When it comes to NaNoWriMo this year, that month-long contest to write like your fingers are on fire and reach fifty thousand words in a single calendar page, I know two things to be true:
1. I will probably not make it to 50k this month.
2. And that is absolutely okay.
This has been a pretty intense month for me. My Comparative Literature class deluges us with more work in a week than my other classes combined, meaning I am spending four to five hours a day reading articles, watching videos, plowing through novels, creating presentations, writing essays — all on the trauma of slavery or the neurological ramifications of sexual assault or the Israel-Palestine conflict, all extremely heavy coursework that usually leaves me, to put it politely, utterly mentally and emotionally deflated.
Plus, it was the midterms this month, and Florida’s results ended up so razor-thin, we seem to be headed towards three separate recounts. I’ve signed up to volunteer with overseeing the recount — though I’m still waiting to hear back, that could take up several days & nights of my life this week.
Then, there’s the matter of my grandfather. He was hospitalized almost two months ago for congestive heart failure, and received a stent that cleared out the congestion in his arteries. Well, it looks like the stent is collapsing, and he might need surgery to fix it. We live about three hours away, and every week or two my mom and I are in the car, driving up to visit him and help out my grandma. This alone has been sucking up a lot of emotional energy. When it comes to sitting down to write, I keep finding myself too mentally exhausted to focus.
Not that I’m making excuses!!
Because, honestly, it’s okay. It’s okay if you don’t hit 50k in the month of November. NaNoWriMo is about putting down words, yes, but it’s also about establishing a daily writing habit. It’s about getting yourself in the headspace where you believe it is possible you can write a novel. It is possible you can establish a routine where you put down words every day.
So, if you don’t hit 50,000 words in a single month, if you’ve fallen behind (or never caught up to begin with!) don’t fret! Here are other ways you can win NaNoWriMo figuratively, even if it’s just in your heart:
1. Establish a daily writing routine.
You don’t have to write 1,666 words a day ceaselessly for thirty days to write a novel, but if NaNo can teach you anything, it can get you into the habit of sitting down for an hour, two hours, even twenty minutes every day to put some work into your story. Whatever you’re writing, it is worth it; your story wants and deserves you to work on it everyday.
2. If you made some progress — any progress — on your novel, that’s huge and something you should be proud of!
Maybe you didn’t write the entire story this month — but maybe you’ve fleshed out an entire outline, or you’ve written four really good chapters! Any words you’ve gotten down are more words than you had October 31st, you know?
3. If you NaNo noveling has helped you get into the headspace of your novel and believe that you’ve got a story in you worth writing, then you have absolutely won NaNoWriMo this month.
So many writers give up before the pen even touches the page. If all you leave November with is a half-finished story you absolutely love and want to keep working on, then that’s everything. NaNo isn’t about numbers and bar graphs — it’s about getting the stories in our heads out into the real world. Sometimes stories burst out of our brain cases in big exciting explosions of words; and, sometimes, they come out fitfully, clawing and scraping and screaming. If your story is going to take more time than others to get onto the page, that is so, so okay. The important thing is, you believe in yourself, you believe in your writing, and you’re excited to keep it up as we move into December.
Also, it should be noted: It’s only November 12th. I’m writing this post as if it’s midnight on the 30th and there’s no way for me — or any of us slow-pokes — to make up our word deficit. We absolutely have time! I’m just saying, for those of us still outlining, or the NaNo Rebels editing or working on something else, it’s okay not to hit that 50k goal post. Just like a novel itself, NaNoWriMo takes on a different shape, the journey takes on a different course, for every writer who participates.
So, absolutely we should all keep working daily on our 50k goal. There’s a good chance that if I put pedal-to-the-metal I will reach 50k. But there’s an equally likely chance that I won’t. But I’ve already gotten some great work done this month and, by working at it a little bit every day, have fallen back into a lovely daily writing routine. If that’s the best I do this month, then I consider that pretty darn great.
Anyway, as Chuck Wendig says, it’s Make Stuff Monday. So get out there and make something. <3
How are you doing this NaNoWriMo? Are you soaring ahead of the pack, or still struggling to catch up? Leave a comment below with one mini-goal you’ll be happy with accomplishing even if you don’t make it to 50k. (For example, “I’ll be happy if I get Act 1 written”, or “If I get 3 chapters edited, November will totally be a success!”) Let’s cheer ourselves on!!
Be kind to yourselves and to each other, and, until next week, happy writing. <3