I tried, but writing 50,000 words in November just wasn’t meant to be this year. This whole year has been strange and upsetting. It made for a unique set of challenges for everyone when it came to tackling 50,000 words in a month.
At the start of the month I felt pretty confident. I reached my goal during Camp NaNoWriMo back in July for the first time ever. I’d won NaNoWriMo multiple times in the past. It shouldn’t be that different this year. Even with the pandemic. Even with the election…
I was so wrong.
The first cracks in my writing foundation showed up before November even started. Towards the end of October my best friend’s brother attempted to take his life and ended up in a vegetative state. I’ve known him for 24 years, almost as long as I’ve been best friends with his sister. I was shaken by the news, but I ended up feeling angry, upset and hurt on my best friend’s behalf for the first few weeks without really processing it for myself.
Obviously, I was kidding myself by thinking I was okay at the start of November.
I wrote. Everything seemed to be going about as well as usual. I always fall behind in the first two weeks of the month. I’m a procrastinator so needing to catch up in the final days is just the way I work. I thought I was doing great with my writing all things considered.
Then on November 22nd my grandpa died. He was 92, but I wasn’t ready. I fell apart. If I’m honest, I’m still in pieces. Since then I’ve been lucky if I have an hour or two a day when I feel okay enough to get off autopilot. Instead of increasing my writing output, I struggled to function well enough to write at all.
My best friend’s brother passed away on the 27th. I stopped functioning altogether again.
I always debate how much of my personal life to share online and through this blog in particular. When it comes to writing struggles it can be really hard to be real and honest about why writing is difficult without exposing the lowest points in my personal life on the internet.
Most of the time I hesitate to share because I feel like someone will interpret it as looking for excuses to avoid writing. I worry someone will tell me what I’ve experienced isn’t that bad or they’ve written through worse. I trust my friends and even my internet acquaintances to be more compassionate than that, but this blog is public and the internet has plenty of strangers ready to kick someone when they’re down.
I shouldn’t worry about that. Ever. We shouldn’t constantly put off writing until circumstances are ideal because ideal circumstances don’t exist. Most writing happens under “good enough” circumstances, but things have been nowhere near “good enough” for me lately.
Writing can be cathartic, but it’s also okay not to be okay enough to write it out. I’m not okay enough right now. I keep trying because that’s just the type of person I am. If I want something and it doesn’t come easily, I throw a couple tons of stubbornness at it until I either figure out how to make it work or things get better on their own.
If you’re not okay enough to write, you don’t have to be like me. Not everyone finds it easier to sleep at night after running into a metaphorical brick wall a few times. However, if you think you might be in a mental place where writing could help, please give it a try. It doesn’t have to be good or even make sense, as long as you feel better once you wrote it.
A lot of times when I fail one of these writing events I like to reflect and share what I learned from the experience. This time I don’t think I learned much at all about myself as a writer. My failure during NaNo didn’t result from poor time management, lack of plot, or undeveloped characters. Sometimes life just sucks and we need to set our work, our hobbies, our passions aside for a while.
I’m not okay but eventually I will be okay again.