I’ve been writing off and on for about a decade. I have two short stories published, two novel length texts in need of editing and some decision making times about what to do with them, and a novella on submission that’s been rejected once or twice, and has been with a pretty major publication for 1.5 years.
I’m going to need to get two tattoos for that rejection when it finally comes around.
It’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which means the pressure to perform, to write, is extra high. I’ve noticed that I almost always completely check out during November, even though I wrote one of my novel length texts in November of 2020. For NaNoWriMo even. I mean, I had to take a week off work to do it, but you know. I did it.
I’ve never understood NaNoWriMo. It’s literally the worst month for a project of this magnitude. Not only is there a pretty popular holiday in the third quarter of the month, did any of the people who came up with NaNoWriMo work retail? Like, November is the month where things start to ramp up. Most times I tried to do NaNoWriMo I was getting burned out from my day job than trying to write 1667 words a day.
And for people who know that a 50,000 word novel isn’t really a novel in industry terms–some of those people are churning out a 90k-100k novel during this month. That’s what I did in 2020. And it was one of the hardest things I ever done. I don’t think it’s a surprise that 2020 was the last year I made substantive inroads in my writing. 2021 and 2022 have been pretty barren in comparison.
I know there are people in all walks of life who can do it, but I have never been able to. On top of the job, I also struggle with fatigue and insomnia issues, and I probably also have some form of OCD which, as everyone knows, is exhausting even when it’s not actively making it impossible for me to make a sandwich. Since I like having a place to live, the day job always gets first dibs on my energy. If I have any left over, it’s usually taken up by other stuff that needs doing like making sure those bills are paid, the house isn’t a death trap of undone chores, etc.
By the time November comes around, it’s just another reminder of how bad I am at writing every day, like I’m supposed to do, because you can’t be a writer if you don’t finish anything, and the best way to finish anything is to write every day, right??
November, more than any month, makes me question if I can actually do this.
So this year, instead of setting myself up for the inevitable NaNoWriMo failure, I just said, You don’t have to do it.
And I didn’t.
Now I’m thinking more long term about what I want to do, and more importantly, how I want to do it. Everything I learn about the industry is incredibly discouraging. I mean, how else am I supposed to take a novella that’s been waiting for a single publishing house to read it for over 500 days? Their submission guidelines still provide a 9 month timeline for submissions.
Self publishing is at least on your timeline. But then you’re running a business (and yes, you need a business to keep it all above board), and that’s on top of your full time job.
I still haven’t decided what I want to do in that arena, but I have decided that I miss writing (which is a big deal!), and I want to do it again in a sustainable way.
I’m going to try a seasonable approach to writing that I’m extremely excited for.
From Winter Solstice 2022 through the Spring Equinox of 2023, I’m going to focus on strategizing: this will include plotting out what I want to accomplish for the year, plotting out individual novels, novellas, and/or anthologies. It will also include doing market research both for agents, publishing houses that will accept submissions without an agent, and also learning more about an LLC in the context of a writer. If I had anything to submit, it’d happen during this period, or I would make note of guidelines throughout the year that I would be appropriate to submit then.
From Spring Equinox to the Summer Solstice, I’ll focus on the actual writing. There won’t be any looking back, no editing, no self doubts.
From Summer Solstice to the Fall Equinox, I’d focus on editing what I wrote in the summer.
And from Fall Equinox to Winter Solstice, I’d give myself permission to rest. Nothing. No writing, no editing. Permission to not even think about writing.I’m also going to be following the lunar calendar. As the moon wanes from new to full, my efforts will be at its maximum. As it waxes from full to new, I’ll wind down so I’m ready for a full push next new moon. New Moon will always be a rest day. Full moon will always be a work day.
My starting goal for full effort will be 15 minutes. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but I feel even on my worst days, I can make time for 15 minutes of planning, writing, and editing. I have to plan for my worst day, not my best day.
This is extremely structured, follows a cycle that’s familiar since it’s based on the seasons (despite how hard capitalism tries to convince us seasons don’t exist, and we are not part of the earth), and furthermore, allows me to rest so I don’t burn out. It also avoids the write every day rhetoric that is so pervasive in writer spaces because that just does not work for everybody, it doesn’t.
I’ve tried to do something like this before, but I think I’m in a much better place than I was then (which was when I was living with my roommate who, if this is your first blog entry I’m reading, was likely poisoning me unintentionally).
Did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year? How do you keep yourself motivated to keep working on something you love?