In the months of September and October, I often see posts aimed at helping writers gear up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo participants undertake a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November–the equivalent of a short novel. These words can be for a new project or added to an existing project; the only requirement to finish NaNoWriMo is that they be 50,000 new words.
I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2016 (my second attempt). It was a wonderful experience, just the push I needed to make some serious word count on my latest novel. I’m not doing it this year. Here are three reasons why.
I need to revise Book #2 in my Expansion series. My editor has recommended heavy rewrites to some sections, as well as general tweaking, which will likely take a couple of months. NaNo is great for producing new material, but production alone can’t be the goal if you want to be a professional writer. My time in November will be better spent attending to the words already on the page.
I’m still settling down after an international move. If you saw my post in August, you know my partner and I moved to Vancouver, Canada from the United States. We were lucky enough to find an apartment relatively quickly, but we still have a myriad of tasks to complete before we can consider ourselves firmly settled.
I have to focus on my paid work. I’m a freelance academic nonfiction editor by day, and there’s a certain amount of hustle involved in sustaining that business, especially after relocating. Besides taking much-needed time to build business connections in Vancouver, I also have a big project due by middle of November. Although in the long run I would like to make a living from my fiction, and am slowly building that business, I’ll be shortchanging myself if I neglect what pays the bills now.
Final note – Production vs. Productivity: Writers and other creative types feel a lot of pressure to be “productive”. It’s worth stepping back and asking yourself if putting words into a new project is the best use of your energy at this moment. Sometimes we may be creating something of value that’s not as readily visible: for instance, revision may not seem productive but it’s an essential part of the writing process, as is outlining. Also, sometimes life takes precedence over art — it’s hard to write effectively when your non-writing life or work is tugging for your attention.
Rather than pushing yourself to write for the sake of feeling productive, even when it doesn’t make sense for your current situation, think of production as a cycle. Make use of creative sprees in your free time, but also cultivate periods of rest when your creative mind can lie fallow and replenish its energy. Production is a cycle of spending and replenishing energy, and both phases are important if you want to do this long-term.
Readers, I want to hear from you – Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not? What strategies have you found for restoring your creative energy and avoiding burnout? Share in the comments below.