When I was at the TGIO* for my NaNoWriMo area last year, we were talking about keeping the writing going year round because a lot of my Wrimos have no problem writing 50,000 words every November but struggle to write anywhere near that the entire rest of the year combined. I was trying to sell them on setting a yearly goal like I do and they were interested. One Wrimo asked me what I would recommend setting as a goal for a first timer and clarified that by saying something to the effect of, “Because, of course, you can’t possibly keep up the volume of words they expect you to write a day for NaNoWriMo year round. It would be impossible!”
Almost everyone in the room nodded in agreement as she said it as if it was a truth universally agreed upon and, honestly, NaNoWriMo HQ themselves really fosters that mindset with the way they portray it as this crazy thing you put aside your normal life for. But it made me take pause. Because, if I’m honest with myself, I really don’t sweat the 50,000 for NaNoWriMo anymore. I wrote 85k + in November and almost every word of that was only written in write-ins, I did very little writing outside of my NaNoWriMo commitments so it’s not like I had to completely uproot my entire life to hit that count. Why couldn’t I keep up that pace all year?
I’ve also come to realize that my inner John Locke is strong and whenever I hear an absolute like that nearly every fiber of my being responds like:
(LOST was such a good show. I miss it.)
It all came down to me very seriously toying with setting 1,667 words a day (what you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days) as my goal for the year before I realized that I wasn’t doing it for any reason than to be a stubborn butt and show “them” whoever they were so I scrapped it for a more logical goal based on what I needed to finish. But apparently my subconscious didn’t get the memo because, well, here we are…
(You’re not seeing things. I wrote this post on Tuesday but posted it two days later. I do that sometimes.)
…I’m averaging 1,835 words a day. So, more than the daily goal for NaNoWriMo if you’re too lazy to compare. It was even higher earlier in the month before the toddler remembered she was morally opposed to sleep of all kinds and it had my projected count for the year at over 700k which was like haha what. I passed 50,000 words last month and I thought it was a fluke because I was racing to get that book out but, lo, here we are again this month and I’m honestly not working on anything all that pressing this month. I finished a play, did some work on a new non-fiction book and have been working on rewriting Mistress Novel but none of these explain these numbers.
I do this weird thing where as soon as things are going my way, I get suspicious waiting for the other shoe to drop and that’s happening big time. Once the momentum got started, I can’t deny that I’ve been keeping it up to some extent because I’m afraid it means I’m headed for some kind of crash later and need to get ahead now. There’s also a part of me that, like my Wrimos, thinks, nay, KNOWS I can’t keep this pace up, right? But then there’s the rest of me that’s just living my life and knows that, honestly, I’m not really sweating hitting these numbers and why shouldn’t I be able to keep this up all year?
All of this has made me wonder if NaNoWriMo might being doing its participants a serious disservice by playing up how impossible and crazy it is to write 50,000 words a month. Because, sure, if you’ve never written anything before in your life, writing that much in a month IS kind of crazy and will be very hard. I also think it helps motivate new writers to think of themselves as doing the impossible and makes missing the mark that much easier to bare. But NaNoWriMo has a way of teaching so many people the actual process of how to write that this idea that 50k is some kind of special output you can only achieve once a year isn’t just misleading, it can be detrimental to future progress.
That said, I understand I write really fast and that I’m privileged in a lot of ways. I’ve also been gradually increasing my writing goals over the years and all that work has paid off. The me of 10 years ago would never have been able to hit these kind of numbers and I completely understand that we’re all at different stages in our writing lives. Do I only feel this way because I’ve got that experience and practice behind me? On the other side, might I have been able to hit this stage that much faster if I hadn’t been told both directly and indirectly that it was impossible to shoot for NaNoWriMo type numbers year round?
I honestly don’t know but I’d love to know what you think about it!
PS: TGIO = Thank God/Goodness It’s Over Party
PPS: Obligatory potato for regular readers: