October Writing Check: am I failing NaNo before it’s even begun?

We had snow last week, a sure sign that November is closing in.

As November approaches, so too does the yearly writing challenge known as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Year autumn writers from around the country attempt to writing a full 50,000 novel in just 30 days. Every year, I attempt some sort of writing challenge, and fail within the first 2 weeks. What can I say? It’s tradition.

This year, I decided to take it seriously.

This year I wanted to make a true effort to finish one of my abandoned novels. I planned to roll up my sleeve and dive into the work, head-first. I was going to spend the last 2 weeks of October planning and preparing for 30 days of writing fever. I’d have the outline, the tracking apps, a support group, reward system, and plenty of snacks for fuel! “No excuses!” I told myself, “This time it’s for real“. Now, here I am on October 28th with only half my preparations completed. What happened?

I tell myself that it’s because of work.

Usually, Q4 is pretty quiet for my team at work. Most of our clients aren’t interested in doing much on their websites during the holiday season, so we spend the colder months on research and development. Imagine our surprise when 5 new accounts came through in 1-week, at the same time my team is being transferred to a new company. Saying the two weeks since I’ve come back from vacation has been “stressful” is an understatement. By the end of the working day, all I want to do is binge watch Murder, She Wrote (RIP Angela Lansbury) with my cat and a glass of wine. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. No writing. No drafting. No NaNo prepping.

Where am I at in preparations?

Further than I expected, but not as far as I’d like to be. So far I have my NaNo support group confirmed, and we are planning our weekly coffee/sprint dates. I’ve also updated my NaNoWriMo profile, and have figured out some of my milestone rewards. But, there is still so much left to do! I still need to figure out my plot, create and outline, buy some snacks/supplies, and create a writing playlist. I admit that some of those preparations are more about the aesthetic of being a writer than it is about the actual process of writing, but the most important task has not been completed: the outline. I know I won’ finish my book without knowing all the major plot points.

Does that mean I’ve failed before I’ve even begun?

I’ll admit, that it doesn’t bode well to lack the energy to even outline a novel before attempting to sprint through it’s first draft. If I don’t have the time now, can I really pretend that I’m suddenly going to be motivated to complete the task when the time comes? Probably not. Does that mean I’m not going to try? Of course not. Even if I don’t succeed, it doesn’t meant that the time and energy spend on the goal was a waste of time.

As the more modern saying goes: “Anything worth doing is worth doing half-way”.

We don’t always have time to deep clean the kitchen, but it doesn’t mean we can’t wash the dishes. We don’t always have time to take a shower, but we can still change our clothes. We don’t always have the time to read a book, but we can still read a single chapter at a time. Sometimes we don’t have the energy or motivation to do it all at once. Sometimes the task is just to big or overwhelming to tackle. There’s no shame in acknowledging that you can’t do it all right now. There’s also no shame in trying without success. Afterall, you definitely won’t succeed if you don’t try at all.

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