At long last, NaNoWriMo has come to a close. And you know what? I did it. It was hard, and there were many nights where I wanted to give up. But now that I’m on the other side of this, convinced I’m a complete hack who will never write anything of merit, and fighting off carpal tunnel, let’s take a look at what actually happened.
Here’s the thing: writing is hard. Keeping up a writing routine is really hard. Doing that while battling high anxiety and coping with the loss of your primary support system: nearly impossible. Nearly.
Now, I’m not one to preach about this kind of subject, since I have plenty of my own unresolved issues, but sometimes stepping back and allowing yourself to see things in perspective helps.
50,000 words, or a completed manuscript is a huge end goal. And if you see things only as the far-off end result, they’ll only seem more far away. To cite another example, Alex is away training for the military, and he won’t be home for another few months. It’s the longest we’ve been apart in the four years we’ve been together, and some days it’s downright torturous. It’s more painful to look at that end goal, his homecoming, and when I do it inevitably sends me down that unfortunate rabbit-hole of dark emotions (those of you with anxiety issues know what I mean). When I allow myself live each day for what it is and find small things to look forward to, the anxiety becomes more manageable. This is by no means easy to do and I find myself in the rabbit-hole more often than not, but it’s not impossible.
As far as how this relates to writing, there’s a reason NaNo’s stat page gives you a daily word count progress bar, apart from breaking up the work. There’s a feeling of accomplishment and relief that you get whenever that bar turns green and you’ve made your quota for the day. You don’t have to approach writing from the perspective of the whole, but by breaking it down into milestones that you can celebrate and reward yourself for achieving (unless you want to shoot for 50,000 all at once, in which case I admire your discipline).
Taking things one at a time is the simplest way to keep from being overwhelmed, but it’s not the easiest. As someone who’s constantly on a path of emotional self-sabotage, it’s easy to get sucked into the pit of shame that lives somewhere at the bottom of a bottle of vodka and a can of Pringles, where the voices constantly tell you that you’re not good enough. It’s easier to just accept that you’ll never amount to anything or that everything you touch turns into garbage. Trust me when I say that will never make you happy.
I know, I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. But I’m 50,000 words closer now, and I owe it to myself and to Alex to keep going. If I can do it, then so can you.