It may be clear by now since we are well into November but I am not going to attempt NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I have yet to “win” it (accomplish the goal of 50,000 words in one month) when I have participated in the past and currently I am really struggling with my severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) so I don’t feel like I would be going into this ambitious project feeling 100 percent. So that’s why I decided not to attempt it this year.
I explain what NaNoWriMo is and my writing goals for November in this belated writing update.
For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a self-motivating online writing event to encourage anyone who wants to write something substantial (a novel, a memoir, etc.) to focus during one month to write a large portion of it (they consider 50,000 words to be novel-length). There is no fee for participating and no awards or prizes. It is merely a built-in system (a website with a robust infrastructure of chat rooms, blogs and articles of advice, etc.) that makes the process of writing a book feel less lonely and futile.
I first found out about NaNoWriMo years ago when I was still in graduate school (for the second time). I didn’t participate while I was in graduate school because I was also working full time and dealing with daily chronic migraines, so I really didn’t feel like I would succeed. After I completed graduate school I tried it for the first time and didn’t succeed. I attempted it for a couple of years and each year wrote a little more but never completed anything. In those early attempts, I was working on a novel with the working title of “A Borrowed Heart.” The novel focuses on two young women in alternating chapters, one woman ends up dying in an accident and donating her heart to the second woman. Years ago when I was in graduate school at night, I used to listen to a radio program called “The Story” as I drove home from class. It focused on one or two stories each program and the host would interview people all to weave together a story. One such program focused on the family of a young woman who donated her heart and the young woman who received the heart. It was a story that stuck with me and I always felt like it would make a great novel. Ironically, when I first attempted writing it I don’t know that I had experienced enough drama and trauma to be able to write such a traumatic story. Then life happened to me and I experienced my own traumatic experience (a nearly fatal car accident that resulted in a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and coma). Now that I have the experience of trauma I do feel like I could write that story. However, now I have my own story to tell (my memoir) and the TBI has inspired me to write a lot of stories and ideas. So now, “A Borrowed Heart” is still on hold while I pursue other writing projects (mainly my memoir). Yet this year as November approached I realized that falling full-tilt into an ambitious writing project was probably not realistic. As October ended I was weeks behind on my daily doodle (still am, see below) and experiencing increased exhaustion, irritability, and headaches. So I decided to scrap NaNoWriMo and instead just pursue healthy habits. Instead of hours on the computer or iPad writing I want to balance every activity I do so nothing is too taxing for my brain. The buzzword on the internet is “self-care” and I decided to make it a priority this month in the hope that this becomes a consistent way of life.
So if you do want to see the chronicles of one of my earlier attempts at NaNoWriMo check out some of these previous blogs (Camp NaNoWriMo 1, Camp NaNoWriMo End of Month blog) where I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo (I didn’t hit my goal in one month but did eventually hit it. However, I have set aside that chunk of writing in order to pursue a new format for my memoir). I am still very consistently writing since I am participating in a weekly “write-in“ on Zoom. However, by not participating in NaNoWriMo (but still writing regularly) I hope to establish healthy writing habits.