NaNoWriMo Diaries #4: The Final Word Count + Important Writing Lessons I’ve Learned During the Month

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is just about finished and I must say that while I was not able to meet my fifty thousand word count total, I did learn many lessons about the way that I like to write, what tends to hold me back in writing, and the overall writing process in general. For me, that means that NaNoWriMo was quite an insightful success and I am wholehearted grateful that I took an opportunity at giving this event an attempt. Today I wanted to briefly discuss how my journey with crafting a fantasy manuscript has fared thus far, and what lessons I shall carry with me as I move forward in my authorial pursuits.

When I began NaNoWriMo, I was extremely motivated and marvellously inspired to complete at least fifty thousand words in an Indian-iTaukei inspired fantasy narrative. The first seven days consisted of regular writing and meeting daily word goals. With the arrival of the second week, I began discovering a comfortable balance between life’s priorities and personal time for working on the manuscript. However, by the arrival of the third week, I fell behind due to a seasonal cold and then struggled with finding my way back to the track. I shall openly confess that initially I felt rather discouraged by my lacking ability to write. It did not matter to me that I was sick and needed to take care of my physical health first. Somewhere along the line, I mentally convinced myself I was a failure, which was complete hogwash.

…we should not allow those strong negative feelings to become their very own monstrous mould of barriers in our path forward.

This was where I learned my first lesson: life happens. If I did not get sick, any number of other obstacles could have risen up to stop me in my writing pursuits, or at the very least, cause a significant setback with them. It is virtually impossible to prepare for every potential hindrance that life tosses one’s way. Yes, it can be extremely unmotivating and demoralising, and it is more than okay to feel the frustrations that comes with them. Nevertheless, we should not allow those strong negative feelings to become their very own monstrous mould of barriers in our path forward.  

Once I was over my cold, I calculated that one and a half weeks were remaining in NaNoWriMo, which meant that I had plenty of time to formulate a plan of action and catch-up, or at the very least find my way to fifty thousand words by the end of November 30th. This is where I would learn a couple of more lessons about my own writing methods, such as self-imposed deadlines being horrendously dangerous for my creative processes, a one month restriction is harmful for my ADHD, and if there is no fun to be had, then there is no inspiration to draw from.

Professional deadlines do not bother me or impact my ability to get my work done. Since they are a natural part of life (e.g.: deadlines for work projects and goals, or deadlines for completing homework in a timely manner for school and university), I have grown familiar and relaxed with working with and around these sorts of deadlines. But if the deadlines that I have to meet are self-imposed, I have a far more challenging time with being able to meet them. My theory is that by giving myself a deadline, it is much easier to keep changing it and pushing it back as much as I want or need to if I find that I cannot meet them. There is no real risk or consequence of not meeting my own deadlines—aside from self-deprecating thoughts and feelings—and that prevents me from taking them seriously. NaNoWriMo is a community-based event, however, everyone must hold themselves accountable for meeting the deadline and there is never a real effect to the cause of failing.

My solution for this problem (one that is currently being tested out) is to have someone else hold me accountable and to create a reward/consequence system that gives me a genuine feeling of pressure to make those deadlines feel more authentic and realistic. My brain is very much wired to think in these terms, thus I needed to formulate a way to adapt to its unique understanding. Insha’Allah, this method will prove fruitful in some ways.

Discovering the intricacies of how my ADHD impacts my writing was quite a frustrating experience during NaNoWriMo, but it was also an incredibly vital lesson that needed to be learned and understood.

I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which means that my brain is prone to highly abnormal hyperactive bouts of impulsive behaviour. What this means in terms of writing is that by continuously working on a single project for extended periods of time, I can get severely restless and agitated. The need to switch activities and do something else becomes extremely compulsive, akin to having an incredibly persistent itch in the centre of your brain. The problem with a one-month restriction with writing is that it requires very long writing sessions in order to be plausible (for me). When my ADHD is triggered, I have a relentless resistance towards doing the same activity again for at least a full day. Discovering the intricacies of how my ADHD impacts my writing was quite a frustrating experience during NaNoWriMo, but it was also an incredibly vital lesson that needed to be learned and understood. It helped me to better comprehend my limitations so that I can accommodate them moving forward.

Lastly, if I am not having fun, then what is the point to what I am doing? Writing has always, first and foremost, been a passionate hobby of mine. As I grew and got older, it slowly blossomed from a hobby into my dream career. Even though I want to make writing my profession, if it starts to feel like a dreaded chore—such as washing a towering stack of dirty dishes or having to give my cats a bath—then the passion dissipates. If the passion dissipates, so does my ability to tap into the deepest creative recesses of my imagination, which is a primary facet of professional creative writing. With NaNoWriMo, I became so obsessed with meeting the numbers that I had lost sight of my story and what I wanted to accomplish with the narrative that I was pouring my heart and soul into. When a manuscript goes from focusing on sharing a magical (or twisted) tale into a pile of papers that concentrates on numbers and outside forces (will this appeal to an agent or publisher versus will this appeal to my idea and vision), it can lose a lot of the charm that drives it into creation. For me, having fun and feeling passionate about whatever I am creating is one of the most important aspects of being a writer and I never want to experience its loss again.

As you can see, NaNoWriMo 2020 was quite an adventurous creative campaign for me. There are many fascinating bits of wisdom and observations that were accumulated that I feel shall only me to grow as a writer and to further hone my skills at storytelling. I am bummed that I was not able to meet the word count, as my total number came to approximately twenty-five thousand (although I did forget to update this on the NaNoWriMo website), however, I also began a short story collection during this time and I finished eighty-five percent of a poetry manuscript. So, while my fantasy manuscript still has plenty of work left on it, I also began a couple of other wonderful projects that I am genuinely excited for and look forward to sharing with the world one day. Plus, I know these two projects shall definitely be finished before 2021 hits the clocks. All in all, my NaNoWriMo was a thrilling success in numerous ways and I am so happy I partook in this event!

NaNoWriMo Diaries #1: First Time Participating + Writing Goals
NaNoWriMo Diaries #2: Balancing Life with Writing + Daily Goal Progress
NaNoWriMo Diaries #3: Taking a Break & Falling Behind