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Some brains don’t do busy very well.

Today I made the important decision to draw a line under my mad NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) dash this year.
I have written nothing for it for ten days. But I have written other things so I know that I can only blame my finger injury and family life for three of those days, and the rest has been me just not getting down to it, and maybe a feeling that perhaps the time isn’t right this month.

Because I’d enjoyed the experience and was pleased with how I managed to squeeze everything in last year, I wanted to achieve something similar this year. I cried when I finished last year. At the time I was taking creative writing and psychology modules with the OU and probably just about got away with not putting enough effort into my studies for a few weeks.

It turns out that that the literature course I am doing this year involves me thinking a lot more than I have ever had to before and when I’m not thinking I want to play with the washing or the garden or go for a walk, or even talk to my husband. When I am writing for anything other than OU at the moment I want it to be with little or no commitment; a piece of flash, a blog post, not part of something I’m tied to. It’s possible that reading about how other writers write is so interesting that I’m taking longer reading and thinking about the discussions in the course books than the suggested hours of study. I can see how some of it relates to the way I write – and some of it doesn’t – and empathise with the lives I read about in their letters or by the people who have studied them.

I have one of those infuriating heads that is probably equally as infuriating to those who know me as it is to me. I just cannot have a lot going on in my life or even my ears, in my vision, in the same room as me! I think this is why I am terrible socially – it’s sensory overload plus thought chaos. Sometimes I can’t even read Twitter because the thought of having to cope with a conversation overwhelms me. Odd I know. It can make me seem rude or selfish when sometimes it is quite the opposite; I’m internally wrangling about the best way to deal with a situation.

Yesterday I had what I suppose is commonly described as a meltdown.
I felt that I might as well have been spinning on the spot singing in Elvish at the top of my voice while the room turned onto a whirl of indefinable whooshes of colour and I tried to catch random curve balls. I was and am getting nowhere, completing nothing and wondering how to prioritise. I was also coming down with a cold and felt something’s got to give before I end up with post-viral fatigue again.

So, I’m clearing the decks in order to limit the ‘everything and nothing’ feeling. I can’t focus – I don’t know how to but I can make sure I have only one thing in front of me so that when my eyes or my mind wander they can’t stray too far.

Good luck to everyone still on the mad, fun NaNoWriMo ride. I love it, and wish everyone well.

Maybe next year…

Or maybe I’ll have my own private NaNoWriMo without telling anyone. 😉

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Rachel – a really honest post, and just to let you know you’re not on your own re: the brain overload, I’m sure there are lots of us out there who respond in exactly the same way (well I do!). I’ve stopped doing NaNo this year for similar reasons, or rather because I know if I don’t, then I’ll reach that point very soon. I did it 3 years running and had serious writing burn-out for months afterwards. This year I was, then wasn’t going to do it. I started, then found I liked writing really slowly! 500-700 words a day on what I can actually call a novel-in-progress rather than 50k ‘words’. I’ve also written some flash. For me it’s been a far more productive and less stressful way to be. I’m not knocking NaNo at all – I think it’s brilliant, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do, sometimes it isn’t. Good luck with courses and the writing 🙂


  2. I’ve also stopped and blogged my reasons for doing so. I don’t think it’s done me much good but I have learnt a few things along the way. Now I feel I can get back to MY writing.


  3. I love the last line, Rachel. Someone on Twitter just said to me that “days don’t have to end with two thousand words in order to be useful.” This is my new mantra x


  4. That sounds sensible. Decisions can be tricky but are often fabulous turning points. A friend of mine and I wrote in parallel for a while (to some extent, she followed me into fiction). When she pumped out a novel and got a deal before me, she worried that I might be envious. I wasn’t, I was thrilled for her, and even more thrilled for myself because I had decided to put my writing on hold to have another baby. It was of course the best decision I could have possibly made; pure happiness. We are more than writers, we’re mothers and wives. (Did I forget to mention ‘selves’?!) We also need to write what’s right for us.

    I’m loving my new book but finding my first ‘NaNo’ experience exhausting. I’ve said elsewhere, if it were February, I’d love it. But November, for me, is a pre-Christmas rush full of family birthdays and viral infections. I was up ’til 3am last night. I look like poo.
    Another year, if you fancy a month-long, communal write, and if it suits you to do it in the post-Christmas months, you and I can share a private NaNo, with cake and coffee and everything. Peter is, of course, invited too! (But not this Feb coming, I’ll still be editing my current NaNo THING… argh!)

    Good luck with your course. It sounds brilliant — do keep us posted.


  5. Hello Rachel – this post is great. I tried it once, and gave up after 3 days.
    I dare say a lot of writers find NNWM a great release, but I do worry sometimes that wordcount overtakes magic for those writers who need to wait, free up, find a bit of peace welling up – whatever it is. No two days are the same, for this writer – and the thought that a whole month can be a succession of production, no matter what else might be going on in your life, is strange. But there you are – we’re all different, and there must be plenty of writers for whom the impetus works well, for it to carry on.
    And while I’m on my soap box. Studying literature is wonderful. I know, did it. I know several tutors of literature, and several students thereof, too. We have all found that it takes a long while to find the distance needed to create written work ourselves.
    Anyway, sorry to butt in. Loads of good luck with everything!


  6. Rachel,

    I’ve awarded you the Liebster Blog Award. You can get the details on my blog here.



  7. My humble opinion is that NaNoWriMo is more stunt writing than actual creative writing. In any case, I certainly could not work that way. Good for those who find some value in it, I suppose, but it seems a contrivance. And anyway, if it works in November, why don’t folks apply it in the other eleven months?



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