Write, Your Way—NaNoWriMo, or NaNoNuh-Uh
The other day someone sent me a Facebook invite to be in a NaNoWriMo group. This was my reaction.
Once upon a time I was all over NaNoWriMo. It gave me the novel Double Blind, which is still my favorite book of mine I’ve written. I loved the fever dream writing was that year, how intense and crazy-fast everything about that novel happened. I’d participated in NaNoMWriMo before, but that was my first year I joined a local chapter, and it was also the first year I was published. Everything was exciting and wonderful, and I swore I’d always participate in the novel-in-a-month adventure.
I did participate for several years–up until the last year, in fact. For most of that time, I was always the one in my region people chased, because I wrote so much so fast. But I have to tell you, with each passing year, the thrill fizzled and faded until participating became a chore. The rigid strictures of the program made my teeth set on edge, particularly since I knew a lot of them were bad ideas for me. It was difficult to organize my writing schedule so I could start a new novel exactly on November 1 and finish it by the end of the month. It played merry hell with my holidays, screwing up Thanksgiving and making Christmas a mad, insane rush.
There are so many things wrong with NaNoWriMo for me right now. To start, 50,000 is on average halfway through a novel for me. I don’t write short, so to finish the book I have to double-time it. Also, my muses have a decided preference for writing in fits and starts, putting down books sometimes for weeks or months or sometimes years. Sometimes I can push through, but that usually makes messes and always wears me out to the point I begin to seriously hate what I’m working on. The sprints never worked for me either, because sometimes sitting and staring at a screen, not writing for three hours, is the most important writing I do. The idea I could show up at a write-in and produce words on demand usually meant I only produced garbage or that I had to deal with angry, upset muses for three months after the close of the event.
But the above gif sums up how I feel about NaNoWriMo because I still want to participate. I love the camaraderie of a writing group. I love the little badges and progress bars. Most of all I really want to write my novels faster and in one sitting. So for me saying no usually means putting my head down and not looking while other people have the fun I wish I could be having but know I shouldn’t. Like everyone else is eating the birthday cake, and I know I really can’t, because it’s filled with allergens, but it still sucks to watch. And going to write-ins or “sort-of” participating feels exactly like being at a party full of wheat products. It’s hard not to eat them, even though if I do I know I’ll be sorry.
So I’m officially participating in NaNoNuh-Uh this year. I don’t have a badge or a progress bar. I also don’t have a plan besides writing a book I’ve been trying to write since August. I did my own kind of nudge, commissioning a cover, marrying a title, making a playlist. I even whispered an admission of my goal on Twitter, and now here. But that’s it. I want to have the book finished and out as soon as possible. But I might not get it out until March or later. I want to write all the series books on my to-do list, but I might not get to any of them next year.
I want to get the fire I used to have, able to write 50k in one week, sometimes. I miss that so much sometimes I cry about it. I’ve spent most of this year sick, scared, frustrated, and mourning things I didn’t know I needed to mourn. I’m weeding my way slowly through the truth that menopause is hard on creativity, that losing those hormones means learning a new brain, and that when those hormones are ripped violently from you in one surgery, the transition is brutal. I may get that production fire back, and I may have to accept I never will, that everything will be slower now.
There’s also the gnarly part that wasn’t there for the glory of NaNoWriMo 2009: back then, nobody knew who I was, and my published novel hadn’t come out yet. I have over twenty books under my belt now, and I’m blessed with a large following of readers. When I sit down to write, I can’t escape the knowledge of who I’m writing for, which means I always worry about disappointing them. I worry what other people are thinking about my work and my career, even though I know that’s not helpful. Especially when I’m not producing the way I want to and negative thoughts creep in. I can get those things out of the way, even when I’m not feeling my best. But that takes energy and focus too. And it demands its own schedule, it’s own pace. Which is pretty much never the pace of NaNoWriMo.
This November I’m writing. For thirty days I’m going to put my focus on Enjoy the Dance, a sequel to Dance With Me. I might finish it before Thanksgiving. I might only have a chapter by the first of the year. I will absolutely not write 1600 words every day. I will absolutely only work minimally the week of Thanksgiving so I can focus on creating a huge, wonderful celebration for my family. I’m not going to chart or report my progress anywhere, unless I feel like doing that will be okay for my production. I’m not letting pressure of what I should be doing or need to do get in my way. I’m just going to show up and write. Or stare at the screen, or listen to the soundtrack while I fold laundry.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you nothing but luck and good wishes. If you don’t want to participate, I wish you luck and good wishes too. If you want to participate but know it’s a bad idea for you, I give you luck, good wishes, a huge hug, and a space beside me at the NaNoNuh-Uh virtual write-in.
If you’re feeling down and overwhelmed about your writing or your career, give yourself permission to create at the pace that works for you. Remember the time you felt the euphoria, and accept both that you can have it again–and that it will very likely not look the same as you remember.
A career in writing is a caucus race. It goes round and round in circles. Sometimes you will laugh and twirl as you run, and sometimes you’ll be so tired you have to step aside. Remember the only way to win is to participate—at the pace which suits you in the moment you join the dance.