Lessons from NaNoWriMo

Oh snap, look who’s still active.

Well, that’s half a lie. Throughout everything that happened in 2016, my writing suffered the most. I talked about moving back home for family, being unable to write, finding my writing through Hamilton: An American Musical. There’s a lot more I haven’t mentioned. There were a few major hits this year that knocked me off my feet. Navigating through grief, adjusting to antidepressant pills and managing my anxiety, losing a close friendship that I thought was healthy. These major hitters were things I had to adjust to, slowly, even if at the time, I didn’t think it affected me as much.

There was a period in the spring where I could not bring myself to write at all. Whether it was handwriting, sitting at my computer, taking notes on my phone, I didn’t see the point of writing. It was terrible. I don’t know the exact causes of it, but depression hit hard. I was still smiling and joking; I was still social, but creativity slammed to a dead stop. Instead of writing, I occupied myself with a kitten we had found under my mom’s shed (I named her Kirrah, after the Kirrah in the Second Realm trilogy), hand raising her, bottle feeding her and watching her grow. Hamilton revived a lot of that spirit, which I talked about before. It wasn’t until I hit November, and NaNoWriMo, that I felt the real spark ignite.

I had always been scared of National Novel Writing Month. I kept track of word count obsessively until this year, and my 2,000 word goal was based off of Stephen King’s daily word goal. 1,667 words a day was under that. Logically, that should have been easy. Instead, in the past, I got intimidated by the 50,000 word count. 50k words in 30 days is a tall order – even seasoned NaNoWriMo participants agree. Two friends on facebook gave me the encouragement I needed to enter. I started off with incredibly low expectations, thinking I would fail, but that any progress was progress.

What I found was the complete opposite of what I was expecting.

Entering NaNoWriMo was the beginning of a spark. Full immersion into the daily word challenges ignited me in a way I hadn’t felt in so long. I connected with other writers through a Hamilton facebook group I’m active in. These other writers encouraged me, challenged me, pushed me. My own competitive streak activated against myself. I knew I could beat 1,667 words a day in my sleep. I wrote in large chunks that crossed the word counter reset time at midnight, and I wrote in small chunks that accumulated throughout the day. I reinforced my old rule of writing time that I used to follow, based off of JK Rowling:

Throughout all of the ways I pushed myself, I soared ahead of the expected daily word count. Some days I fell behind because I wasn’t able to write. At the end of NaNoWriMo, I was falling behind, at least three days under their expected word count. I pushed myself hard to cross that finish line, and completed 50k words just past midnight on November 3oth.

NaNoWriMo kicked my ass. It taught me a lot about myself, especially in terms of my writing. Throughout everything that happened in 2016 (social media agrees: 2016 officially sucked), I found myself at the end of November. NaNoWriMo showed me that I still had the talent I was afraid of losing. It showed me that I still had the drive, the power, and the time to put in. Hamilton got me to face my fears as a writer. NaNoWriMo pushed me through them. 

I’m still recovering from the melting-brain feeling from NaNoWriMo, along with retail Christmas season, so my writing has taken a small pause. Until yesterday. Yesterday, I told myself I couldn’t lose what progress I had made this year. My sleeping schedule is perpetually wrecked, I am completely absorbed in Facebook, music, and work. Yet, my drive to write still remains strong.

Liliana still sits unfinished on my computer. I had to take a long break after completing that draft. I was so overwhelmed with what it took to finish the trilogy, especially with the setbacks faced while drafting. With 2016 drawing to an end, I realize that to rush Liliana to publication to meet my original goal at the beginning of the year is foolish. I am not rushing a work before it feels “done” to me. However, progress has started again. Slow, gradual progress.

I am here. I am writing.

I have faced depression this year. I have faced fear. I have pushed through it.

Melissa is back, y’all. I hope you’re ready.