NaNoWriMo No More? - Month 1 Recap (Nov)

I did it! I wrote every single day for an entire month! I can honestly say that I’ve never ever done that before. Not even during past NaNoWriMo’s.


Does it feel pretty great? Yup! Am I shocked that I actually enjoyed it? You betcha!

This past month was filled with a lot of highs and a few lows. I expect to have many months like this. I also expect to have many months with a lot of lows and a few highs. And maybe some full of all highs or maybe all lows. After all, you’re bound to encounter mountains on your journey. That’s what keeps it interesting.


So what did I learn this month? Lots! But for my Month 1 November Recap, I’m going to talk about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).


This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve participated in NaNo. In past years, I’d spend the majority of my October binge-reading spooky books and looking forward to November 1st. I’d dream about all the words I’d write and how much progress I’d make in my latest WIP. And if I was really focused, maybe, just maybe, I’d have a complete draft.


Ha!


No, I’ve never “won” NaNo. To win, you need to write 50,000 words in the month of November. One year I got pretty close with 45,000. But most years, I just barely reached 30,000. However, I told myself that regardless of me “losing,” I was still writing way more words that month than I normally would. Which was true.


So you think I’d feel accomplished and pretty good about myself at the end of the month, huh?


Nopety nope nope.


Here’s what my past NaNo experiences have been in a nutshell:


October: Get super excited about November and how I would write ALL the things. I’d put so much faith in NaNo and what I’d accomplish next month, that I’d use that as an excuse to write very little in October.


November Week 1: Write, write, write. Check in with NaNo writing buddies and rejoice at all the words we were writing. Stay up super late, eat meals by my laptop, cancel all social commitments.


November Week 2: Write, write, write. Not stay up quite as late, but still way past my bedtime. Continue to eat while writing. Maybe go to a social event, but begrudge being there and away from my laptop. Cheer along with my NaNo writing buddies because we were totally going to win this thing.


November Week 3: Think about writing, write a little, avoid it a day or two or three. Burnout would knock on the door and sneak a foot inside. I’d finally catch up on sleep, but bemoan the fact that I wasn’t getting any words on the page. Check in with my writing buddies to discover we’d all taken a nosedive.


November Week 4: Write frantically, write manically. Try to catch up on words so I could “win,” which would result in me adding tons of filler words and elongating my sentences for no reason other than to up my word count. Stay up super late and skip meals.


End of NaNo: Major burnout. Major disappointment in myself for not getting more words in, for not winning. I’d see a couple (and I mean a very small handful) of other writers cheering about how they won. I’d cheer them on, while inwardly feeling miserable. Even though I’d gone into the month knowing I probably wouldn’t hit 50k, I’d still feel bad about myself for it. I wasn’t a loser, but according to my NaNo stats, yeah, I kinda was. This led me to spend days analyzing where it all went wrong, where I went wrong, which in turn, would lead to even more bad feelings and guilt.


December: Exhausted, I’d avoid my laptop for a whole week. Then, I’d take a look at my story and all the extra fluff I’d written and shake an angry fist in the air. Yes, I fully believe that first drafts should be exploratory messes. But my NaNo first drafts are always the worst; they’re not only sloppy, they’re an awful kind of rushed sloppiness.


So you’re probably thinking why in the world would I ever put myself through that? Why did I do NaNo all those years?


A few reasons.


1. Because I wanted to be part of a community. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. With NaNo, you can connect with buddies, go to meetups nearby, even do virtual write-ins. You feel like you belong to this cool club. Almost every writer I know knows about NaNo, so it’s a fun thing to talk about.


2. Because I wanted to push myself. NaNo forced me to be productive for an entire month. It’s nice to have a goal and work hard to achieve it.


3. Because I’d slacked off on writing so much during the rest of the year that I felt like I needed the kick in the pants NaNo provides.


Now we get to November 2020. The start of my Year of Writing challenge, which I purposefully planned to line up rather nicely with NaNo.


This is how this year’s NaNo went:


Write, write, write. Mostly lower word counts, no where near the minimum daily goal. Sleep normal hours, exercise, take proper meal breaks, enjoy Thanksgiving and hanging out with my husband. Record my words counts on the NaNo site and feel a pang of guilt/sadness/anger that I was clearly not going to “win” again. End the month not feeling burned out, but feeling a huge disappointment for not winning or even getting halfway to the goal.


Yup, yesterday when I went to bed, I felt pretty crappy at how bad I did at NaNo. I blamed myself hardcore. How did I ever expect to be a prolific author if I couldn’t even “win” NaNo? Way to fail again, Kat!


As I went to draft this post and reflect on my NaNo 2020 experience, I realized that I loved writing every day in the month of November. And, bonus, I was able to do it without giving anything up. No more missed hours of sleep. No more skipped meals. All of that was incredibly different than any of my prior NaNo’s.


But one thing was the same.


The disappointment and frustration at myself at the end of the month.


No matter how I tackle NaNo — rushed and frantic or slow and steady — I always walk away from it feeling bad about myself.


So guess what?


I’m not going to participate in NaNo anymore.


I don’t want to get stressed the whole month of November. I don’t want to have a goal that’s so unachievable, it’s laughable. I don’t want to end the month feeling bad about myself. Ever again.


NaNo works great for some writers. If that’s you, woohoo! Get it!


For me, it always ends up causing more harm than good.


Well, no more! I’m done with NaNo.


I’m going to push myself on my own terms. I’m going to set my own monthly goals. And yeah, I might be leaving the cool kids NaNo club, but ya know what - I’m totally fine with that!


So goodbye, NaNo. *waves* It’s time for our paths to part.


And now, my writerly wizards, some monthly totals:


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