All Play and No Work – My December after NaNo

Ah, frick! I have to get those presents wrapped. Oh, did you remember to pick up a gift for your brother? No? Well, double frick — now that’s time spent looking for something online.

We have to make cookies?

The office party is tonight?

It’s the middle of the month, and I haven’t returned to my NaNo WIP as I’d hoped. I could put the blame on numerous things:

  1. The Christmas shopping that needs to happen
  2. The wrapping of the Christmas shopping that needs to happen
  3. Work responsibilities
  4. My wife’s and my daughter’s birthdays being a few days apart

The number of things I could put on this list could fill its own book. To be fair, there are a few things I legitimately put off to make my attempt at NaNoWriMo possible, and those things came back around at their earliest possible inconvenience in December. However, my theory is that the reason I haven’t put any new words down this month boils down to two major things:

1. Family needs

2. I haven’t wanted to

In the first case, my kids have needed a LOT of my time in recent weeks. My son is on pace to have a sinus infection hat trick before the month is over, and my daughter seems to grow a little more and a little differently every day (in good and fascinating ways). Between them, my energy level after getting them to bed — if they both, in fact, stay asleep — is closer to E than it was in November.

In the second case, my goal when I won NaNo was to take Thanksgiving weekend off, and then hit it hard once again in order to finish the remaining chapters in the first draft. The problem there has been the follow through on the second half of that equation. I’ve meant to write. I’ve really, really wanted to write. It’s just…hard to get that mojo back that worked so well a month ago.

Here’s an interesting thing to know: I work really, really well under pressure. Give me a deadline, and I’ll make it work somehow. I embraced the daily grind of NaNo and punched out more words in a month than I’ve ever thrown together. For me, the issue is that I still haven’t figured out how to work when I’m NOT under pressure, when writing is just the job I’m not (yet) getting paid for, and I have no stress pushing me to get it done otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong: Family always has to come first, and I don’t regret spending more time with my little ones. However, this is something that can spiral if I let it. How, you may ask? Let me look over the past year and fill you in.

I started in January jumping onto another writing program, called 85k90, in which one writes an 85,000 word book in 90 days as part of a year-long effort to produce and publish a novel. I took the salvageable scraps from last years NaNo draft and began anew, eager to have something finished and worth publishing by year’s end. I ran into the same struggles there as those which led to my losing last year’s NaNo (listed in my first blog post), and the alarm bells rang when I could only cook up 66,000 words by the end of March. This effort, as befits a first draft, were not publishable, or even close for that matter. When it came time to begin editing and fixing it into something more manageable, I had no idea what to do or how to get there. Pressure mounted — this time, the wrong kind — as I watched days stack onto days of writing that wasn’t getting done. I thought I might be able to salvage it over the summer, when I had lots of time to work on it. But I still wasn’t any closer to fixing my WIP than I had been in the spring, and I felt the weight bearing down on me like a boulder rolling my way. Finally, in August, I made the call (correctly) to shelve that project and move on to something new. This would give me something new to be excited about, and make me hate my writing a lot less for a time. Then NaNo came around again, and I had that deadline to work against once again. This time, I was far more prepared to get right what I got wrong before.

So now that I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made the first time around with NaNo. How do I continue growing amidst all these reasons NOT to write?

For one, I need to set my own deadlines. I will have until ‘x’ date to finish this draft (Perhaps by New Year’s Day). I’ll need to do the same when it comes time to edit, and again for any rewrites that need to take place.

For another, I have a huge number of interests that can easily direct my attention away from my work: shows and sports I follow, video games, books I want to read, social media to catch up on. There’s nothing wrong with these pursuits, although my TBR list is easily as long as my TBP (To Be Played) list on my Xbox. And while it’s necessary as an author to be present on Twitter and the like, it can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole and lose loads of time I need to get my work done. I can always strive to find more balance between my work and my play, but too much of one or the other won’t get me out of the hole. Too much work and I get burned out; too much play and I lose my mojo to write altogether. I encourage you all to find this balance as well. As always, your mileage may vary, and your limits will not be the same as mine.

Writing is a journey, not a destination. The more mistakes I make, the more I end up learning along the way.

2 thoughts on “All Play and No Work – My December after NaNo

  1. Great post! I know what you’re going through, definitely. When you find a good balance, share it with the rest of us. I know there’s not a magical silver bullet to it, but there is something to having a deadline. Sometimes we need to be a little more strict on ourselves and meet our deadlines.

    As I’ve heard it put before: motivation is fleeting; discipline is constant.

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