NaNo is the Hour of Our Discontent

It’s October, which means we have officially entered spoopy month–time for scary movies, pumpkin spice lattes, and dressing up in the comfort of your own home because there’s still a pandemic on and we’re not going to any parties anytime soon, right Karen?!

But for writers, it’s Preptober, which precedes NaNoWriMo, which, if I can speak for myself, is 200% scarier than Halloween.

Me, taking one look at the daunting challenge ahead

For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo (a catchy abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month, which is November) is an annual event and competition in which writers strive to write a complete novel (or the equivalent of 50,000 words) in a mere month. If this sounds like a fun, amazing time, I’m very happy for you and also where do you get your enthusiasm from, can I have some, please?

If this sounds like a rollercoaster of high emotion and stress, you have come to the write (heh) place.

I participated, unofficially, in NaNo way back in the good ol’ simpler days of 2013. I won–I met the goal of starting and finishing a whole ass book–with a modern-day reimagining of The Hobbit as a spy thriller (was it cool? Yes. Was the execution good? Absolutely not. Am I ever going to rewrite this project to salvage it? I have six million other things to do first, but boy would it be nice at some point.)

So…many words…that I have to write…

I have not attempted NaNo since then, for various reasons involving the lack of personal motivation, declining mental health, as well as the fact that up until recently I worked in retail, where October through December is literally the busiest time of the year with no days off. But every year, like clockwork, as I hear about people getting hype about NaNo as we approach November, I get serious FOMO. More than once, I made it a New Year’s resolution to participate this year for sure, OK, I promise.

Staring down at the people getting their lives together and doing NaNoWriMo like god I wish that were me

2020 has very manifestly NOT been the year for me being my most productive self. And yet, again, like clockwork, people are out here prepping their manuscripts and filming vlogs and engaging in the writing community with other authors excited for this challenge… and like a glutton for punishment, I’m back to considering doing it.

YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE! HetPat perches on the edge of my mind-palace desk like a haggard demon cat, armed as always with a Mary Poppins bag full of insults and insecurities. YOU ALREADY HAVE COMPLETED OUTLINES FOR ALL YOUR PROJECTS! YOU HAVE MORNINGS BEFORE WORK THAT YOU CAN USE TO WRITE INSTEAD OF SLEEPING IN LIKE YOU DO EVERY DAY! YOU HAVE WEEKENDS YOU COULD USE TO WRITE INSTEAD OF DOING NOTHING LIKE YOU DO EVERY DAY!

Touché, you slimy little piece of garbage.

It’s true that I have no shortage of projects to choose from, and yeah, technically if I truly committed to this endeavor I do have the time where I could make it happen. But my brain is so fundamentally binary that I never see my own progress–if I don’t start a thing and then finish it and have a completed end product in my hands, I see it as an abject failure. If I don’t succeed at writing a whole novel in November, it doesn’t matter the work I put into it, if I don’t “win” and finish it in time, I consider it a complete wash.

Contrary to HetPat’s claim that WHAT’S THE POINT OF DOING SOMETHING IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO FINISH IT AND WIN, I have been informed that this might, perhaps, be untrue.

Some writers thrive under strict deadlines, like the ones NaNoWriMo imposes. Others flourish on their own timeline, refusing to be held to outside constraints. I have been both of these people over the years, as I’ve struggled with finding the Writing Process That Works For Me. Don’t know if I’ve found it yet, it’s been a whole wild trial and error journey.

Bold of you to assume I can stick to self-imposed deadlines

do have a consistent work schedule now though, which I didn’t used to have. So it is fully within my power to plan my days accordingly to make time to Write One of My Books (But Which One?)

Should it be the project that’s objectively closer to being coherently done and plotted out? Should it be the one I’m most excited to see as a finished product? Should it be the one I consider to be the most marketable?

Maybe by even putting this suggestion out into the universe I will convince myself to follow through with this challenge. Maybe just the act of publishing this post will motivate me to do this if only under the threat of public shaming.

…I feel like I’ve inadvertently committed myself to doing it now. Oops.

Quoth the raven: write some more

But hey, even if I “fail” the challenge, maybe someone reading this blog and following my journey will get something out of it, even if it’s a What NOT to Do During NaNoWriMo. #Education.

Because that’s what’s so great about the writing community–sure, we encourage and lift each other up in our successes, but there’s also plenty of support to go around for the failures.

So let’s drown HetPat out in a chorus of #NaNoFail, and #ITooAmAFraud, and #What’sImportantIsYouHadFunKiddo.

After all, perhaps the real NaNoWriMo is the friends we make along the way.

 

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