Mid-Nanowrimo Update: Things I've Learned


Well... we're over halfway there and I'm way behind. Way way behind—but that's okay! I'm still determined to finish out the month strong even if that means finishing without making it to 50,000 words. So far amidst road trips, my husband falling sick with a three-day flu, work crises, deadlines and a plethora of unnecessary drama, I'm almost to 20,000 words. That's a lot for a little over two weeks—especially for this slow writer—but not for Nanowrimo. Excuses aside, I've already made a running list of reminders to myself as I attempt to press on:

ANXIETY KILLS WORDCOUNTS

I have anxiety. Mostly mild stuff but it can creep up on me when I least expect it—like when my husband brings home the flu: hello full-on panic mode. When my brain goes into a panic, it's working double time and all it can focus on is the anxiety, which is bad news for writing because it isn't going to happen. Not until the dust settles and that usually means late-night writing sessions where my brain is too tired to dwell on anything else. That brings me to item number two.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH FIRST

Sitting around all day eating nothing but junk for an entire month is going to make anyone feel less than their best, but health is mental too. There will be times when I have to step away and do what you have to do to deal with anxiety. I need to give myself those writing breaks and the freedom to put other things before my Nano project because it's not the first priority. I can't beat myself up if work or anxiety ruins a writing day—that will only put me in a bad place where writing becomes a toxic source of guilt and that, to me, is infinitely worse than missing my words count.

SHOW UP AND PUT UP

I schedule my writing time, but often I feel my attention drifting to other matters. I have several side projects that demand attention, but the real killer is finding myself adrift through the internet. When it's writing time, it's fingers-on-the-keyboard-eyes-off-pinterest-time. If I'm going to schedule the time to write, I'd better be writing. This is probably the best thing Nano can teach is the ability to shut out everything else and write.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR OWN PAGE

It's so easy to get discouraged when you're behind yet you see people put up 30k words in a day and finish at day three (If that is you, holy crap you're amazing. Don't let us slow-pokes stop you). But honestly, HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? Second, are there diapers involved? Third, and more importantly, is that even something I'd want to do? Nope. That's not me. I'm guessing that involves intensive prep and outlining and while I believe in prep, I'm pretty adamant about my headlights approach to outlining. I have an ending in mind and a time frame for the story, but that's all I need to get where I'm going. That's my method, but that's not everyone's method, and if I've learned anything in my 25 years of life, it's that comparison is the thief of joy. There are definitely times where I wonder if I'm doing it all wrong, but then I remember that no two authors walk the same road. The way of others is not my way, so I've been making sure to keep my eyes turned firmly ahead.

WRITE WITH RECKLESS ABANDON

There's a reason I don't outline my first drafts—it's because I love the pure exploration phase of a novel. I place my characters into a plot and then I see what happens. I can't let my characters act for themselves when I'm working with a rigid outline. Gosh, that sounds pretentious, but I need flexibility. Plotting aside, with writing this many words in a month, there is no time to sit back and chew on the phrasing of my sentences as I am oft to do outside of Nanowrimo. Here's what Nano has taught me over the years: be willing to let your first draft suck. Over and over, I've told myself "no one is going to read this." The first draft is for me and me alone.

HAVE FUN

The most important thing I've learned: it's not worth it for me if I'm miserable i.e. it's being a toxic source of guilt. So far, it's not. Writing is my love and my passion, but I don't need Nano to finish a novel. Nano, I do for the community and the joy of writing a story with others alongside me. I have a huge novel to edit when this is over so my primary goal besides getting to 50k words, is getting there without getting burnt out. I might be tired at the end, but if it's a burnout sort of tired it won't be worth it.

And that's all for now, because it's time to write. But first, what have you guys learned?