The Year Without A NaNoWriMo

Back in October I wrote on this blog that I’d decided to do NaNoWriMo this year (depressingly that post is only three down the page from this one. (Must…write…more…blog…entries). Keen observers will note that although we are 2/3s of the way through November, no further mention of NaNo has been made. No word count trackers have appeared. No status reports. No nuttin’.

So why’d I decide in the end to reverse my decision and not do NaNo this year? Well first of all, the decision to do it made on Oct. 15th came from without, not within. I’d been talking to a few friends of mine who encouraged me to do it, and their enthusiasm was infectious enough that I caught it. And maybe for some people that’s enough. Heck it might have been enough for me some other year. But not this year.

I’d been approaching November assuming I’d do NaNo since I’d done it the past two years. Assuming I’d do it, and dreading the idea. I kept telling myself that I’d get pumped for it and it would be an exciting challenge once again. But I never got pumped. And without being enthusiastic to do it in the first place, I realized the whole month would just be a misery, so I opted out.

So, working recursively, now I have to ask myself, why was I dreading it? A lot of it was because of change of lifestyle. In early October I got a full time job after being self-employed for about fifteen months. Suddenly I was going to bed earlier so I could get up earlier, and feeling very unsettled by the new routine. I initially assumed I’d be adjusted by the beginning of November, but that was not that case. I was still feeling like I had very little ‘free time’ during the week and the idea of giving up an hour or two of that to do NaNo was just crushingly depressing. In the end it took until about mid-way through November to really settle into the 9-5 lifestyle.

But there was another, deeper reason for not doing it. Frankly, it felt pointless. I did NaNo the first year to “jump start” my writing habit. I’ve been a wannabe fiction writer since, oh, the third grade or so. And I’ve really never done much about it. (I have written magazine articles and even made my living as an associate magazine editor for a few years — best job ever, by the way.) So NaNo was going to a) let me prove that I could write a complete novel, even if it sucked, and b) lay down the foundation of a writing habit.

At the end of November 2005, I’d done it. I had a complete novel, with a beginning, middle and end, and even some kind of a worthwhile story in it. It needed polish, to put things very very mildly. It probably needed to be expanded. But there was the germ of a readable book in there. Having accomplished my goal, I rewarded myself by taking a week off. Which stretched to a month. Which stretched to eleven months. The next time I sat down to write fiction was on November 1st of 2006 for that year’s NaNo. The second year, I “won” once again, but that time my “novel” wasn’t complete. Once I hit 50,000 words I just stopped even though the story wasn’t finished. And again I took a break. And I’m still on that break.

So clearly doing NaNoWriMo isn’t a good way for me to establish a habit of writing fiction. The pace is too intense, and the relief of finally *not* writing once I hit the goal is too sweet. And the books I write get stuck on a thumb-drive (I hope!) and never looked at again, so what’s the point of writing them? And weeks turn to months turn to years again as I get ready to start writing on a regular basis Real Soon Now.

I’m still a wannabe writer. As part of that wannabe-ism, I still listen to a few writing podcasts, including Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing, though I sometimes get way, way behind on them. A few weeks (months? For me it was last week but the show ran long ago) back, Mur said something that was a real epiphany to me. Her situation had changed, and she had too many projects going on, and she decided that her new daily word count was going to be 250 words for a while.

250 words. NaNo is effectively 2,000 words a day (really it’s something like 1,667 but in order to get any kind of padding for Thanksgiving and having to skip a day here and there, you have to do 2000/day). And I realized that when I thought of a ‘daily writing’ routine I was still thinking of NaNo-sized commitments. But 250 words? I’m pretty sure I could do 250 words a day. Heck, this blog post is over 800 words.

So I’m going to try it. I’m going to get up a little earlier every day, and maybe write during my lunch hours, and see if I can get into a writing habit of 250 words, Monday-Saturday. Think about it, that’s roughly 75,000 words over the course of the year. That’s more than I’ve been producing by doing NaNo and nothing else, and it sounds sustainable. It’s my NaNoWriYear, I guess (there actually is a NaNoWriYe but their goals are much more ambitious than mine).

So we’ll see how it goes. Today is Day 1, and I’m going to be wickedly late for work, and I don’t mean for my words to be blog posts but I needed to state something publicly somewhere. What’s cool is that this time I am *excited* about the project, and can’t wait to start hitting those daily work count goals.

But to all the people who did take up the NaNoWriMo challenge this year, I salute you, and urge you to keep on going…you’re into the home stretch!!!