If you passed the 50,000 word finish line and became an official NaNoWriMo winner, you’re riding high. It was so much fun to watch people all over the world celebrating their victories on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook with animated GIFs, four letter words and lots and lots of exclamation points as the clock ticked past midnight. (And, in one memorable instance, party salad!) It was a glorious celebration of the triumph of determination over procrastination and caffeine over pesky sleep.
Or, at least, it was if you were looking at it from the winner’s circle. If you were watching it unfold with a word count that fell somewhat sort of 50,000… it probably made you feel kind of crummy.
You know how I know this? I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2002 and, from 2002 until 2007, I lost every single year. Yup. I, your fearless cheerleader, am a 5 time NaNoWriMo loser. I believe at least two of those years I wrote less than 10,000 words. I know.
I tell you this because I don’t want you to feel like not hitting 50,000 words this month makes you a failure. I know how easy it is to completely beat yourself up when you promise yourself that you’re going to do something and then you fall short. I think this feeling is just as bad if you came in at 49,999 or if you meant to participate but never ended up writing a single word.
You should still be extremely proud of yourself even if you didn’t hit 50,000 words this year. The first step to accomplishing anything is making the commitment and just by signing up, you crossed that hurdle. You took that very important first step to realizing your dream and you cannot underestimate the importance of that.
Secondly, you learned something very important about yourself this month. You know when you worked your absolute hardest to achieve this and when you slacked a little and maybe could have done a little more. You know what kinds of curve balls life can throw you that strike you out and which ones you can reach and hit out of the park anyway. You learned just how hard it really is to write 50,000 words in a month and now you know what kind of commitment that will require of you if you want to do it again in the future. Those are all very important lessons that you need to teach yourself if you want to achieve your goals.
Look at the words you did write. Even if they were less then you set out to write, each one still represents an accomplishment, a step towards achieving a very difficult goal and something to be proud of. Everyone says they want to write a book someday. Do you know how few actually ever even start one? Maybe you didn’t finish but you did start and that’s much farther than many people ever get.
So go to your area’s TGIO (Thank God It’s Over) Party with your head held high and don’t let this year’s loss scare you away from signing up next year. You know what changed for me in 2007, the year I finally won for the first time? Something just finally clicked and I understood just how hard I needed to work to reach that goal. And once I understood that, it didn’t matter how many losses I had under my belt, I was determined to never finish the month with less than 50,000 again.
You know the expression that tells you to shoot for the moon because even if you miss you’ll end up in the stars? Maybe you didn’t make it to the moon this year but you’re still up here in the stars. Maybe you’ll get to the moon next year, maybe not. For now, take a moment and enjoy the view.