I’ve been avoiding the topic for a while now because I don’t really want to think about it that much, but I decided not to do National Novel Writing Month this year. Which means it is the first time in ten years that I haven’t even attempted it. It will be the second time in that period that I didn’t succeed. The last time I didn’t complete NaNoWriMo was back in 2016 while the election and its results were happening on top of job hunting and dealing with an increasingly difficult roommate situation. I realized after only a couple days that I couldn’t handle writing on top of everything else that was going on, so I stopped. This year, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it a few days before the month started and resigned myself to skipping it.
As much as I recognize that this was absolutely the right decision and that I can’t manage any more stress on top of everything else happening right now, I’m still sad I won’t be participating. It has always been a lot of fun to drive myself toward a single goal with reckless abandon. It always felt great to be able to mark down so much progress in a single month. These days, though, my writing process has evolved from such reckless labor and I find I benefit from a bit of a slower, more considerate approach in the long term. I’m a much stronger drafter that I used to be and my self-editing skills have grown sharper than ever. I no longer feel the need to fall back on my “can produce a huge amount in a short time” skill now that I know I definitely have others.
I started this blog in earnest five years ago, in 2017 (I originally started it much earlier, but November 1st of 2017 marked the beginning of over 400 daily blog posts in a row), as part of a challenge to myself. I was doing NaNoWriMo with a group of friends and since I was the only one in the group who’d finished it before (though I had other, peripheral friends who’d also completed it), I set up my blog as a mix of writing advice, encouragement, prompts to help the creative forces flow, and inspiration to help get the mind working. I don’t know if any of my friends read those posts, but I wrote one for every day of the month, on top of my daily work count. A year later, in 2018, was when I wrote 100,000 words in a single month between my book project and my blog.
Now, this year, I’m not participating at all. It’s difficult to avoid feeling like I’m letting go of some significant part of myself. I’m writing this on the 3rd so I’m still fighting the urge to toss aside my wise decision and spend some time over the weekend making up for the three days I missed. I know better, though. I might be moving this month, after all, and I’ve already canceled pretty much all of my social obligations because I’ve just burned myself out at work. I need rest. I need calm. I need to not be putting another thing on my plate.
It is a difficult lesson I’ve learned, but I learned it well. Even good, fun, and fulfilling things come at a price. No amount of joy can push you through complete exhaustion. Something must be left for living. Gone are my days of pushing myself to the brink. Maybe they’ll be back again someday, when I’m not in a situation where the brink holds as much menace and disastrous potential as it does right now, but right now I can’t afford to have nothing left for myself after a long night of writing. I need to go to work the next day, to push myself to get out of bed on time, to make dinner, to do my chores, to make important decisions, and even to have time to rest. Sure, I could do all that plus a daily NaNoWriMo writing diet by cancelling everything else I’ve got going on, but that’s not a decision I want to make either. I need social time and tabletop games and my friends.
So this month, things are staying the same. No new projects. No massive editing endeavors. Just my usual, constant, daily writing. Which may not be fifty thousand words in a month, but it’s sitting at about ten thousand a week, which is almost the same thing. And that’s with editing! These are (relatively) good words! I may not be able to enjoy my usual yearly burst of creativity, but I think I’m in the midst of my longest-running period of healthy, balanced creativity. Which is pretty good, you know?