Healthy Fear

I have a confession to make: I am afraid of Nanowrimo.

This will be my 9th year competing, and hopefully my 7th time winning. I’ve done this a lot now. I’ve published one of the novels that has come out of it. My lifetime word count for Nanowrimo is 328,809. I have a lot of evidence stating that I am more than capable of completing Nanowrimo and completing it well.

And yet, with thirteen days to go, I am terrified.

This is partly due to how busy and stressful this past month has been. I haven’t had the space before Nanowrimo that I am used to – I took on a huge project which is thankfully now done, but has consumed much of this past month. Even besides that, I am still getting used to working proper hours, something that until the past couple of years I have never done due to my depression. My brain and my body can’t quite keep up. That is very definitely contributing to how nervous I am feeling.

The second reason is that I have wanted to write this novel for years now. It has been there, percolating in my head, slowly developing from the original idea into what I actually want it to be. Last year for Nanowrimo I did a first draft which I have largely abandoned – though it was a necessary stepping stone on the way to writing it properly, it now doesn’t quite feel like I really started.

I’ve never quite managed to articulate that astonishing realisation that something you are doing or going to do is so incredibly, terribly precious to you. That even though it’s just an idea, you want to curl your body over it and shield it from the outside world. That is how I feel about Protos. It is tied into a huge amount of emotion for me and I have felt that feeling bubbling up inside me for years.

More importantly, I’ve increasingly felt in the past few months that I am ready. I am ready to write it. I am excited about what it has become in my head and I want it to become that in reality. And as we all know, excitement and anxiety can easily get tangled up in one another.

But the third, and most important reason – the reason I really want to talk about – is that Nanowrimo is scary. That is why I, and almost all of the other people participating, are scared of it. My hope is that by acknowledging this, that fear will lose some of its power.

No, it won’t ever stop being scary. The idea of fitting in writing 1,666 words a day around the rest of your hectic life is scary. Sure, there might be all sorts of strategies to break it down. Make it manageable. Schedule your life so you have time. What if you sit down to your scheduled time and…you don’t know what to write? You can’t find the words?

But at least if we accept that we are undertaking a scary thing, we might mitigate some of that fear – reducing the likelihood of beating ourselves up for being afraid, or fearing the fear because we don’t understand it.

So say it with me: Nanowrimo is scary. I am doing a scary thing. This is the reason I am stressed.

Hopefully, it will help just a little bit!

Later this week I’ll be talking about how I’m preparing for Nanowrimo, and the tips and tricks that I’ve found to be most helpful. What are you doing to prepare?

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