Ever since I became a writer, I have dreaded November. Not because of elections, though that is a legitimate reason. Not because of turkey-induced food comas. Not even because of Black Friday, which should terrify any rational person attempting to maintain a budget and reduce their carbon footprint.
No, every year I dread the coming of…NaNoWriMo.
Oh No, It’s NOvember
National Novel Writing Month is a torture device…err…a “productivity challenge”, designed to get authors to write more. The premise is this: spend every single day in November writing better than 1,500 words a day.
Every. Single. Day.
At the end of the month, you should have a 50,000 word manuscript – a first draft of a novel that did not exist at the end of October.
I know novelists who use NaNoWriMo every year to prep their next novel. They are tremendously gifted and driven authors, able to keep their eyes on the prize without wavering. They push through all distractions and arrive at November 30 glistening in literary sweat, holding aloft their manuscript in triumph.
And then, there’s the rest of us.
Is It Safe To Come Out Yet?
Every year, I have attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo. I have begun like a house afire, sometimes getting as far as 25,000 words into a new novel. And then, it happens. Real Life sets in. My writing schedule gets interrupted. My motivation wanes.
And I find myself on December 1, standing amidst the ruins of my lofty intentions, with nothing to show for it but aching hands and a pounding headache.
And sometimes a hangover.
But worst of all are the after effects. This drive (and failure) to create invariably leaves me drained and miserable, without the slightest motivation to create for weeks and even months at a time.
After NaNo 2018, I was unable to produce a coherent written thought for five months.
But, this year, things were different.
The Outcome Of Tragedy
As early as August, I was already flirting with the idea of not showing up for NaNo this year. Why bother?, was my prevailing thought.
Then September arrived.
September was, without a doubt, the worst month I have lived through in my 49 years on the planet.
I’ve recorded elsewhere the gigantic shitshow that was September of 2019, and will not retread it here. But so many deaths, in such a short period of time, did something to my brain. I was so overwhelmed by grief and anger that the creative process within me just…went away.
And I arrived at November 1st knowing I had not a single thing to say. So I didn’t even try.
30 days later, I feel nothing but relief at the absence of guilt over my failure to write a novel in a month.
Now, this isn’t for everyone. I know for a fact that NaNo remains a powerful tool in the arsenal of many other writers.
But accepting that I am not one of those writers has been nothing but a tremendous weight off my emotional shoulders.
Does this make me less of a writer, or even a good human being, than those who are able to succeed at this task? Maybe. But if my disability has taught me anything over the years, it is this: you should challenge yourself to overcome your perceived limitations. But you also need to accept your limits once you have found them, and look for growth in other directions.
And NaNo is a race I can’t finish. So I will look for other courses to run.
I am still healing, but at least I didn’t injure myself further this November.
So Ready For 2020,