What NaNoWriMo is teaching me about balance

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) started just over 4 days ago. While I feel like I’m not doing too badly with my word count, I know from last year’s attempt that it takes very little to lose the contest by not having enough words at the end of the month.

Last year I was a newlywed, starting out full-time with my company when I decided to try NaNoWriMo for the first time. It really was a silly time to try to write a novel in 30 days, but I am an overachiever in every sense of the word. (Kathy Reichs is my Hero.) So it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise when at the end of ever week I started to suffer from exhaustion and a migraine. Every Friday night I curled up om the sofa with my new husband and slept, recovering from the week of work and creative writing. By the end of the month I developed a cold and ‘lost’ the contest at approximately 37000 words, with 5 days remaining.

You’d think I would have learned that perhaps writing novels while having a profession is difficult. The people who practice architecture tend to immerse themselves in it, partly because it’s in our nature and partly because we have to do so much continuing education every year to maintain our license. I think when they interview us for architecture school they actually look for overachievers.

In the last year I’ve learned the writing community is no different. Look at any decent writing website and you’ll see the standard advice that advocates reading everything you can on the subject in order to succeed. You won’t get published until you study the industry intently. And that’s true whether you want to traditionally or self-publish. Writers, especially the NaNoers on the chat forums seem to have  quite a bit more free time than I do, which made me feel inadequate last year. I couldn’t do the word count because I pushed my mind and body too far.

But this year I’m looking at NaNoWriMo differently. I know I can write frantically, as I’ve participated in the 3 Day Novel Contest. However, this just works for short bursts and booking a small time frame to get the story out. This year I’m NaNoWriMo as a tool to teach me to balance my life and create a lifestyle that doesn’t swing too far in any one direction. My goal is to find a writing pace that enables me to write a bit each day, while still being flexible enough that I can work out, spend time with those I love, and even put in extra time at a job I happen to enjoy. And though word count matters in this contest, I’m trying to teach myself that a balanced life matters so much more.

I guess I’ll find out how well this works at the end of the month.

12 thoughts on “What NaNoWriMo is teaching me about balance

  1. Great attitude Heather. The one thing I can never count on is stability, can you? I mean, my life is just so unpredictable that I promise myself to do the best I can. I bet you do too. Oh, and I tie a little red sting round my wrist to remind myself to forgive myself for not being perfect. 🙂


  2. Heather, I agree with Veronica- great attitude. It’s so easy to get caught up into frantically thinking, “I’m not doing enough.” Set some goals, do your best, and as Veronica says, be forgiving. We should be enjoying writing, right? Now, off to find some red string…


  3. I agree with everyone else–great attitude! One of the girls in my office is also doing NaNoWriMo. She also gets migraines that keep her from doing her creative work (though not due to the stress) She doesn’t think she’ll win because of it (I think she is only at 13,000 right now?) but she has her own personal word count goal. If she makes that she says she’ll “win.” You’re not alone!


    • Margaret, it’s awesome that your office friend has her own goals. I find it hard to manage working and writing as separate time consuming entities. I figure, as long as I’m moving forward and something isn’t stagnating, then I’m doing well!


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