Finding Balance: Why I Shouldn’t Have Done NaNoWriMo This Year

With 5 days left in the month, I crossed the 50k finish line and nabbed my NaNoWriMo 2014 “win”.

I use the term “win” loosely, because – and this is a horrible confession for me to make – I truly feel like I shouldn’t have participated in NaNoWriMo this year.

In the past, NaNoWriMo has done wonderful things for me. It’s bolstered my confidence in my ability to write every day and it’s produced interesting and impressive pieces of writing. And above all, it has connected me with other writers who are just as enthusiastic about writing as I am.

However, this year NaNo went a bit south for me. While I pounded out those 50k words, dutifully writing nearly every day this month, I did so for no other reason than to get the 50,000 words done with.

I’ve hated everything I’ve written this November – and sure, that may just be my inner-critic talking, but going off past experiences, this manuscript is so far from saving (even with some heavy editing), that I feel I truly wasted my time writing what turned out to be a mere shadow of what someone might call a “novel”. It wasn’t at all what I had envisioned for the story or the characters. After all is said and done, I feel like I took a promising idea and mutilated it.

But here’s the thing: it’s my fault that I feel this way about this year’s NaNoWriMo experience. I knew, going into November, that I had next to no free time. That doing NaNo would mean less sleep – which leads to less energy and creativity – which leads to less fruitful writing. And instead of saying to myself: “Maybe I should sit this one out and focus on creating a smaller amount of high-quality writing”, I raced head-long into the gauntlet that is NaNo.

The result has been a month filled with stress, frustration, and negative self-talk.

As a disclaimer, I want to say that this post is in no way meant to discourage people from taking on the NaNo challenge. It’s only to make the point that sometimes you need to be honest with yourself about your limitations. By all means, take risks and push yourself with your writing. But don’t lose sight of your own mental, emotional, and physical health. Make sure you have the time – or can feasibly MAKE the time – to take on a month-long novel-writing marathon, before you sign up.

So I learned something valuable this November: If you know with certainty that you are too busy to churn out a sloppy, yet satisfying 50,000 words, take a break from the writing craziness and focus your efforts on creating what you can.

I’ll be wearing my NaNo winner’s shirt come December 1st, but I’ll be feeling like I did anything but win.


How did your NaNoWriMo experience measure up this year? Hopefully better than mine! What did you learn about yourself and your writing? Tell me in the comments below!

9 thoughts on “Finding Balance: Why I Shouldn’t Have Done NaNoWriMo This Year

  1. I did a “rebel” project this month (memoir/personal essays), and near the end I was flagging and wanted to get on a different project ASAP, but continued through to get my win. I’m glad I pushed through, and I got a lot of good material out to work with, but I’m also glad to get to move on to the next project.

    Projects that turn out like yours–I like to think of them as, “well, now I know how NOT to tell that story….”

  2. Thanks for your honesty. For me, this year’s NaNoWriMo came up too quickly after the release of my latest book, which was troublesome for me. I probably should have sat this one out too, because by the middle of the month I was getting really depressed from the intensity of the project and it was starting to influence what I was writing. I’m glad it’s over, TBH.

  3. I definitely feel the same way. Although I didn’t end up “winning” easily half of my mere 27,000 words were just nothing but warm up drivel. but that’s ok, if nothing else I simply have started a good habit to build upon.

    • That’s really the best way to look at it – knowing that you have the discipline to consistently write is the first step. The next step is writing stuff you’re proud of (or can at least edit to be something you’re proud of)!

  4. Pingback: Why I Didn’t NaNo This Year (And Why I Regret It) | The Sprint Shack

  5. I had done Nano once before and worked as a lone wolf, finished the manuscript well over the 50k word count and before the deadline but then left my opus to gather dust. This time,quite by accident, I found a former acquaintance from Montana was also doing Nano so I had a Writing Buddy. In corresponding with him a bit over the course of last month, I found myself “selling my novel and its trajectory and purpose” to him and for the first time had a pitch I might submit to agents. I’m only 2/3rds finished but so glad I did Nana–and really recommend Writing Buddies.

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