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Participant Pep Talk from Sydney W.

11:38 PM. November 30th, 2015. The lights are off. Everyone is asleep... except for one girl. The dim glow from her phone screen illuminates her face. Her fingers frantically dash across the keyboard. She has 22 minutes to write 3,706 words while plagued by the ever-present fear of her parents finding out she's awake and the dreaded ticking clock.

All she could think was, “Why?”

Why am I doing this? Why am I writing this piece of trash? Why did I subject myself to this torture? Why did I ever think I could do this? Why am I trying to write a novel in the month of November?

Motivation can be hard to come by, especially in the middle of the month. Some people say, "Just write! Get it over with! You'll get words down and feel better!" But I know that isn't always enough.

It's hard to "just write" when your plot is falling into a deeper and deeper pit. It's hard to "just write" when your character refuses to do what you want. It's hard to "just write" when life is busy or "just write" when you're convinced it's not worth it to write anymore.

So yeah, motivation is hard. It's something I've always struggled with, and if you're reading this I suspect you struggle with the challenge too. After years of failing to reach arbitrary self-set standards, I've acquired something that will help. That's why I'm writing this talk after all. It's a simple question. Ready? Are you sure? Okay. Here it is:

Why do you write?

Do you have a message to get across? A story to tell? A character who won't leave you alone? Or do you just love the challenge?

Whatever the reason, hold onto it like a life raft in the ocean of writing your novel. Write it down somewhere. Put it on a sticky note in your room. Scribble it down in a notebook that will never see the light of day. Set it as a reminder on your phone. Send it to yourself as a text message you'll never open. Hang onto it.

When you're drowning, when writing gets tough, when you get stuck and feel overwhelmed like the challenge is too much and you're falling apart, don't panic. Take deep breaths and remember why.

Look at the sticky note. Glance at the journal. Hear that reminder ping in your pocket. Check that text you sent to yourself and no one else's. Take a break. Get something to drink. Exercise. Eat. Come back. Write.

Motivation can be tough, but you can be tougher.

That one girl didn't finish her novel in time, in case you couldn't guess. She got close, sure, but not quite there. She didn't finish the year after that either. She didn't finish in that next November or when Camp NaNoWriMo rolled around the same year. But she keeps fighting. She has a story to tell and characters to release onto the world. 

She has a reason to keep going written all over her room.

photo of Sydney

Sydney is a fifteen year old living in Colorado and trying to survive high school. Despite what one may think, she does not ski or snowboard and would prefer to curl up inside with a good book and watch her dog frolic instead. She adores playing the piano, trying and failing at drawing, and the use of literary and rhetoric devices (especially anaphora, polysyndeton, and metaphor). Sydney is known as VivaLaPluto on the Young Writers Program site and hopes everyone will finish strong.

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