Why I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo—again


Let me start by making something clear—in no way am I against National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) itself. As with any gargantuan goal, I see  value in it.

Setting goals. Applying butt to chair and getting the job done. Pushing yourself to finish. Building your writing muscles. The feeling of accomplishment at just having the novel written. The bragging rights alone can give you warm fuzzy feelings.

However, NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone.

  • If doing NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.
  • There are reasons to do it and reasons not to do it.
  • Either way is fine.

NaNoWriMo is not for me.

Here’s why.

Hello, holidays.

November is the start of my holiday season. I’m one of those people who put their Christmas tree up as soon as possible. I’m all about Christmas 24/7/365. The only reason my tree isn’t up right now is because I married a traditionalist who (sigh) wants to wait until a so-called ‘reasonable’ time.

I’m not taking time out of my holiday marathon to write 2,000 words a day. I have holiday cheer to spread.

Is it that time already?

I’m a copywriter by day and a creative writer outside of business hours. Except for moments when I’m daydreaming about it while waiting in line at the post office, NaNoWriMo isn’t on my radar until October. By then, I’m completely unprepared and have zero enthusiasm for it.

(Plus, I’m already planning my holidays.)

This happens every year.

Too many words, too little time.

unrealistic idealsI have a full time job and a commute that’s an hour and a half long. That’s 9 hours in the office and 3 hours commuting each day. That’s 12 hours; half a full day.

Minus 8 hours for sleeping, that leaves me with 4 hours to get ready for work, eat, bathe, hug my husband, feed the cat, make sure I have clean clothes to wear, floss my teeth and go to bed.

Add the need to put out 2,000 words a day? Um, no.

Because quality of life.

I average 500 words for side projects a day and if I’m feeling ambitious, about 1,000 a day. That’s my limit, and it works for me.

Two words: not ready.

Seriously, I’m not ready. I’m still developing the habit of finishing my short stories. In many ways, my storytelling basics are still in development. Character arc, subplots, dialogue, body language…I’m still learning.

If I tried to write a novel in a month, I’d end up with a 50,000-word wad of mush. Uneditable, unreadable, unsalvageable.

That’s not self-doubt talking; that’s just fact.

Unless I end up with something I can work with, it’s not worth it to me to participate in such a grueling marathon.

For those of you who aren’t me.

There are other reasons to not participate regardless of your schedule or situation.

Chris Brecheen of Writing About Writing puts it pretty well in his post, NaNoWriMo: The Good, The Bad, and The Really, Really Ugly.

Just like running marathons with no training–just doing Nano without regular writing is a recipe for trouble. It’s very difficult to actually pull off. It can cause (mental) injury. It can lead to a crushing sense of defeat. And what’s worse, if you pull it off, you have to face a whole new set of challenges that are actually even more difficult. Read the full post.

Brecheen also points out that “Because of Nano, there are some people out there who AREN’T writers anymore.”

To be clear, whether I finish or not wouldn’t make or break me as a writer.

Still, that’s a sad thought. To put so much emphasis on this self-imposed marathon with a self-imposed deadline? To let it define you to the point of abandoning your passion? Heartbreaking.

Writers are writers.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the best. I love the idea of writers setting their sights high, setting goals and making themselves tell their stories. I love that members of the writing community band together to support each other and create their art and make their stories and in many cases, finally finish their novel like they’ve dreamt of doing.

On December 1, I can easily imagine that world-wide sigh of relief like Olympic athletes who’ve just finished their games.

If you’re one of them, I celebrate you. From the sidelines.

If you’re not, welcome to my bench. Let’s keep writing anyway. If you don’t do NaNoWriMo, you’re still a ‘real writer.’

What about you? Are you participating? Not participating? Share why or why not in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Why I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo—again”

  1. Glad you posted this! I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but I used it a few years ago to prompt myself into starting a short story every day. I only lasted a week! I echo many of your sentiments.

    1. And there’s just nothing quite like the feel of ‘failing,’ is there? I’m sure it’s great for others, and I cheer them on.

      But then there’s the rest of us…

  2. Nope. But, my reason is more superstition than anything else: every year that I participated, I ended up moving in the middle of November. That certainly puts a dent in wanting to write because the computer is down, off, essentially packed away until I can unpack it again. I’m certainly not going to try writing on my phone! So, I don’t participate anymore.

    I’ve also stopped commercial / grant writing for awhile. I journal, write “daydream files” (something’s niggling in my brain and I write a fictional story until I get to the “Ah-ha!” – no one will ever see these), and emails to family, friends or customers. That all suits me fine until I get financially on my feet again.

    1. First, I’m glad you’re still writing. That’s the whole point, anyway.

      Second, I’m sorry you seem to be struggling. I understand how that can feel, and you’re right: it really puts a damper on the enthusiasm. I’ve had some times like that, too. Here’s hoping things turn around for you. (((internet hugs of moral support)))

  3. Nope. Nope. Nope. I LOVE my bloggy buddies. Heart them so much, but if someone announces that they are going to post every day for a month, I’ll see them in a month. I am a very loyal commenter, but when you do 30 posts one after the other, I can’t. Won’t. Don’t have time. It’s too high maintenance for your most loyal of peeps. I’ll be back when you simmer down to a manageable schedule 🙂

    *hides in corner, knowing I will get yelled at*

    1. Yelling isn’t allowed on this blog. Respectful debate? Yes. Yelling? Nope. 🙂

      Besides, I totally agree. I’ve unfollowed blogs I like because they were just. too. much. Writing on a regular basis is one thing. But’s that’s borderline spam. My own husband doesn’t even follow my blog. How much can any blogger or writer really expect from readers?

      Exception: Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess. She could post every day if she wanted to, and I’d read every one of them.

  4. I am participating, again. But I empathize with a lot of the reasons you mention as good reasons not to (except the Christmas tree and commute time. Kids are lucky if ours goes up before Christmas Eve, and my office is closer to my bedroom than my driveway). I consider participation more a kickstart to my fiction writing and a good place to be around other writers excited about their craft. It likely helps that I want to complete it but haven’t yet and am okay with that.

    1. I love your outlook. Kickstarting your fiction writing and connecting with other writers are excellent reasons to participate. Feel free to come back and share how far you got. Would love your perspective.

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