Breaking the Cycle

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ll spend 30 days writing my ass off, and (more likely than not) I’ll emerge with another win.

Winning NaNoWriMo once is a huge accomplishment. Winning 10 (hopefully 11) times in a row? Unreal. I’ll feel exhilarated, as I always do, promising myself that this year will be different. This year, those feelings of exhilaration and triumph won’t be followed by disappointment.

NaNoWriMo itself? Not a problem. I’d never call it easy, but I’m good at it. Something about the format, the pressure/deadlines, the feeling of competition shifts me into high gear. A few days in, and suddenly, all I can think about is writing.

For 30 days, I stay in that place. I’m so immersed that I have to force myself to stop, whether it’s to eat or sleep, take care of work stuff, etc. I don’t even bother with things that normally distract me (art, podcasts, favorite shows, etc). I just want to write.

No, NaNoWriMo isn’t the problem. It’s the aftermath that gets me.

Every year, I make a promise. I swear up and down that I’ll stay in the zone, that I’ll keep writing on December 1 and throughout the rest of the year. Unfortunately, that never fucking happens. I take a break for a day or two, which turns into a week. Suddenly, it’s December 15 or December 20, and I’m telling myself, “Hey, it’s okay. Just make it a New Year’s Resolution!”

By January, I’m unmotivated. I’m out of the habit. I might struggle for a few days to get it back, but the momentum is gone. February, March, I’m distracted by other things. The next thing I know, it’s summer and I wonder where the time has gone. August, September… hey, it’s time for NaNoWriMo again!

I suppose that’s why I’m so determined when November rolls around. Yes, I enjoy it (always have), but more than that, I need it. It’s the one month out of the whole fucking year when I know I can get some writing done.

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I’ve completed multiple novel length works. I’ve written more than I ever dreamed I could, and my skills have improved tremendously thanks to all that practice. But… I don’t want to limit my writing to a single month. I don’t like being dependent on a high pressure/high stakes format, nor do I enjoy feeling like shit for the rest of the year. I want to get in the habit and stay there, keep the momentum going through December and beyond.

How do I do that? I have no fucking clue. It’s not like I can write full-time/shut out all distractions like I do in November, which… I guess that’s the problem. For me, writing has become “all or nothing”. Either I can do the shit out of it to the exclusion of all else, or I can’t do it at all. I’ve never learned how to strike a balance, one that makes space for writing and all the other things I care about. It has to be one or the other.

I don’t know how to fix that. Really, I don’t, though I do know one thing. Giving up isn’t the answer.

That, more than anything, is where I go wrong. I get discouraged/frustrated, to the point where I abandon any attempt to write. For weeks. For months. The longer it goes, the harder it is to get back to it. “Fuck it, I’ll just put it off until next NaNoWriMo.”

This year, I’m not going to do that. I’m sure I’ll struggle, and I won’t always be able to write consistently, but the least I can do is try. I’ll try and I’ll keep trying, testing different strategies or motivational tactics, whatever. Doesn’t matter if I write 10 words a day or a thousand… I just need to keep trying.

So yeah, that’s the plan starting in December. November? No worries there. 🙂



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