Lessons in Writing From a Mouse

This mouse is my new guru. I came across it on Facebook and it has had me captivated for days, helped me rethink my approach to novel writing and reminded me of what’s important in life.

I’ve already shared this video on Facebook and included it in a post on my other blog, but this time it’s getting a post all of its own. The person who uploaded the video onto YouTube gave it the title of Never Give Up. But there’s another, and to my mind, more important message that we can learn from this mouse. If you haven’t already seen the video, just take a look at the mouse in action.

Notice that the mouse kept on trying and trying and getting nowhere. It must have used up a lot of energy doing the same thing over and over, and still it did not succeed. So it stopped. It retreated to a quiet place, away from the scene of its difficulty and it took a few moments. Now, I have no idea how mice consider things, but somehow that little one considered. Because when it came back it adopted an entirely different tactic, and this time it worked. After all that exhausting jumping, it turned out all it needed to do was walk!

I won’t go as far as to say that seeing this mouse was what made me stop and think about whether on not I want to carry on trying to churn out the words for NaNoWriMo, but it did help! Yesterday when I took a break and rethought my novel I got a much clearer idea of the plot and realised that I wanted to start the novel at a completely different point. From what I’ve read, it is fairly common to get rid of the first chapter of a novel, and I did that with one, but that wasn’t what it needed this time. Strangely, as I was thinking about the plot I remembered a suggestion someone made about my first novel, Drawings in Sand. I didn’t follow her suggestion for it, because almost everyone else liked the beginning as it was, and so did I. But her suggestion to introduce the character in a calm setting made sense for this one, and so that’s what I decided to do. Last night I wrote the new beginning, and for the first time since I started this novel, I really enjoyed the writing and wrote 500 words with ease.

I have decided that I am not going to push myself to do a certain number of words each day, just so that I can say I’ve written 50,000 words of drivel in a month. (It if I had carried on the way I was going it would be drivel.) Heck, even the NaNoWriMo website says that you can expect to write c**p, and that then you re-write. I do think this is a perfectly valid way to write, and I am not remotely criticising NaNoWriMo. But just because something works for you one time, doesn’t mean it then becomes a formula you should always use. For all we know that mouse might be a champion jumper-with-crackers-in-mouth. It might have Olympic gold in it. But its strategy wasn’t working this time.

When I did NaNoWriMo two years ago it spurred me on to work on a novel and took that novel in directions I had not planned. I sometimes felt as if wanted to rein it back in, but mostly I liked the way it was going. It excited me, and I could see that the plot worked, that I liked how the characters had developed. So I kept going. This time, I felt weighed down and exhausted by the writing, and not remotely excited by the direction it was going. This has been a great reminder for me, to trust how it feels to be writing. If it gives me energy then it’s good to go with the flow, and if the flow isn’t happening, then it’s good to reassess.

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is the knowledge that other people are doing it with you, and the sense of support that provides. I have not used the NaNo forums, nor have I met up with the local group, but my daughter does it too so we’ve spurred each other on in times past. This year, Cyndi, who blogs at Pictimilitude, has launched YeRoWriteO, a group where members will support each other to write a book over the course of a year (and it doesn’t have to be a novel.) For some, that is just so much more manageable.

I might yet complete NaNoWriMo  this November, but if I do, it will because the words flow, not because forced myself.


  1. Doncha hate it when you have this great comment all pretty and written and then it just goes POOF, never to be seen again? The second time around probably won’t be as good.
    Okay…let’s see.
    That little mouse is a great lesson in persistence and “finding another way.” Yes, you’re right about NaNo – not a criticism – but the thought of 50,000 words of drivel only to have to go back and edit? The very thought is mind boggling. I’d rather take my time and drastically reduce the amount of drivel in the first place. Then, editing won’t be such a chore. At least for me. Haha.
    So, with that, I’ll walk, like the mouse. I’ll let you know if I enjoy the cracker. 😉

    1. It worked this time Cyndi!
      I can hardly believe I’ve fallen in love with a mouse, but seems I’m not the only one…
      I think Nano does work sometimes for some people, but it really has to feel right and not forced and exhausting. How we do things is as important as what we do. It certainly sounds as if NaNo is not right for you at this time.
      And yes, do let us know if you enjoy the cracker! (I love that analogy!)

  2. I like your thoughts yvonne and I am with ya gf’s.

    Last year I burnt the midnight oil however the fruit the was a success. This year wanna ponder on my topic and savor the moment.


  3. Ruchira, savouring the moment is SO important. If we don’t do that, what’s the point in any of it really? This moment is all we ever have really. We can’t be happy or successful at some time in the future, it can only happen now. We can still make plans, but if those plans for the future cause us stress right now, then it’s time to reassess.
    Thanks your comment.

  4. Pingback: Find Your Own Writing Process | Yvonne Spence

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