Don’t Join the Suffering

Welcome to the second week of NaNoWriMo. By now, most of us probably have an idea how our Novembers are going to shake out. Maybe you’re still flying high on the first week motivation, maybe you’ve met a few roadblocks along the way. Maybe things have taken a sharp left turn and now you’re scrambling to redo all your outlines before you run out of plot. 

At this point in the month, it can be difficult to remember that NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun. We start to get bombarded with other writers talking about their caffeine consumption, their sleepless nights, their cancelled social commitments.  It can start to feel like “real” writers are the ones suffering for their art, sacrificing health and social ties for their writing.

I’ve never been a fan of the idea that artists have to suffer for their art. Sometimes, because of deadlines, suffering is inevitable. I won’t deny that sometimes you just need to lock yourself in a room until that awful scene is done. That’s fine.
But I don’t believe an artist should seek out suffering. NaNoWriMo can turn into a kind of sleep deprivation/junk food Olympics, where caffeine jitters are a sort of badge of honour.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m nobody’s parent.If you choose to run NaNo in a haze of  coffee and instant noodles, that’s on you, and I wish you all the best. But remember that this isn’t necessary. It’s not a requirement of doing NaNo.

Writing a novel isn’t always fun all the time; we shouldn’t expect it to be. And by all means, complain when things get hard. Joke about your misfortunes; it’s one of my personal favourite ways to get stress off my chest. The fact that we have groups of people going through the same struggles, who will deeply empathise with your feelings. But we don’t have to make it harder on ourselves, and it does still have to be a fulfilling pastime. Cutting down on social commitments can work every so often, but it’s not sustainable long-term. You need to be happy as well as productive.

So this week in NaNo, remember to take a break, take a day off if you need one. Go to that social thing instead of catching up on wordcount if the writing is getting to you.
Taking a break is not the same as stopping. Even if you adjust your estimate down from 50,000 words, you’re still doing what NaNo is designed to do: Make habits and learn things. NaNo is a great excuse to focus on your craft, so make the most of it while it’s here. But don’t drive yourself into the ground for it.

Happy writing. May you all hit your word counts today.

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