NaNoWriMo Diaries #3: Taking a Break & Falling Behind

Welcome to the end of the second week—and the beginning of the third—for NaNoWriMo 2020. This has been a relatively challenging seven days for me in terms of consistency with daily writing and also dealing with creative blocks. Today I wanted to chat briefly about the relief and hardships that come with taking breaks and the setbacks that arise in light of them. To any new folx here, NaNoWriMo Diaries is a Sunday segment I began to track my first-time experiences with this community-based event. The first entry can be found here and the second one here.

On Monday (9th November), I had felt excellently about the progress that I had made in my first week. Between the chapter outlines, world-building, and the handful of chapters written, I had a marvellously constructive kick-start. This positive and productive energy followed me into the second week as well. However, on Wednesday (11th November), I became sick with the seasonal cold and found myself unable to concentrate on any activity that did not involve resting and indulging in comforting cartoons. My writing took a relatively huge hit and I felt utterly dejected.

Sometime during my rest and recovery, I remember having nightmares about my laptop and highlight pens coming to life and berating me for falling behind on my word count. When I awoke, I was so overcome with anxiety that once I did get over my cold, I could not write a single word, not even with regard to note-taking. Feeling frustrated, I meditated for about half an hour and asked myself three important questions:

  • Why am I really stuck? – This is an essential inquiry because on occasion when I am working on a creative project, if I find myself hitting metaphorical walls, I have discovered that it is almost always due to an underlying issue that I am too afraid to confront. For NaNoWriMo, I had to figure out if the problems plaguing my mental well-being were indeed related to anxiety from falling behind, or if there was a whole other issue that I had not realised yet.
  •  What caused this issue? – The next thing to ponder are the motives behind the blocks. For example, last year while working on a short story collection, I found that the experiences that I had used as inspiration for the collection no longer fit with the person I had become (i.e.: depressed and in a dark place versus being psychologically stable and assured). I had to find a way to tap into my old self in order to keep writing without deprecating the positive changes I had made. Here with my current writing block, it was a matter of deciphering where the creative lines were being shut-off and working to open them back up.
  • Should I step away? – This is a technique that I struggle with the most, more so being a workaholic who likes to constantly stay busy and productive. Once I uncover the cause of my dilemmas, I try to formulate ways of resolving them. However, if I work at solution-hunting for too long or too exhaustively, then it can significantly exacerbate the issues at hand. In this case, if I kept trying to push through my rut, then eventually even looking at my laptop would fill me with an overwhelming sense of dread and enervation, which are not feelings I want to be associated with my project.

By the end of my contemplations, I decided to take a much-needed mental health break. The downside of stepping away is that I will remain behind on my current word count, and this debt shall only increase as each day goes by. Nevertheless, the space away will also provide me with an opportunity to rejuvenate my brain energy and my physical energy, which shall then allow me to work diligently for long hours at a time without burning out or being overcome with incredible bouts of fatigue.

Where there is an unexpected setback, there shall undoubtedly also be an unforeseen opportunity!

I will be honest. I am still stressed out about the low numbers on this project, but I also like to remind myself that life is extremely unpredictable. Sometimes things will happen outside of my control—like catching a cold—and I will need to learn to adapt accordingly. Life is also incredibly flexible and fortified as well. Where there is an unexpected setback, there shall undoubtedly also be an unforeseen opportunity!

Going into the third week, my main focus will be to write as much as I possible can in order to get back onto track with my manuscript. Even so, I will not rush to the point that the quality of my writing or the integrity of my story shall suffer. The key will be finding a balance that works best.

4 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Diaries #3: Taking a Break & Falling Behind

  1. Life happens. As usual, I am well behind at this point on my word count and I have yet to find a time to write that is really working for me. I’ve gone through a lot of major life changes since my last successful Nano, and it shows. Regardless, give yourself credit for making a beginning and continue when you can. Remember that the only person who set this goal and deadline for you, is you, and you are quite empowered to change it if necessary. Your meditation technique is very wise! The word count for Nano is really quite high for one month. Some writers easily exceed it, others cannot even come close – and this is true for pros as well as amatuers. Not everyone is Asimov. Also, I’ve found sometimes that stepping away means that when the inspiration hits again my subconscious has figured out the next 10,000 words and all I need it to sit down and let them out. Blessedbe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I have completely fallen behind and have not been able to catch up. While I do feel somewhat bummed about it, I am learning something really interesting about myself and my writing processes, which I’m looking forward to exploring more on Sunday’s NaNoWriMo update. As you said, some writers can exceed at meeting word counts in a short periods, while others really struggle with it. I had a good start, but I am definitely in the latter category.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have pretty much given up at this point. Hubby had a bad week and that was the end of that. Now of all the things I have to catch up on, that’s really least important to me. I’m not saying I couldn’t get a wild hair and do it all this weekend…

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