We’ve reached the end of July (wait, didn’t we just start this YEAR?) and of course, that means the end of Camp NaNo. As such, I have some thoughts and decided to share them. As I was thinking about this year’s Camp NaNo, I realized others might have similar experiences, which means I might have something to say that they need to hear.
I’ve done both Camp Nano and the original November event many times over the last four years. I have succeeded every time, even when the day job kept me busy or insomnia came calling. No matter what, I’ve always hit and surpassed the 50k mark and often gotten very workable drafts out of it.
This year, I skipped Camp NaNo in April. I knew better. I was still very much in recovery (as discussed here before) and the thought of writing was still painful. Besides, I was going to a con, which would cost me a few days. But when July came around, I had an outline for a book ready. I had just completed a draft of a short story. I had friends who were going to do it with me and we would encouraging each other through it. It was a good plan and I thought I was ready.
Then July kicked my ass for a number of reasons. I’m not the only one that happened to, just among my friends. I’m coming out from under the things that got to me, but of course, it’s well past too late for Camp.
For the first time, I failed at NaNo.
I could beat myself up about this, or swear that I’ll do better next time. I could allow this to add to my anxiety and mental pain level. But that wouldn’t be healthy. Worse, it would be dramatically unfair to myself.
So instead, I’m picking what I can take forward out of the wreckage that was July. I’m letting this “failure” help me grow as both a person and a writer.
See, I tried. I really did. But when life happens to you, there isn’t an option to say “This isn’t a good time. Can you come back later?” So I let myself let it go, rather than obsess about what I wasn’t doing and how I was going to fail.
I often say to others that they didn’t fail if they have more words than they did before, and I decided to apply that to myself. I have more words than before. I also took some time to reflect, to think about what I need to be working on. I also continued building a major project I’ve been working on for a month or two now.
And now, thinking about not successfully completing NaNo, I’m taking a moment to recognize that I was productive for more of the month than I realized at the time. More than that, I feel freer than I ever have in my writing life thanks to this failure.
I didn’t write my novel in 30 days and the world didn’t end. I’m still me. My friends still like me, even admire me in some cases. My cat is still cute. I still have a story to tell. It didn’t evaporate.
This may sound elementary to some, but for me, it’s a big deal. I think, in the back of my mind, I really believed that it would be the end of something at least if I didn’t hit my goals and exceed them. It got to the point of being unhealthy. I felt guilty doing anything other than writing. I’d get home from the day job and feel like I couldn’t even take a few minutes to unwind. I had to make the most of every minute that wasn’t day job or sleeping so I could write more words, all the words. All those crazy word totals you guys saw a couple years ago? That’s how I did it. I fed everything in my life into the writing bonfire.
Wow. Writing it out like that, it’s actually a miracle I didn’t burn out sooner than I did. That was so massively unhealthy. I feel a bit stupid for thinking that was okay.
So now I’m trying again, but differently. I only let myself write for an hour, two tops. I might go further if I get on real roll, but not just so I can have higher word count totals. And I’m allowed to do other things before writing. I just have a time I have to stop and turn to writing by.
I’ve also pulled back my daily writing goal. When things were at their most obsessive, I officially had a goal of 2000 words per day. Every day that I was writing a draft. Even when I’d been at work all day. And that was just the start. By the end, anything less than 4k was worthy of calling myself a slacker. *shaking my head at myself*
Now, the goal is 500 words. Yes, it’ll take me 5 months or more to write the first draft, but that’s okay. And it may be a better draft than if I pushed harder, wrote more in a day. Even if it isn’t, this feels comfortable. This feels like success. Because I don’t have to push myself. I’m coming to the keyboard willingly, guilt-free. I’m writing my 500 words and then either stopping or continuing, with either choice being okay.
The best part? I feel better about everything in my life right now. Writing. Day job. Me. And I’m sleeping better.
Do I really need any further indicators that I made the right choice, that I learned the right lesson? That it wasn’t really a failure at all?
So I hope you too will learn a little something from this. It’s okay to not do as well as you’d hoped or expected. It’s okay to run into difficulties and make choices. Most of all, it’s okay to scale back if you find yourself in an unhealthy place on any level. Be that kind to yourself. I hope you will. I wish for that with all my heart.