Fear of NaNoWriMo!

By guest blogger Carole Jane Treggett

Call me crazy, but I’m finally answering the creative call of the wild and doing NaNo this year.

In case you might not know what this annual event is all about, the National Novel Writing Month is an online creative writing initiative which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30. There were 256,618 participants worldwide who signed up last year.

That’s a whole lot of people writing simultaneously!

For the past three consecutive autumns, I have managed to convince myself not to join in, despite a strong desire to, feeling swept up in the enthusiasm and anticipatory thrill of the adventure each year around this time. I couldn’t allow myself to make my own creative writing such a priority; it seemed like such a self-indulgent endeavor. I had to be reasonable, responsible! There barely seemed to be enough time to follow through on my other commitments, how on earth would I have managed to fit writing a 50,000 word novel in a month on top of it all? I wouldn’t be consistent in writing every day, I’d be weak and give in to procrastination, be stuck in places in my novel development, not knowing what to write next, etc.

So I decided that it probably wouldn’t be worth the bother, before I even gave it a try.

I’ve changed my mind this year. I’m not going to put off my creative writing dreams any longer.

I only have a sketchy idea for the novel I want to write, so I have a lot of outlining and prep work to do in October before NaNo officially starts. Despite the worry and dealing with my mind going blank when I try and think on some of the specifics about my novel, I’m forging ahead anyway. I’ve already told people I’m doing this. All the helpful writerly guiding stars seem aligned this year.

I’ll be counting on my muse to show up with me each morning and help me out in a major way. That we’ll know where to go and how to go when the need arises.

I won’t lie; I’m quite intimidated. Yes, this is quite the step in faith.

Not blind faith, mind you. I’ll be doing my part in preparing for this odyssey, beyond psyching and motivating myself to commit to actually going through with it. I’ve enrolled in an online course in October that will give me a whole arsenal of practical tools, guidance and instruction on what I need to do beforehand to write my novel.

I have recruited a writing friend as an accountability buddy who is doing NaNo again this year. We’ll be in frequent contact to encourage one another to persevere to the 50,000 word finish line. If you can’t find a writing buddy, there are in-person NaNo writing ‘meet ups’ organized at public libraries and other venues in most major cities, as well as a very active online community forum. Check the main NaNoWriMo website for details of events happening in your neck of the woods. Get out and meet your fellow writing adventurers (or masochists, depending on who you ask *wink*) and get the support you need to make this dream a reality.

I’m also planning on following a very specific regular writing routine and schedule, down to set times I will write each day, and special contingency plans in case I fall behind. By sticking to it, I’m hoping it will save me from the temptation of procrastinating or succumbing to other peoples’ demands on my time, or getting sidetracked for too long by feelings of confusion, fatigue, and overwhelm.

I’ll have my regular routine, tangible helps and supports in place to fall against on challenging days. I’ll just come to the page every day, hopefully no matter what else is happening or comes along to distract me.

It’s good to jump off the cliff into the realm of ‘don’t have a flying clue what will happen.’ Although a wee bit panic-stricken with the not knowing, I long to see if I can accomplish this, what I’ll learn along the way, the thrill and exhilaration of this free fall, so to speak:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. – E.L. Doctorow

By being proactive with my preparation in October, I can influence the outcome of this experience somewhat. Cook and freeze meals. Communicate my writing schedule with family and friends and commit to carrying it out to reach my daily word count quota.

I don’t want to listen to the NaNo naysayers, although it doesn’t stop me from being drawn to reading all their blog posts like a moth to a flame. I don’t want to let their rationalizations and some compelling reasons as to why it might be a waste of time get inside my head, shake my resolve to go through with this crazy ride.

I’ve spent three years over-thinking about whether or not to participate. This year, I want to follow this strong creative impulse and dive into it for the joy and agony and all the feelings in between of the writing adventure.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice didn’t hesitate in the slightest as she chased after that distressed white rabbit clutching his pocket watch, muttering how late he was, and then jumping into and falling down the deep hole to experience the creative fantasy of a lifetime. I want to be as intrepid as young Alice. I just want to see what will happen . . . next (and for 30 consecutive days this November!)

As I’ve been starting to prepare all of this, including writing this post, the reassurance and excitement has returned. This is doable and we can allow it to be F-U-N regardless of the inevitable hills and valleys.

The reward for persevering will be the draft of a novel written. No small creative feat, my friend! Something solid you can sink your editing/re-writing teeth into at a more leisurely pace after this is over (grin).

How about you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?


Carole Jane Treggett

Carole Jane Treggett is a writer, photographer, and online media producer from Ontario, Canada. She just recently decided to pursue her lifelong dream of being a self-employed creative professional after working over 25 years in social services and education. She blogs about inspiring people to reclaim, rejoin and rejuvenate their artistic birthright and go forward to make their own creative dreams and life ambition come true. You can follow her on Twitter @cjtreggett, on Facebook, or visit her website.

21 Responses to Fear of NaNoWriMo!
  1. Armelle
    October 5, 2012 | 3:02 AM

    Hey well done Carole!
    You’ve already taken the first step! I did NaNoWriMo last year and made 8th to the 50k words. And it wasn’t even that hard! I stopped writing for almost a week at the beginning because I was stuck in my writing, yet I still made it, and rarely wrote for more than an hour and a half a day…
    I loved the process, the words flowing, or not, and characters doing what they want… I can’t wait to start this year again. So yay on your decision, and if you want more writing buddies, feel free to add me (misslink)!!
    Happy nano to you!

    • Carole
      Twitter: cjtreggett
      October 5, 2012 | 12:03 PM

      Thanks so much for the encouragement, Armelle. Glad to hear you’re doing Nano again this year; it must be that addictive πŸ™‚ Go you! πŸ™‚

  2. Estrella Azul
    October 5, 2012 | 5:50 AM

    Hope you get the most of the outlining and prep work in October, Carole, you’re definitely in the right place by making this public commitment. You go, girl *winks*

    I’ve been tempted by NaNo, but never gave in, because I “don’t do” novels. I write flash fiction, and that would be too much reason to procrastinate (this flash isn’t finished, how could I start the next, and so on.) So I’m cheering everyone else on, and working on my flash fiction all year round.

    • Carole
      Twitter: cjtreggett
      October 5, 2012 | 12:09 PM

      Hiya Estrella. Thanks for the well wishes πŸ™‚ Yeah, I certainly have my prep work cut out for me in October! How cool that you write flash fiction as well as all your great non-fiction stuff. I’ve written a handful of pieces of it myself and always have a blast with it.

      • Estrella Azul
        October 5, 2012 | 2:53 PM

        Thank you so much for the compliment, Carole!
        How great to connect with a fellow flash fiction writer and I didn’t even know it πŸ™‚

  3. Annie Neugebauer
    Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
    October 5, 2012 | 11:29 AM

    Awesome! Best of luck to you.

    My take on NaNoWriMo is this: the worst that can happen is that you don’t meet the word count goal and get only 20,000 words instead of 50,000. Which is still 20,000 words that you might not have otherwise had. Even if they end up being cruddy and not destined to be published, that’s still 20,000 words of practice. So what’s to lose?

    • Carole
      Twitter: cjtreggett
      October 5, 2012 | 12:20 PM

      I really like your perspective on this, Annie. I was really into my fiction writing back in the late 80s/early 90s, but put it completely aside (except for sporadic journal writing) when every aspect of my life got too hectic and stressful. Back then I got 12 decent chapters of a novel done, about 8 short stories, a few essays(one earned an honorable mention in a contest)etc. So I’m getting reunited with my creative writing again with participating in NaNo this year, which is exciting πŸ™‚

  4. Laura
    Twitter: dream_mancer
    October 5, 2012 | 11:31 AM

    Whoo Hoo! NaNo! I’ve been doing it for 9 years and I’m one of the crazy volunteers who organizes meets up for my local area. It’s always so awesome to hear that someone is taking the plunge!

    Good luck with your words and I hope you have awesome time writing!


    • Carole
      Twitter: cjtreggett
      October 5, 2012 | 12:23 PM

      Ooh, love that enthusiasm, Laura! Thank you so very much for your encouragement. I just hope more of Milli’s readers who have wanted to do this for a long time but haven’t for whatever reason will jump in and join in on the fun and adventure with us in November!

  5. Lois
    October 5, 2012 | 6:13 PM

    I am. Absolutely, I am! πŸ˜€ This will be my seventh time participating (I’ve won all six years I’ve participated, so far), and I’m excited!

    Good luck, Carole. I know you won’t regret it!


  6. Carole
    Twitter: cjtreggett
    October 5, 2012 | 6:21 PM

    Oh cool, Lois! ‘High-fivin’ you, both hands πŸ™‚

    I’m sure you have some valuable tips on how to get through it all and still love doing it after all these years. Please feel free to share some pearls of wisdom with us πŸ™‚

    • Carole
      Twitter: cjtreggett
      October 5, 2012 | 6:23 PM

      Oops, I meant to add…WOW, congrats of winning so many times already!

      • Lois
        October 5, 2012 | 6:37 PM

        Thank you! πŸ˜€

        Oh! Another tip I should pass on, which is true of any of our work: always back up your work. And to go along with that, pay close attention to versions. It’s disheartening to find you’ve overwritten your full novel with a version that wasn’t even quite half finished. As me how I know this. πŸ˜‰

    • Lois
      October 5, 2012 | 6:33 PM

      Well–first of all, I’d say choose a story you know you’ll stay excited about. I think that’s the most important thing.

      Also, have as much planning done beforehand as you can. I didn’t plan my first story. I started writing with just a very vague idea and a place in mind. I ended up getting stuck and had to create a timeline to keep track of past events. Thankfully, I had plenty of time for that, but not everyone does!

      And third, just keep showing up and putting as much time and energy into it as you can. If you get ideas for other stories while you’re writing your Nano story, jot them down in a notebook and forget about them until after you’re done with your Nano story. I’ve found that if you pay too much attention to those new ideas, they can make the current one seem very boring, because you get anxious to write something new and different. Best to stay focused. πŸ™‚

      My last tip isn’t really a tip: have lots of tea and/or coffee on hand (or whatever you like to drink). It’s just part of the ritual, you know? Healthy snacks help, too.

      I hope these help! πŸ˜€


      • Carole
        Twitter: cjtreggett
        October 6, 2012 | 1:48 PM

        Thanks for providing these tips, Lois, especially the one about not getting detoured with shiny new ideas πŸ™‚ I think that must happen to many of us writers, eh? lol.

        I’ll be thinking of you and other Nano-ers in November, cheering us all on as I wrap my hands around a warm mug of tea while I’m sitting in front of my laptop working.

        • Lois
          October 6, 2012 | 6:06 PM

          You’re welcome! And feel free to friend me on the Web site (username: LMEighmy). πŸ™‚

  7. Sue Mitchell
    Twitter: Sue_Mitchell
    October 6, 2012 | 9:33 AM

    Carole, I am so excited for you! I will add to what Annie said about the worst that can happen. The worst thing that can happen to someone in NaNoWriMo is that theyy don’t end up writing 50,000 words, quit early on or something…and then decide that they have FAILED and are LAZY or WORTHLESS or whatever their self-insult of choice may be.

    I sincerely doubt that will happen with you, though, because this post is full of *curiosity* about what will happen, rather than a specific expectation that you have to fulfill in order to see the experience as a success. You’re a great model for other NaNoWriMo-ers!

    • Carole
      Twitter: cjtreggett
      October 6, 2012 | 1:57 PM

      Thanks, Sue! Yes, the spirit of Carroll’s Alice seems to have taken hold of me and I’m remembering just how joyfully I followed my creative curiosity as a child, and so I’m rekindling that energy now as I prepare for NaNo.

      I hope everyone who is participating can allow themselves the freedom of going forward to see what will happen. I believe they will be surprised and delighted (and empowered) going in with those expectations holding hands with their specific writing goal.

  8. Toyah
    October 7, 2012 | 4:58 PM

    I’m in! I’ve done two NaNos – didn’t make it to 50k either time, but they were both valuable learning experiences, and I ended up producing more words than ever before, so I don’t see them as failures. This year I’m doing a lot of planning and have booked almost two weeks off work (curse that annoying-but-necessary day job!) in the hope that I’ll beat my previous word counts and maybe even hit that elusive target.

    Feel free to buddy me if anyone likes, I’m toycool πŸ™‚

  9. Carole
    Twitter: cjtreggett
    October 9, 2012 | 2:09 PM

    Hiya Toyah! I’m thrilled to hear how valuable you found NaNo in previous years.

    You know, although I’m aiming to write 50,000 words next month, I’ll join you in counting whatever I end up producing as a SUCCESS πŸ™‚

    So glad to hear you’re able to take some time off from your day job to honour and focus on YOUR important creative work.

    Looking forward to ‘seeing’you, Lois and others on the NaNo forum. I’m cjtwriter πŸ™‚ Happy writing!

    • Toyah
      October 10, 2012 | 12:26 PM

      Thanks Carole – I have buddied you on the NaNo site. πŸ˜‰ My plans are going well…I’m getting excited about it now and can’t wait for November to get here!

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