Monday, December 8, 2014

Winning NaNo (even when you fail)

For the first time in many years, I participated in NaNoWriMo, and in doing so I learned a little something. 

Let me start by saying that I had stayed away from NaNo in years past because every time I tried to reach my 50K word goal, I failed. And even though I knew that 50K in a month was a giant task, (and one year my town lost power for eleven days after a major Halloween snowstorm) it stung to not meet the goals I had set for myself, especially when so many others seemed to cruise right through to the end. 

I didn’t just fail. I felt like a failure.

Even though I didn’t really think about it in these terms, feeling like a failure is what kept me from trying NaNo again. And thus, I broke up with NaNo in a very it’s not you, it’s me fashion.

Fast forward a few years to NaNo 2014. I’m about 20K into a new WIP that I’m pretty excited about, and I decide that I want to give NaNo another try. Maybe it would be just the thing I needed to finish that all important first draft so I could start fresh with revisions in 2015. 

Of course, the first thing I do is tell my CPs. Apparently, the stars were aligned just right that day as I found out that all of us intended to participate this year. Yippee!! We all vowed to support and cheer for each other. We talked about our goals and how we planned on accomplishing them. This had me super excited and shot my motivation bar up to 11. 

Next, I made a plan.  I knew myself much better than I did during NaNo’s past, and so I came up with a plan that would give me the best possible chance to win. Monday through Friday, I was going to go to bed at 7:00 pm and wake up at 4:00 am every morning. That would give me two hours to write before I had to get ready for The Day Job. 

It was going to be AWESOME.

And awesome it was. For a time. However, November is a notoriously busy month for my family. As November flew by, I fell behind.  And behind. Aaaaand behind. That old familiar feeling crept it’s way into my consciousness. Despite my best efforts, I’m failing. Then, I’m a failure.

However, this year, a bigger part of my brain squashed that train of thinking immediately. Maybe I won’t write 50K new words, but I HAD written new words. Quite a few of them actually, and I was damn proud of those words. I also realized that not meeting a goal in a certain time frame was NOT synonymous with failure. It’s not even close. NaNo (as well as most other things) is not about winning or losing, or judging your achievement by another person’s progress. 

When I used a different perspective to consider what I had accomplished -- I  wrote way more in November than I had any other month in 2014 – then in reality, I kicked NaNo’s a$$. I was a word producing machine! My NaNo 2014 was a major success. 50K or not, I could feel good about what I'd done and look forward to doing it again next year. 

Thinking this way is motivating instead of discouraging and demoralizing. If you don’t try, you can never succeed, so never beat yourself up for trying. 

So, I guess the point to my story is this – be proud of what you’ve done, not what you haven’t yet accomplished. Give yourself credit for trying. Learn from your experiences and, in the end, do the best you can and allow yourself to feel good about it. 




  1. I LOVE THIS! Especially the part about how winning isn't a comparison game. So proud of what you accomplished during NaNo! New words are new words, and that's a win to me too! :)