Life · Writing

Why I Gave Up #Nanowrimo2016 (And What I Learned by Doing It)

I’ve completely Nanowrimo twice, as well as various Camp Nanowrimos, and my own personal ‘nanowrimo-esque’ goals. I’ve written and am currently editing two novels, one of them close to 200k words, while writing the second one in that series.

For Nanowrimo 2016 I decided I was going to get through 50k words of the sequel to Tyrant, my 2015 Nanowrimo project. I barely managed 20k.

Now, that doesn’t sound too bad for most people – 20 000 words is still a lot of words! But I am a home maker, and my time is spent either volunteering or writing. Hitting 2000 words a day is,  normally, not a problem. I do that most of the year, one way or another.

But in October, I had begun to struggle. My anxiety had flared up, depression creeping in. My mind was sluggish, my attention span shorter than that of a gnat, and everything hurt. I still fought on. I trudged through paragraph after uninspired paragraph.

Finally, two weeks ago, I snapped. I dragged every last blanket and pillow into my bed and refused to come out the entire weekend. I have no idea how my husband managed to get in there to sleep. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t barely sit up, and everything just hurt.

Now, I’m not one to ramble about my personal life on the internet. I have enough trouble opening up to those who are closest to me. So, this isn’t going to be a post of me blogging out all of my woes. Suffice to say, I was unhappy, and I didn’t know why.

I didn’t want to know why, because that meant I would have to deal with it.

Finally, my writing partner and I were working on a scene between two of our characters, and one of the characters said to her counterpart –

“Fine, go mope. You are the only person I know who feels guilty for making someone feel good.”

It was a blow to the heart. An offhand comment while spitballing ideas summarized the entirety of the desperate aching void I had been fighting against. I fell to pieces. A character in a world nothing like ours, in a situation nothing like mine, and she had managed to shatter my carefully constructed defenses like a catapult stone.

So I stopped. I put everything aside – my writing, editing, everything. I sat, and I thought, and I cried. I confronted the people I needed to confront. I confronted myself about why I had let everything get this bad. I wrote emails, I made plans. I finally feel like I have solid ground beneath my feet for the first time in months.

All thanks to a character that had nothing to do with Nanowrimo.

Now, I love Nanowrimo. I adore it, and I have every intention of trying again next year. I’ll do Camp Nanos, and I will keep writing and editing. But Lord above, I’m so glad I stopped.

My mental health was crumbling, and I was dreading writing every single time I sat down. Writing is hard, and there are times when all I want to do is throw in the towel, but I was hating it, and that wasn’t okay. A lot of people feel terribly guilty when they don’t complete their Nano goals, and I’m here to tell you: It’s OKAY.

Life gets in the way. You can get in the way. But there is always next year. Next month.

Don’t give up on your story just because you had to give up on Nanowrimo. Don’t give up on yourself.


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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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