4 reasons Nanowrimo sucks as a professional writer

I know. It makes absolutely no logical sense. I’m a professional writer -Nanowrimo is just me doing more of that same job. Surely it’s not any different?

Well amongst the other reason that Nanowrimo has been tough – even impossible – this year, I’ve also struggled with adding it to my workload generally. So here, in my experience, are the five reasons this in particular has been really tough.

1. I already have a wordcount target and this increases it drastically.

I already write regularly, so this isn’t a new habit. It’s just that habit turned up to 11. Theoretically, this isn’t as hard as forming a new habit but honestly? It might as well be starting from scratch.

Because the difficulty for me is that that target is already the extreme of what I can do, so attempting to do Nanowrimo on top of my standard work is constantly pushing me beyond that limit. Now pushing myself beyond my limits is totally good! But I really believe that pushing yourself too hard isn’t.

For me, it turns out that adding Nanowrimo on top of things was too hard. I definitely do want to increase my writing stamina, but not this intensely.

2. I only have so much creative capacity in a day.

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but for me there’s only so much I can give to creativity. Not all tasks take the same amount either, and the same thing done twice doesn’t take the same amount both times. Oh, and I wake up with different amounts of capacity daily.

For example, sometimes it’s really easy to write a blog post. Sometimes takes me hours because I just can’t get the words out. I think this is what writer’s block is for me. There are often reasons that it’s hard (I’m distracted, depressed, anxious, in pain, tired), which are also often the cause of having less capacity to write on a given day.

My normal writing routine caters for this, in that I deliberately give myself too much room for things. But adding Nanowrimo in, once again, is too much.

3. Doing Nanowrimo only on weekdays works, but there’s a narrower margin for error.

On top of all of this, if I have a bad day, and I am good and say ‘okay, I will stop for today’, I’ve not ended up 1,667 words behind. I’m 2,275 words behind – because to preserve the sanctity of my free time, I’ve got to do Nanowrimo during work hours.

Or, well. I don’t have to – that’s the wrong way to put it. I could absolutely accept Nanowrimo as a hobby and do it out of work hours, just like I do with writing flash fiction about LRP characters or similar.

Except…this novella is for publication. Which means it is very much part of my job. It would be wrong to claim that it’s a hobby when it’s directly something I’m doing for work. And that means I need to do it on weekdays, which is – well, it’s tough. It’s really tough.

4. When I feel guilty about Nanowrimo, I also feel guilty about my work.

…because then everything is interconnected, and suddenly there’s just this cascade effect of guilt.

Which is difficult because – well, I had this goal to go to in-person Nanowrimo meetups this year, right? So I joined my local Nanowrimo groups. And quite understandably they are all celebrating their progress and I…

I am sitting here thinking that they have written all these words in half a month and I, the professional writer, have not managed anywhere near that. And Nanowrimo is part of my work, so now I feel that I’m terrible at my job, and so I feel terrible as a person, and…yeah.

I worry that as a whole, this list comes across as quite self-centred, perhaps even whiny. But I want to be honest with you, and sometimes honesty is whining a lot. So if you’re whining too? Awesome. It’s not just me. And it’s not just you either, so give yourself a break and do what’s best for you. Even if that’s quitting.

Sometimes quitting things is the greatest act of self-care we can undertake.

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