Sometime at the beginning of 2023, a little seed took root: I should do NaNoWriMo. It’s a milestone birthday year and thus everything is a little more visceral, a little more real … and a little more insistent as time ticks forward that there’s a whole lot less of it left for me to GSD (get shit done).
Come September, that little seed pushed through to bud the full-fledged goal that, yes, I am doing NaNoWriMo. I start to tell people that it’s a goal. That’s when the negative self-talk really kicks in. That little self-saboteur is a loud mother.
With over 25 stories started and on permanent holiday in my iCloud, it’s crystal clear that finishing them is the problem. Doing this challenge is a solution.
Finish a story—any story.
So, here we are, halfway through the last month of the year, and: I’m doing it. With a romance novel, no less. Do I dare say that out loud? It’s also—wait for it!—a Christmas romance. Because ... Hallmark, and I’m also a screenwriter with a marketing background who’s heard all the things about IP. Yet right off the bat, I’m judging myself on the genre I’ve chosen for this very serious endeavour. There’s, like, real literature being produced this month. I don’t even use my name as my handle on the official website. Not just because of my chosen project. It’s because that would make it real.
And real means the really scary probability of failure.
Saying you’re doing NaNoWriMo is met with exactly two reactions from the majority: What the hell is that? and Wow, you’re brave *if* you manage to complete it. But maybe that second half isn’t a real reaction but actualized self-imposed doubt. That dark side of the soul. The one that already told me before November first even rolled around that I was probably not going to hit the official 50k words in a month goal.
For those of you in the first what the heck is NaNoWriMo camp:
You set your 50k goal for the thirty days of November, and you write ’til you hit that. The stats are the scariest. Day number one, they showed me without kudos or judgement that I wouldn’t be finished writing my novel until May 2024.
Well, that’s not November 30th now, is it.
Talk about a wake-up call to my status quo when it comes to writing “my own stuff.” I’m a copywriter and part-time script consultant—my writing takes a backseat to the Day Job. So, I know … but I didn’t know.
Note to self: In the next life, get a day job that doesn’t require the same skills as your dream job so that you have creative energy left to do your dream job.
There’s no hiding from the cold hard truth of the your daily stats—would you like to track your daily word count failure in graph or table format?—but there is also an incredible community to soften the days when those stats are basically in the toilet along with the knowledge that thousands of writers around the globe in different times zones are partaking in the same madness you are.
Also Day One: I print out my favorite quotes and encouraging texts from my little fractioned-off NaNo group and frame them for my physical desktop.
Then, on the seventh, I receive a “Lucky number 10 (percent!)” email. I don’t know it’s coming, and I’m tempted to file it to read another day because I don’t know what it contains—turns out, it was worth opening in the moment because as behind as I am on my overall word count, I’m 10% done with a full novel one week in. What do I normally accomplish in a week towards my writing goals? Not that, let me tell you.
It’s surprisingly motivating to see that hard stat and also a nudge to do more things in the moment. I don’t even care at that point that my daily word count needs to be higher moving into week two if I have any hope in achieving my overall goal of 50k.
But I realize no matter what, I’m giving my goals my all.
This isn’t work I owe a client—it’s work I’ve been owing myself for the last 25 years, around the time I first decided to tell anyone I was going to be a writer when I grew up.
They say there’s freedom in creativity. NaNoWriMo is teaching me there’s a freedom in discipline which allows that creativity to unleash as well. I may be lightyears behind, promising myself tomorrow is the day I’ll catch up. Or at least hit my ‘new’ daily word count. I’m also strangely proud. I’ve been writing daily for the entirety of November thus far, and this odd inner optimist I’ve discovered lives right next door to my self-saboteur, making itself very comfortable in the same place my story ideas come from in the first place.
We’re halfway through now—through the month, through NaNoWriMo, and I’m one part feeling like this is never going to happen and okay, now that we’re in the home stretch it’s really time to buckle down. I can do this. Do I want it to be November 30th and have not written the 50k words I planned? No. Because for maybe the very first time, the only opinion of my accomplishment that matters, is mine. I can’t let myself down.
My NaNo Rules For November:
- Hydrate. Never underestimate the power of having three different vessels holding three different beverages on the desk.
- Try something new. If one way of writing isn’t working, schedule it differently, try a new location, whatever it takes to kick-start the motivation.
- Say no to life more. This is not the month to live, it’s the month to write. This includes limiting my social media scrolling.
- Most importantly: do not give in to that seductive inner voice whispering, “It’s okay, at least you wrote every day. That’s an accomplishment for you in itself.” Because, is it?! Or is it just me letting myself off the hook. Halfway in and I achieved a goal I didn’t even know I had: get into the routine of writing daily.
Now, it’s time to raise the bar.
See ya’ll at the finish line.
*Feature photo by Jacob Of Rugged Branch (Pexels)