Back in May I attended the Creative Ink Festival for readers and writers, run by a friend of mine (I even wrote a post about it here). After listening to writers all weekend, I felt inspired to actually try doing NaNoWriMo again. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is something that happens every November. You sign up on the website and the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. For those of you who don’t feel like doing the math, that’s 1667 words a day. It’s a slightly insane challenge but I’m stubborn and decided to go for it.
Now fast forward to October when I was supposed to be preparing for NaNo. I knew what story I wanted to write–I was finally going to write the novel I’ve been dreaming about writing since I was eighteen–but I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do it. The first part of October was spent preparing for FanExpo and the last two weeks was supposed to be full of story planning so I would be ready for November. However, sometimes all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for the shirt life throws at you, and I wasn’t prepared for the challenge even scarier and more daunting than NaNo: depression. Depression is something I’ve struggled with for years, but I wasn’t expecting the depressive episode so bad I didn’t leave my house for three weeks.
To say I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed at NaNo was an understatement. I could barely function, let alone write a novel. However, my friend Andrea, who was also doing NaNo wasn’t going to let me give up without a fight. So instead of spending the end of October planning a novel, I spent it trying to pick myself back up again and mentally prepare myself for a challenge. Thanks to some antidepressants, a good self-care routine, and some great friends I was feeling good enough to start NaNo.
For weeks all I did was write. Luckily I had prepared food ahead of time so I didn’t have to spend any valuable writing time cooking. I tried getting up at 5am in the morning to write but it just wasn’t working for me. I’m way more productive in the evening. However, I continued getting up early so I could go for a run before work. It helped clear my head and gave me a good reason to get out of bed and start my day.
Writing was a challenge some days. You have no clue how many times the words “Writing is hard” was sent between Andrea and I. There were days that my characters would fight me and not do anything I wanted them to. There were also days depression would kick my ash and I wouldn’t want to write anything. However, giving my main character depression and having her struggle to do things as much as I was struggling to write was very cathartic.
I ended up finishing NaNo in 22 days, and I’ve never been more proud of myself for anything. My novel is a mess right now but I got a first draft done and that’s what matters. After all, I can clean it up with more drafts. Andrea and I have said “that’s a problem for future Alicen/Andrea” about things in our stories. The important thing is that i challenged myself and then I shocked myself by succeeding. I would have been happy to have just written 20,000 words in a month, but the fact that I wrote 50k in three weeks, surpassed all my expectations of myself. I often have trouble believing that I’m actually a writer, but maybe this will convince me.