Room for Error

It's okay. The sloths still love you.

It’s okay. The sloths still love you.

I don’t think I’m going to finish NaNoWriMo this year. That probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. Thousands of writers who go into the fray don’t come out on the other side of November with the desired 50,000 words.

Do you see the problem with how I worded that? I made it sound like a battle. Like the ones who don’t reach 50k died, or failed in some way, like it’s the end of the world to not finish NaNoWriMo. I look forward to NaNo every year and I genuinely enjoy it, but whenever there’s a year that looks like I might not make it I start beating myself up horribly. I feel like a huge failure.

But why do I do that, when I wouldn’t view anyone else who didn’t finish like that? If someone doesn’t finish NaNo I just think, “That sucks, but it’s awesome that you tried at all!” and I really believe that. I know so many people who look at NaNo or at wanting to write a novel and think, “Hm, that might be cool,” and then never do it. Sitting down and making a NaNo account or deciding to do it unofficially and even writing a few thousand words is pretty awesome. Thousands of people take that leap every year for the first or second or fifth or tenth time and if they’re at all like me they learn something new about themselves as people and writers every time. Maybe they learn that NaNo isn’t for them, or they figure out that they approached it in a way that didn’t work for them and decide to try again, or they figure out a way to make their win something better for themselves. Isn’t that kind of fantastic and, in a lot of ways, more important than meeting the 50k goal?

So, why do I beat myself up so much? It’s not like I have a perfect record. I just act like I do This is my seventh year. I lost my second year, and not since. I beat myself up every year thinking that it won’t be like my second year. I’ll win this year. Every year, I’ve made it happen. But some of those novels ended up abandoned for good and the win didn’t feel quite as nice.

I talked to a friend about this when it first hit me on November 24th that I had six days and over 26,000 words to write, as well as working on finishing out what has been an incredibly difficult semester. I told her that I don’t think I can finish NaNo this year and that it scares me.

She told me that I should allow myself room for error, and she’s right. I’m still going to go into NaNo probably every year with the goal to win, but I can’t start hating myself because it’s not going how I want it to. Some Novembers I might just have to write at a different pace. Maybe there will be a November when I’ll write 100,000 words. Maybe most I’ll only get to 30k. But it won’t be the end of the world.

I think this is it. I’m declaring this November a loss for me, and I’m going to be okay with it. I’m going to keep working on this novel and whatever pace works for me, and I’m going to turn my attention to my short stories for the Dell Awards. On the bright side, as of this post I have written 4730 words on the blog. That counts for something, right?

To the rest of NaNoLand, I wish you all the luck. Just remember that it’s okay to give yourself some room for error.

4 thoughts on “Room for Error

  1. Jo Knox says:

    what is scarey to me is counting words and running an alphabet race….don’t get sucked into that drama…and your friend feels right to me…cut yourself some slack!

    • smhollowell says:

      It is usually really fun! I’m competitive and people who do NaNo tend to be super friendly about the competition aspect. It’s a great environment and I love it, but it wasn’t working for me this year.

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