring honor to us all.

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