If you’re interested in writing, and you think you’d like to do NaNoWriMo but you haven’t signed up for it yet, then I have two words for you.
Well, actually, I’m not sure if it’s possible to sign up now that November has started, but if it is, then I recommend you go for it as soon as you possibly can, and if you can’t sign up this year then make sure you sign up next year. I’ll see you there.
Writing 50,000 words in thirty days is nothing to sneeze at, of course. It is a commitment, and it’s not exactly a walk in the park. But – and this is a big ‘but’ – it is absolutely possible to achieve. Really.
I realise I’m speaking as a person who is only one-fifth of the way through this particular challenge, but I am filled with certainty that I can see it through. The reason I know is because the first ten thousand words of my NaNo project are now under my belt, and they have been so much fun to write.
I broke the 10K yesterday, and it felt amazing. It didn’t feel amazing because I had hit 10,000 words, or because I had struggled my way to that point, or because now I’d made it there I could stop and take a rest; it felt amazing because I know there is so much more still to come, and I can’t wait to keep going.
Normally, when I’m writing, I feel under pressure. I feel squashed beneath my own self-imposed deadlines, or I am actually working to a deadline – whether it’s for a competition, or a particular submission opportunity, or whatever – or, for some other reason, I am screaming at myself to get the job done, as quickly as is humanly possible. For NaNo, even though I am also working to a ‘deadline’ – i.e. if I don’t finish my 50,000 words by November 30th, I won’t ‘win’ – it feels completely different to anything I’ve written before. My NaNo project is for fun; it’s an idea that I’m working through as I go. It’s something I’m discovering as I write. If it works, that’s amazing – I can take the first draft which, hopefully, will be completed during the next month and make something out of it – but if it doesn’t work, then that’s fine too.
I am allowing NaNoWriMo to remove some of the pressure I normally put on myself when I write, and I am rediscovering the reason I do any of this in the first place.
It’s because I love writing as much as this cat loves this dog. More, maybe.
Over the last while – probably because I’ve been getting involved with agents, and large competitions, and attempts to get my stories published, all of which have gone nowhere – I’ve been feeling a bit disheartened about my writing. I’ve been working as hard as ever, and putting as much of myself as possible into it, but there’s been a sheen of desperation and panic over everything. I didn’t always sit down at my desk in the morning full of enthusiasm and pep, ready to start the day; putting words on paper wasn’t always a labour of love, and as my stress levels rose so my happiness diminished.
That was my own fault. I let that happen. I allowed my love for words and my desire to write be overtaken by the strain of actually writing – because wanting to write and actually doing the work are two different things – and I began to forget why I ever bothered getting started. It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking, and I should’ve been aware that it could happen. I should have been on my guard. It’s no wonder that despair is never far from the shoulder of anyone who labours away, alone, at something they love; when you invest so much of yourself in what you do every day, a certain amount of disappointment and frustration is inevitable.
That’s no excuse to let it scupper you, though, or to allow it to erode your joy.
So, that’s why I’m so grateful to NaNoWriMo, and why I’m so glad I signed up. If I hadn’t decided, on a whim, to take part this year, I wouldn’t now have 10,000 words of a new project completed. I would never have met my sparky little heroine, and her story would never have started to unfold in my mind. And I might have forgotten how it felt to click ‘open’ on your Work in Progress document of a morning and be met with a wave of excitement and happiness instead of pressure and fear.
If you’re taking part, come and join me – here‘s my participant page, where you can add me as a writing buddy. If you’re not taking part, come and have a look anyway. Every drop of support will help me to reach my wordcount, and I’ll be forever in your debt.
Whatever it is you love, or whatever it is you do, try to remember why you love it so much and never, ever take it for granted. (Actually, that goes for people, too.) Joy needs to be nurtured, and fear can drive it out. Whatever it takes for you to recapture your joy, then go for it. For me, it was remembering how much fun writing can be. What’ll it be for you?