Failure is such a strong word, but that is what I did. At the beginning of the month, I was so ready for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I had been looking forward to it all year. I fell behind on the first day, but I told myself that I would catch up, and so I kept writing. Until I didn’t.
This was my third year as a NaNoWriMo participant, and the first year I lost. Instead of 50,000 words, I wrote a whopping 5,123.
I’m kind of okay with this. I need to stop putting myself under so much pressure for things that should be fun. But three factors had a hand in my result (or lack thereof):
I placed too much stock in motivation, and not enough in determination. Sure, I was motivated to write my novel, but that doesn’t take you far if you don’t have the same amount – or more – of determination. For the past two years, I had that motivation. This year, I let too many things get in the way of my writing.
I chose an emotionally overwhelming topic. Usually, the novels I write are fantasy or adventure. This year, I had chosen to write a creative nonfiction piece that focused on a beloved relative that passed some years ago. I plan to finish the novel eventually, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it this month.
I focused too much on the environment around me. This past month has felt like a new tragedy was happening every day, and I let that feeling overwhelm my writing. To heal, I turned to books already written.
But there are lessons I have learned. First, I now know the importance of sticking to a writing schedule, no matter what. Second, I need to put my own mental and emotional health first. I chose a topic that I wasn’t ready to take on for 1,667 words every day for a month.
And the most important lesson of all? Writing a novel doesn’t just have to happen in November. I can now continue this novel at my own pace, when I can emotionally handle it.
Community is another lesson worth reflecting on. The first two years I won, I surrounded myself with a group of people doing the challenge too. Two years ago, I searched out the NaNoWriMo forums and hashtags and participated in them almost every day. Last year, I gathered the courage to go out and participate in local meet-ups. This year…I didn’t open the NaNo Twitter hashtag, I didn’t seek out friends when I stopped writing, and I stopped logging into the website. If I had remained involved, even at the very least on social media, I most likely would have written more.
There were many good things writing-related that happened this month. I have almost finished a poem I’ve been working on for months, I submitted a few pieces to a new press, and I made a list of presses I want to submit to next year. On top of that, most of the material I actually wrote was for my last class of grad school.
This month went by so fast, and I wish I could rewind the last thirty days to start this challenge over. But at least I now have the basic structure for this novel, and I also have last year’s novel I can work on, as well. This is not the end of the world.
This year’s NaNoWriMo was not without the good bits. I have more time to research and plan. I now have 5,000 words to build from, and I’ve finally started a project that’s been on my mind for over a year. That’s something to celebrate in itself.
Though I did not win the challenge, I walk away from this month with the start of a new novel, and the start of a new writing journey.