Where a writer learns about writing by writing

NaNoWriMo, 2020 Edition

I must confess- I’m *supposed* to be working on my NaNoWriMo project right now. I pledged to write 50,000 works on my current work in progress, a young adult fantasy novel, by the end of November, as I have for the last four or five Novembers. How’s NaNoWriMo 2020 going, you ask?

About as well as you’d expect in this dumpster fire of a year

One week in and I haven’t added a single new word to my draft. True, I received feedback from my writing group on October 31 that caused me to step back to evaluate my story, then do research. Was seven days of research necessary?  Probably not. Yesterday, I took a step in the right direction and opened my Scrivener document- go, me- but spent hours working on editing words I’d already written. The creative wave I was hoping to ride this month, nowhere in sight.

I blame COVID-19

I know, I know. Everybody says that- but this November is a billion light years away from Novembers past. My mind’s a swirling mess- the flotsam and jetsam of the crazy this year has thrown our way is making it difficult to get into the water, let alone ride any creative wave that dares appear. I fear that if I lose my concentration, loosen my grip on my fragile sanity for even a second, that debris whizzing around will knock me upside the head and drag me under. The stress created by that constant vigilance is not very conducive to my creative process.

It’s a lot, people. 2020 has been too much to handle for all of us.

To add to the burdens 2020 has tasked us to take on, I’m responsible for a lot of other people. My children, my spouse, my students, my colleagues, my friends, my neighbours. Some of my loved ones are doing better than me, but many, especially the kids in my life, are much worse off. It’s up to me to man the life-saving ring and help them stay afloat, or 2020 will claim more victims. How do you do that when you’re worried you’ll drown too?

Pass me my PFD!

Given everything this year has thrown my way, why did I think now was the right time to pledge to write 50, 000 words? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if I let 2020 take the win?

Hell no!

Those words, their creativity and positive energy are my personal floatation device. It feels like madness to sit at my desk and lose myself in the little world of my novel, but it’s the very thing that feeds my soul and makes it possible for me to keep myself, and therefore those I love, afloat.

I don’t expect to win NaNo this year- not by a long shot. Though I signed up to write 50,000 words, the pledge I made with myself was that I’d consider myself a winner if I showed up to write just fifteen minutes every day in November. That was already a challenge, and we’re only one week into November, but what I need, heck, what we all need in this crazy year is kindness. The last thing I need is my inner editor yelling at me like a jacked-up drill sergeant. If I’m going to survive the tsunami that is 2020, I need to seek light, understanding and connection this year, not more guilt and disappointment.

So, here’s my plan. I’ve set my goal, and it’s a SMART goal– specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. As I tell my students, a goal needs to be smart if you’re going to have any chance of achieving it.  Despite the struggles I’ve had this week, I’m optimistic about my chances of showing up every day for the required fifteen minutes. I’ve even promised myself a reward at the end of this- if I achieve my goal, I get to buy myself a pair of Fluevog shoes. I’ve coveted them for years, now feels like the time for something that will bring joy.

What is something that you want?

Give yourself permission to reward your hard work, on NaNoWriMo or any other goal. Carrots always work better than stick, in my experience.

As for the 50,000 words? I know it may be unlikely, but- and skip this next part if you are a NaNo purist- I’ve given myself permission to bend the rules this year. This post is about 900 words long- guess who’s NaNoWriMo number is going to increase by 900 when I’m done posting this. That’s right- this girl’s!

Be Nice

So, friends, this November- really, for the rest of 2020, be gentle with yourself.

Connect with the parts of NaNoWriMo that bring you joy and put aside the parts that don’t with zero guilt. If you’re nice to yourself, and to others, I promise you’ll stay afloat. You’ll help those around you to keep their heads above the water too. Seek community and allies to help you reach your goals.

I came upon an unexpected writing ally in Dr. Jody Carrington. A psychologist from Alberta my sister introduced me to because of the monumental work she does with educators, I’ve been joining her every morning via her Facebook live posts. If you don’t mind a bit (okay, a lot- which I kind of dig) of profanity, she may be the only reason I get any of my NaNo work done this month. She reminds me to drop my shoulders, breathe and be nice to myself and to others. That if we show up even 30% of the time, we’re still making a big difference. I can’t express how much light she has brought into my life this fall. God bless Dr. Jody!

Happy NaNoWriMo friends, and in the immortal words of Dr. Jody Carrington, be nice, fucker!

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