Yesterday was the first time in thirty days that I didn’t write, and it felt weird. I’m proud (I did it, 50,000 words is no small thing) and relieved (I have free time again, what a revelation!) and sort of, well, sad. Bittersweet. For the entire month of November I had something creative to do, that I had committed to every single day. By comparison, I now feel free as a bird. I read a lot yesterday, the first of December, it felt luxurious.

So, what next? If I’m honest, in previous years I’ve felt a little ambivalent about the projects I was working on. The first two NaNoWriMo novels did make it past 50,000 words, but they weren’t complete by any means. They were incredibly messy, so far from something I’d be ok with showing to other people. Maybe I changed, maybe my writing has changed- I feel like I want to edit this one. I want to put the work in to make it great, and it feels possible.

December is a busy month, and there’s so much I want to work on. I also want to allow myself a little holiday time. The plan is this: Enjoy.

Here’s where I’m at: I’m hungry for a meal that requires absolutely no effort from me. I want to drink Champagne in a bathtub which is full to the brim and has some kind of needlessly expensive bubble-making product in it. My shoulders are sore from being hunched over this laptop, and I didn’t have time for a full yoga practice this afternoon. Today I wrote close to 4,000 words. This time next week, National Novel Writing Month will be over.

I keep having ideas for new projects. Poems, short stories, personal essays, novels(?) and so on. It happens to me every Nano; I am overflowing with ideas that I wouldn’t have any other month, which are currently of no use. Sometimes I jot them down, but often I don’t. Maybe I don’t trust them- come December 1st I could look at them and realise they’re mostly garbage. Like the epiphanies you have past midnight when you’re three sheets to the wind. Still, I’m excited for a time when I’ll be free to start something new. The idea feels strangely luxurious.

One thing that’s different this year is that I can imagine editing this novel, and it doesn’t seem like more work than I can possibly handle. I don’t know if it’s the novel that’s different (better) or whether I’m just feeling more capable. Either way, it’s a pleasant change. I feel this way: Things are possible.

I don’t imagine I’ll have time and content for another blog till NaNoWriMo finishes, so I’ll see you at the finish line!

There’s only one more week left. Time has both flown and dragged, NaNoWriMo (or any challenging period of time) has a way of doing that. I’ve got my eye on the finishing line, and I believe I’m going to make it. The thing is, to finish this, there are a lot of other things that are probably going to fall by the wayside, because it’s important to me. It’s always been difficult for me to justify prioritising art, but over time I’ve begun to accept that the work it takes is worth it. To claim I am taking this time, everything else can wait is brave. It’s stressful watching other tasks pile up, but with every passing minute we’re closer to the end of it, and every word is precious. It’s not useful to question whether this novel is worth it, or whether or not I have something of value to contribute. Write the words, do the work and then you can begin the process of combing through the word rubble to see what’s shaken out. NaNoWriMo isn’t about making something perfect, it’s about writing 50,000 words and that is what I’m going to do. One of the best pieces of advice I could give right now is to protect your time. But if life blows up around you and you can’t do it, please forgive yourself. It doesn’t mean you can’t write, or that you’ll never finish a project. National Novel Writing Month is a great excuse to try something that’s frankly a bit mad, but you can start writing a novel on December 1st. I won’t tell.

A couple days ago I passed 10,000 words. I think I’ve probably eaten roughly 10,000 grams of chocolate too, and I’m ok with that. When you do NaNoWriMo the whole month of November takes on a surreal quality. You really have to wrestle to find the time not only to write, but to have a spare moment to yourself. The original title of this blog was NaNoWriMo Day 14, if you want to know just how occupied I’ve been. I’m trying to keep on top of the things that are most important to me (writing, loved ones, health) but from time to time something falls by the wayside.

It’s easy to focus on the things you haven’t done, many of us have no trouble shining the spotlight on our perceived failings. But life isn’t a to-do list, and you do the best you can. If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I would suggest you let yourself have this month. It’s a finite amount of time, to do something you must love a whole lot. It’s ok to make it a priority. It’s also ok to take the evening off to watch netflix or simply stare into spare. Do what you’ve gotta do.

As for me, I’m feeling pretty determined. And hungry for chocolate.

Starting over is usually met with feeling either a) afraid or b) unencumbered. Today I feel the latter. Yesterday something clicked for me, which led me to put aside the novel I had been working on, and starting something else from scratch. Since then I’ve occupied that rare, yummy zone where the words are flowing, and I am content. The thing that I realised (and have realised many times over, but occasionally forget) is that for a NaNoWriMo project to be enjoyable, I have to be completely absorbed by the character(s) I’m writing. As a writer I have never been driven by plot, it always feels more natural to start with a character and work from there. I’m interested in writing about people, who they are and why they do what they do. Now, I can manage to do complex plots if I work hard at it, but it takes a lot of time. The novel I started on November 1st has a lot of potential, but I couldn’t write it quickly. So I put it in the ‘for another time’ folder, and began again. I’m so happy I did. Sometimes starting over is the best, or only option.

Day 4. My word count isn’t where I want it to be, but for some reason that isn’t bothering me this year. 2017 has really piled it on, in so many aspects. I got busy, then I got busier. There’s no time to worry about whether or not I’ll make the 50,000 word count, and if it does briefly cross my mind I feel a new sort of calm. I feel like I’ll make it, and if I don’t the worst that can happen really isn’t so bad. I wish I could give some concrete advice on how to let go of your writing worries, but I’m not sure what makes the difference between rationally understanding that it’s better to fail then never try, and actually feeling that way. Maybe it’s time, or maybe it’s realising you’ve already survived all the misfortunes that have been thrown at you so far. Maybe next year I’ll be a ball of raw nerves again. At any rate, I look at what I have so far, and I think this thing has legs. How are you doing?

Dear Reader,

There is still time.

As I write this, it’s Halloween in Australia, which also means it’s the eve of National Novel Writing Month. This will be my fourth year participating, and for the first time I won’t be starting at my small desk which occupies one corner of our bedroom. It’s almost become a tradition to stay up till midnight, then retreat to my makeshift office to hunch gargoyle-like over my laptop for half an hour or so. A head start, yes, but most of all it made the start of NaNoWriMo feel like an extra special occasion. This year will be a little different, because I’m visiting family for the week. No desk, and certainly no spare energy to stay up till the clock strikes twelve. I’m a little sad about it. Like most things related to my writing (or art), I’ve felt fiercely protective of the habit. Mostly, I’m excited to see what will happen this year, which brings me back to my first point: There is still time.

If you’ve been wondering whether you should try NaNoWriMo this year, my advice is to give it a go. The worst that can happen is you’ve written more than you might have otherwise, even if it wasn’t 50,000 words. Make a different goal, make it your own. Be a part of something.

Here’s a little last minute prep list to consider:

  • Use whatever writing software you’re familiar with.
  • Keep a water bottle near you, so you stay hydrated even when you’re in the zone.
  • Buy yourself a nice new mug, and maybe a winners t-shirt while you’re at it.
  • If you’d prefer to plot things out a little beforehand, here’s a handy guide.
  • Make a list of things that inspire you (stormy weather, the smell of pine, Gregorian chanting etc)
  • Tell people you’re doing it. See if you can drag them into it with you.
  • Get your hands on some easy, healthy snacks. And maybe some chocolate too.
  • Write in bold letters: I can edit later. Remember this, it’s true and important.

30 days, 50,000 words. Let’s do this.