The writer sits down in front of his computer. His phone has run out of batteries; the dishes are washed; the laundry is done. He has fed the cat, and the kids are asleep. There is nothing preventing him from getting on with that #NanoWriMo novel, except for anxiety and writer’s block.

He stares at the screen. The screen stares back at him. He rereads what he wrote the night before. Complete drivel. He had stopped the previous incoherent, stream of consciousness session of inane babble at particularly difficult plot point, and, having slept on it, and having gone through an entire day taking care of his two kids, he is no closer to resolving the conundrum than he had been the night before.

He briefly considers summoning Mephistopheles, which, if the texts he’s read are any indication, would be significantly easier than resolving that plot issue, but considers whether his immortal soul is worth the paltry reward. Surely, there are better things to ask of the devil, and if this month so far is any indication, he does not relish the prospect of spending eternity in writing hell staring at the blank page on the screen.

The writer’s shoulders slump a bit further. How is this even possible? He already has the weight of the world on them. He turns, first to one side and then to the other and sees two metaphysical beings that have appeared, perhaps conjured through the mere act of thinking about the Marlow play, within shouting distance of his ears.

“What’s the point of nano anyway?” the first one says. “It’s not conducive to your writing style. How are you going to keep yourself from editing as you write? You love to rework sentences. Just now, you rewrote the previous paragraph three times before moving on to this one. I know; I was in your head when you were doing it. There is no way you’ll be fast enough to finish something like this. Face it: you’re doomed to fail before you even start.”

“Don’t listen to him,” the voice on the other shoulder retorts. “This will be good for you. It will force you to get out of your own head a little. Your process is so tortured, no wonder your blood pressure is high. Let you hair down, and just write what comes. It will be fun.”

“Ha!” the first voice responds. “Like he could ever. 1700 words a day—not going to happen. Look: we’re a week in, and you’re already behind. Go to your web browser for a minute. Good. That document will still be there when you get back (it’s not like you’ve written anything in it today, anyway). See that ‘success line’ on the bar graph? It’s already trending away from your ‘words written’ line. You’re digging yourself a hole. A deep one.”

“Don’t look at that graph. Look at the days written chart. You’ve written every day this month. Every. Single. Day. You haven’t done that in a long time.”

“Not enough.”

“You’ll get there. You’re just hitting your groove. 1100 words a day is great. Any other month, and you’d be thrilled with that output.”

“My point exactly,” the first voice cut in. “You’re writing more words per day than you’ve ever written, and you’re still falling short. It’s unlikely that you’ll increase that by enough each day to get this thing done.”

“Of course you will. The main thing is to develop the habit. 1100 words this week, 1600 next week. More on the weekends, probably. And, even if you don’t finish, so what? You’ll have developed a habit that will keep you writing throughout the year.”

“Yeah, a habit that’s unhealthy and unsustainable. You’re snacking too much, and not working out. You’ve put on five pounds since Halloween, and we’re only a week in. You had better get that novel done quickly, because, if you don’t, you’ll likely by dead in five years anyway. Put the computer down and take care of yourself.”

“Oh, nonsense.” The second voice sounded exasperated. “You’re just getting used to it. You’ll adjust and get back to exercising and eating well.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Look, this will be good for you. It’s about discipline and time management. Exercising, diet, proper sleep. Writing. Work on the behavior. Learn some will power. Once you develop one habit, it will be easier to develop the others. This month, you have an excuse to develop the writing habit. Get that one down. The others will come.”

“Writing, working out, eating well, sleeping—when will it end? Managing your social media, updating your blog—you’ve written 768 words here, about this nonsensical fantasy instead of putting them into your nano wip. You can’t afford that.”

“Actually, I agree,” the second voice chimes in.

“Wait, what?”

“Take the 800 some odd words in this blog and add them to the 1100 you’re going to write later tonight, and that’s your daily total right there. Stop procrastinating. Get off the blog, and write.”

The voices go quiet. The writer listens to their silence for a minute or two, shakes his head, opens his document, and types the first words of his nanowrimo session for the day.

Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on twitter and facebook.

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