For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo (NaNoWriMo website) The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. This works out to be 1667 words (or about 8 double-spaced pages) per day. Sounds crazy, right? It is, but it’s also pretty awesome.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. I want others to read my fantasy books and be immersed in my world, just like I so often am in others’. I’ve come up with story ideas in my head since grade school, occasionally writing them down in short story or idea form. I first heard of NaNoWriMo in high school, but I didn’t start participating until my 3rd year in graduate school. I always found an excuse- I was too busy, I could never do something like that, now just wasn’t the right time.
Finally, in 2012, my graduate advisor encouraged me to do NaNoWriMo with him. I had even less time than ever before, but what I did have was the motivation and the social support. I convinced another grad student friend to do it with me, and together we embarked on this crazy journey. Day 1: less than 1000 words in and I already wanted to quit. The writing was awful- nothing like I imagined- and I already had run out of ideas. I probably would have quit, but I kept thinking how do I tell my graduate advisor that I quit on Day 1?
So I kept going. And going. And 50,000 words and 29 days later I had a novel. It was a crappy novel, but it was a novel. I have never felt prouder of anything in my entire life. What I had dreamed of for so long had finally come to pass.
I tried in 2013, but didn’t finish (I was also applying for jobs, teaching 4 classes, and writing my dissertation at the time). I was glad I tried, but also glad that I prioritized my career.
I skipped 2014- my first year in my brand new job.
I participated again in 2015 and 2016 and “won” both years with two more crappy 50,000 word novels. Finishing didn’t feel as good in these years, though there were some extenuating circumstances (mostly to do with my ex). Nevertheless, I was still proud that I participated and completed my novels.
Now it’s the first day of NaNoWriMo 2017. I promised myself back in September that I was going to do it again this year.
Since September, I’ve had about a million things going on. I’m teaching more classes this year than I have before, I have more advisees, I’m prepping new courses, I’m boxing every other day, I’m running a Pathfinder campaign, I’m working on my 2nd year review for work, I’m playing Magic, I have a little sister. And those are just the NEW things I’m doing. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed every day after I come home from work, barely able to heat up some food and collapse on the couch for a few hours before bed.
I’ve been dreading November. I keep wanting to call it all off. There’s no way I will have time to do everything AND write a novel. I keep trying to convince myself to quit. I almost have so many times.
But I refuse to let myself be ruled by fear.
Why do I want to quit? It’s the fear of failure. Fear that despite winning the last two years in a row, I won’t win this year. Fear that I’m not good enough. That I’m never going to be a writer. That I’ll never write a good novel.
This fear hasn’t stopped me just in November, but for the past year, I’ve hardly written anything because I’ve been afraid of failing.
Trying and failing is far better than sitting back and watching your dreams float away because you were too afraid to reach out for them. If I don’t finish this year, because of everything else in my life, I will at least be content that I tried. That I didn’t quit before I even started.
Yes, it will be hard, but it will be worth it. Like my boxing coach says, What Doesn’t Challenge You, Doesn’t Change You.