Novembers aren’t for the faint of heart

How the insanity of NaNoWriMo actually keeps me sane

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My clone practising sword fight in seas of gold

Let’s face it, the organisers of the annual writing challenge NaNoWriMo did a brilliant job in chosing Novembers for it. Especially in Europe it’s that time of year that’s dullest and rainiest, and we still have to get used to the fact that days get darker and colder. Our autumn was just lovely, and we spent almost every weekend out hiking in the woods or fields. So this year it was especially hard to let go of the warm summer and colourful autumn memories and prepare the caves for indoor-season. But then: Novembers always herald the start of the writing-season: with the challenge of completing NaNo’s task: 50,000 words in a month.

Best motivational tool ever: the bar (not that bar!)

But in the past four years I’ve found my rescue from depressed moods and writing-confusion in NaNoWriMo. Yes, to write 1667 words a day, every day, from 1st to 30th of November is hard, to say the least, but so far I succeeded every year. At the end of the month, you have the first draft of more than half a novel. This can only be done by at least sitting down every day, and no matter what stuff is in the way: to write at least the needed number of words, so that the statistics (that ruthless bar!) don’t fall behind and scream at you “failed!”. img_20161121_093948

I said how much I love that bar for every day there? It’s the best motivational tool ever. It doesn’t react to excuses, nor whining, nor cursing. It’s just there, incorruptible. So I have to put on the shield maiden panties and decide: Do I want to succeed? Then get the words in! Luckily, my contemporary romance so far proves to be an easy player. I get words in without torture. There’s been a DENT (OMG!), when I cheekily took a day off, but I pushed the bar back to that line without too much pain. Let’s hope all the viruses and bakteriae will have mercy with my family, at least in November, so no other outside forces delay me … 😉

So naturally, November’s challenge brings unusual focus to the writing life. No matter what else in on the schedule, those 1667 words scream to be written, every. Single. Day. For an artist who always has too much on her plate, this is just perfect. I’m hooking up with other writing buddies and we drag each other through the NaNoWriMo-mud. Everyone says they wished they had this focus and determination all year round. Nobody can keep this frenzy up, though. But Novembers are booked for kicking off new novels!

Sanity through focus

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The darker months have their cosy advantages…

And then there’s the aspect of sanity in the real sense: When it gets darker and gloomier, my mood often follows suit, and my anxiety kicks in when I least expect it. I talked about the troll I called Hugo, who ambushes me with panic attacks on an irregular basis. Winters are worse than summers, naturally. And it all depends on the schedule I put myself on. So if there’s too much to do, and too much chaos, Hugo strikes more readily. He warns me to slow down – and focus.

So in that sense, NaNo is also a great way to keep the mind occupied with important stuff, THE most important stuff: writing the words. Hugo has little chance to suddenly corner me when I’m submerged in story-land. I just have to be careful not to stress myself out too much: keeping a balance with the rest that needs doing around that word count.

I do that by sticking to a strict routine: my November-routine consists of editing last year’s novel in the mornings, along with blog posts, social media, etc., and evenings are booked for writing the fresh draft. And as I write these drafts by mulling them over during the day, adding notes, then incorporate them in the evenings, there is little time to think dark thoughts.  🙂 In that way, good old NaNoWriMo and Novembers are wonderfully helpful friends to stay sane in a gloomy season – and to help birth new novels!

And because the ruthless bar up there says I need to put in more words still: I’m off to write more (novel-) words now …

HAPPY WRITING and READING! signturelogo

How do you feel about NaNo and Novembers? It this month a dark and dangerous one for you, or are you always looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait for it to help you make serious word counts? If you’re a ferocious reader, Novembers could maybe kick-off your reading marathons of the dark season? How do you do it? Let’s talk about it below!

Comments (2)

  1. Marianne Sciucco 21.11.2016 at 22:46

    I’m jealous. My RSIs don’t allow me to participate in NaNo. I’ve tried a few times, but always end in disaster and cortisone shots. Maybe next year. Optimism is a beautiful thing.

    • sarah

      sarah 21.11.2016 at 23:12

      I’m sorry to hear it, Marianne, that’s a shame, but then: most important is to keep a balance and always be gentle with ourselves. What the body doesn’t allow, just isn’t meant to be. You will find other ways to get words down, I hope. If there’s anything we can do to help: the writing community is just the best! 🙂 Take care and all the best to you and your projects!

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