You know, until just now I wasn’t sure I was going to write about NaNoWriMo this year. I had a different post written up from a few days ago that I was going to post, a much more positive one. Like many people, I have hard time sharing the “bad” things online. Partly because I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to get attention or sympathy, and partly because don’t we all want to present our best selves to the world? I do, and right now I don’t feel like my best self.
This year, I decided I wanted to try a Reverse NaNo. This means high word counts to start, and then each day your word count decreases a little. If you follow the exact word counts, on the last day of November you only need to add 1—yeah, you read that right one—word to hit 50,000. The theory behind the reverse NaNo is sound: you do higher word counts at the beginning when you’re still super motivated and in love with your story and all things are possible. Then, towards the end—when you start losing momentum, or have family events where your presence is expected, or even have travel for those events—your targets are a lower. Of course, theory and practice are different animals entirely.
Here’s how my first 10 days went:
Days One & Two: Made those high word counts and boy it feels good to be able to do that. It’s been a while since I last wrote anything so I’m glad to know the juices are still there. Under normal circumstances (which is to say that I have a full time day job, and am not a writer working under contract or deadlines imposed by anyone other than myself), a good writing day has me hitting 2k words, so hitting 3k+ words on the first two days is amazing.
Days Three & Four: Still going, but it’s starting to feel harder. Part of that is that hitting the high word counts regularly is hard, but part of that is that I’m losing interest in my story. I get around this by jumping to the fun scenes, and still manage to keep ahead of the official count, even if I fall behind on my personal Reverse NaNo count.
Day Five: Exhaustion starts to set in. I get a lower word count at the write-in, and while I tell myself I’ll keep going at home, instead I end up almost falling asleep on my laptop, and decide to call it a night. Still ahead of the official count, but falling further behind on my personal count.
Day Six: No write-in. Less than 100 words because I am easily distracted. Interest in my story has waned heavily, and I’m not sure I even like this story. Even so, I’m still ahead of the official count and I start to feel comfortable coasting a little.
Day Seven: I remember that this is not a mandatory thing and supposed to be fun still. And that this year I don’t need to win. I can just do my thing and not stress and try to enjoy my story. I try to write more fun scenes, the scenes that are exciting, and manage to keep going just a bit. Still behind on my personal count, but still ahead of the official count, so I call it a win.
Day Eight: I really hate this. I hate my writing. I hate the act of sitting here writing words that I hate. I don’t want to write. Less than 300 words because I just can’t quite make myself do it. Husband decides that this is this is the day to bring home a new cat (and let’s be real, I didn’t discourage him), so there are clearly more important things I could be doing.
Days Nine & Ten: No writing. Zero words. The cat is great and introducing her to our other cats is a welcome distraction. I still hate my story, nothing is fun or interesting to me, and on top of that I now feel guilty that I’m not writing because that’s how my brain works. I’m now behind on the official word count, as well as my personal count.
Here’s the thing. We all know that not every day will be an amazing creative day where you feel inspired and motivated and the words flow and the story is going exactly where you want it to go. That is just a fact of creativity. (For me, and many creatives who I either know or have heard talk about this. I suppose there must be people who are blessed with perfect joy in their creative endeavors at all times, but I don’t know any.) At the same time, I feel certain that the phrase running through my head on nonstop loop while writing shouldn’t always be, “I hate this. I hate everything about this.” Hard-but-manageable is the sweet spot.
I’ve written (briefly) about creative exhaustion. But that’s not all that’s going on in my brain lately. I’ve been struggling, struggling with everything. Summoning interest in the things I love doing is the hardest. In October I read two books—and one of them was technically a reread—when I usually manage 5-8 in a month. My MMORPG of choice had their annual Halloween event (which of course is my favorite event) in addition to releasing new content, and I can’t seem to find the desire to play. It’s like that for All the things I would normally like doing: I know I should want to, but I don’t.
All of that to say… knowing my brain like I do, I recognize all this as symptoms of depression. I’ve known that for a little while. I think I was hoping that NaNoWriMo would help, would unlock a door or a gate or a window and allow me to see the light on the other side again, so that I could begin to feel my way back to normal. (Well, my normal at least.) But that hasn’t happened, and waiting for it to happen isn’t a reliable solution. Since I may not be equipped to handle this on my own, I’ve decided to seek professional help. This at least feels like a step in the right direction.
As for NaNoWriMo, I’m going to keep writing, but slower. I think I’m going to put my current project (working title acronym: VAU) on hold. I’m not abandoning it, but I think it needs a rest before I can look at it again and see if it’s actually a viable story. In the meantime, I’ll likely return to ALA, the project I was working on for most of the year, or maybe even noodle around with something else.
I hope your National Novel Writing Month has been going better than mine!