A week ago today, I embarked on the wild ride that is NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. This annual writing odyssey – during which participants challenge themselves to finish the entire first draft of a novel in just one month – occurs every November. I’ve known about this formidable challenge for a couple of years, but in previous years, I haven’t gone for it because I’ve been too busy arsing around / panicking / believing I couldn’t possibly do it / getting distracted by other things.
The novel idea I’m working on is one that has been in my head for about two years. I spent so much time going back and forth with it – changing my plans day by day, realising that certain things were never going to work, experiencing moments of intense self-doubt, putting the whole thing away for months on end and doing nothing to move the story forward – but now, at long last, I can say that I’m confident about where I am going with it.
In some ways, I wish I had done this so long ago, but that nugget of advice my mother shared with me in relation to my driving lessons – ‘there are no “shoulds” in life’ – comes to mind every time I berate myself too much. We never move forward until we are truly, 100% motivated to do so. Despite the well-intentioned urgings of my partner, my family and my friends, I never felt ready to simply sit down, banish my fears and complete this thing once and for all … until now.
I have a streak of pride within me that hasn’t always been a fantastic attribute, needless to say! I cringe a thousand times when people see me fail or mess things up. This month, however, I’m utilising that streak of pride to my advantage to try and get this novel done and dusted at last. In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I was reluctant to do my driving test more than once – I would much prefer to pass it on my first attempt and be done with it. I’m partially (well … mostly) motivated by not wanting to tell everyone that I failed the test. The prideful part of me can’t abide the very thought! 😉
This is why I appreciate the fact that the official NaNoWriMo website requires participating writers to set up a profile page that displays their total word count for all to see. This is helping me to stay on track – making sure that I meet or exceed my 1,667-word target as often as I possibly can – because I would be mortified by the idea of people looking at my profile page and seeing that I have failed to keep up with my planned trajectory. 😱
As I move through the #NaNoWriMo challenge, I have adopted this as my motto. I must keep reminding myself of it again and again … so I made this little poster to really drill it into my head!
I’m obsessed with spelling and grammar and making sure that everything sounds just right – I am an editor, after all – so I already have my work cut out for me this month, in terms of silencing the inner critic in my head and just allowing the words to flow.
Another thing that’s been helping me to maintain my momentum so far is my decision to play the game of the tortoise, not the hare. This is the method that works best for me.
I was in shock a few days ago when I heard that someone in my local NaNoWriMo online group had written 18,000 words on his very first day. Someone else in the group said that she, too, had been an extremely fast writer the previous year, but she would never recommend her method for racking up such a huge word count so quickly: drinking far too much coffee and getting almost no sleep, basically.
I value my health, my mental wellbeing and my family, personal and professional life too much to let NaNoWriMo obscure it all. While I have hit or exceeded the 1,667 word target most days so far (I fell about 200 words short one day, but compensated the following day by writing a bit extra), I’m also getting enough sleep and looking after myself. My immune system thrives on rest. If I push myself too far over a prolonged period of time, I tend to get quite ill. I don’t want to burn out. I want to have a healthy, happy, productive November. And for me, that means not allowing NaNoWriMo to become such an obsession for me that it completely takes over all other aspects of my life.
Slow and steady wins the race.
My first week has gone well and I’m maintaining a steady momentum so far – I have my fingers crossed that it will last!
Image Source: Global Digital Citizen