World's Oldest Fledgling

The blog of Stephanie Wardrop, Y A Author

NaNoWriMo No More?

on November 5, 2013

Image Everybody knows that November begins the holiday season, and, along with it, seasonal anxiety. Many of us, though we know better, nonetheless  try to live up to some Hollywood-produced expectation of the perfect holiday during which the family sits around a long dinner table groaning with delicious food, chatting happily and in harmony. Everyone gives – and receives – the perfect holiday gift, heralding that the approaching New Year to be the best one ever. That never happens, but each year many of us remain neurotically, delusionally, damagingly hopeful, only to be let down later.

So I’m letting myself off the hook this year.

I’ll still try to find the perfect presents for my loved ones, hope for a cordial gathering at a table or two, and accept that my New Year’s rockin’ Eve will be spent at home, as usual, and I’ll probably be asleep when the magic that will be 2014 officially commences.  But I’m giving myself a break regarding another seasonal nerve fray-er: NaNoWriMo.

If you’re a writer – or striving to be one – the Season of Anxiety begins not at the end of November with Thanksgiving but at the end of October with the advent of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month . it officially  begins November 1st but people start gearing up for it in September.  I used to kind of hate NaNoWriMo.  And not just because I still harbor an adolescent hatred of anything that seems to be imposed on me by unseen collective forces, or because each year, barely three days in, I would already find myself woefully, irretrievably behind.

I’m letting myself off the hook because, frankly, I put enough pressure on myself, and this year,with two deadlines looming, I would have no chance in hell of writing an entire novel in thirty-one days, even if I never slept and called in sick every day or gave my students a month-long “group project” that involved their coming to class but working quietly and not bothering me as I typed away.

I’m letting myself off the hook because I always wanted to be a writer in part because  I liked the idea of being an iconoclast, someone who doesn’t jump on the bandwagon just because it’s rolling through my town. And I know that writers, solitary as they are in their work, need a sense of community to sustain them, and NaNoWriMo provides that for everyone who signs up, all over the globe, and allows us to compare notes and progress and cheer each other on. And  I love this part.  But because I am still, in large part deep inside, that neurotic teenager convinced that everyone else is spending their Saturday nights at some awesome party somewhere while I watch The Love Boat and make fun of it, I don’t need the constant posting and tweeting and general measuring of word counts. Having let go of NaNoWriMo this year, I can truly say to those who signed up that I’m really glad that you’re at the party, and I’ll get there, eventually. I’m just going to be fashionably late, like, say, December-ish, when my semester dies down?

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If  there is somebody else out there flagellating themselves when they don’t get the desired number of pages or words written each day, let me be the first to tell you It’s okay. You can still finish your novel, this month, even, and novel writing has always seemed more like a marathon than a sprint to me.  Some novels are just going to take longer than a month to draft and maybe yours is one of them. You’re not a big old loser if you don’t finish until January, or whenever.  What matters is that you get there.

It’s hard to find the time to write. Believe me, I get that.  I’ve been stealing scraps of time for revision so much lately that I keep thinking about William Faulkner at work in the post office in Oxford, Mississippi, closing the customer service window while people were trying to buy stamps because screw them, he had a novel to write. (And a really good one, too). But I am more Stuart Smalley than William Faulkner at heart, Maybe you won’t find enough time to write this month, and that’s okay.  stuartSmalley If NaNoWriMo motivates you to do close that metaphorical window on reality and write write write,  then go for it!  Just don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your goal. There’s no finish line here, no ribbon to run through that will be packed away on December 1st. It will feel just as good to write those final words a month or two from now.

Maybe I’m a quitter, or the cheerleader for the under-achievers. Maybe I’m the Julie McCoy of the new millennium, Cruise Director of the Lazy Boat. But I don’t think so.  I know I felt a lot less pressure – and a lot more like writing – when I got that NaNoWriMo monkey off my back.  I support all writers who dive in to NaNoWriMo with a gusto that I just can’t afford right now. And for anyone else who is lagging behind in the word count department, take heart. Maybe we’re the tortoises to their hares. We’ll catch up – maybe even triumph – eventually.

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One response to “NaNoWriMo No More?

  1. salarsen says:

    Gosh, can I relate to you here. Geesh… (Yet another thread weaving writers together.) I did my own personal NaNo, last November – rewriting a manuscript, which my agent subbed at the end of this summer. You might say I’m doing the same, this year. I’m finishing up an MG manuscript for my agent to send out, while completing a story for a steampunk anthology. Goal: complete all by November’s end. Oh, and I have to do that holiday shopping too! Best of luck to you with that.

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