The Anxiety of Quantity

looking in all directions

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and it both excites me and sends my anxiety soaring through the roof.

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s where writers join in for a common goal: to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. It sounds like a lot, but don’t let it discourage you.

Personally, I treat NaNoWriMo like parlay—the rules are more like guidelines. To “win” NaNoWriMo, you need to average 1,667 words per day. When things are running out of my head in a constant (controlled) stream, that’s no problem. However, when I’m struggling to get a scene to flow the right way, it can be a challenge.

Last year, some fellow NaNoWriMo friends encouraged me to just keep writing no matter the condition of the scene. Get the words down and don’t worry about the quality—you can go back and fix it after NaNo’s over.

I hit my first scene “snag” on Day 3, but in true NaNo spirit, I didn’t worry about the caliber and focused on the words. The quality absolutely sucked, and it was driving me bonkers. On Day 4, instead of pushing out new content, I went back and re-wrote the scene from Day 3. That’s when I realized there was no way I was going to make 50,000 words by the end of the month.

But that doesn’t mean I threw in the towel. I continued to do NaNoWriMo but at my own pace and my own quality control. I was NOT going to let my anxiety win and tell me I’m a failure if I don’t achieve 50,000 words by the end of the month.

your anxiety is lying to you

In the end, I yielded a little over 20,000 words—less than half the quantitative goal—BUT I was happy with the quality of what I had written. And even though I did not “win” NaNoWriMo, I was considerably further along in my work in progress (WIP), and that is a WIN in my book. And yes, I will be doing the same this year.

So, whether it’s NaNoWriMo or something else, don’t let someone else’s arbitrary “rules” (guidelines) stop you from achieving your goals. Modify them to fit your needs. So what if you don’t receive the designated “prize.” If you are successful in your objective or learned something from your experience, that’s all that matters.

‘Til next time!

Amélie

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