A NaNoWriMo Follow-Up

Personal, Reflection / Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

In October, I wrote that I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo–a writing challenge that encourages you to write around 1,667 words every day for the month of November in order to end up with a 50,000-word shitty first draft.

I said I wasn’t going to take it too seriously, but was hoping the structure and quotas of the challenge would motivate me to write at least a little bit. The first day I participated in NaNoWriMo, I wrote around 2,000 words, and had a list of thirty brand new blog post and video ideas to continue to develop. If all I had done the entire month was that one day, I would have won. I would have done more writing and planning in November for myself then I had in several months of the year combined.

While I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year, barely crawling past the middle mark of 25,000 words, I did this writing challenge at a time where it’s hard for me to find joy in many of the things I do, in many of the things that were sources of comfort for me. Writing was always that sort of reprieve, and my relationship with it has changed as my career and personal goals have changed and evolved. But I didn’t pressure myself. I didn’t set timers or block out time or any of the normal things I’d have done. I wrote when I wanted, and stopped when I wanted.

As usual, the hardest part is usually just getting started. Knowing how daunting a blank page was, having my list of topics sorted out at the beginning allowed me to jump around, because lord knows any attention span I had (or let’s be real already didn’t have) pre-pandemic is shit-all gone ten months into this clusterfuck of America’s handling of it.

November, which contains my birthday, is usually when I start to think about the goals and dare I say–resolutions–that I want to work towards for the following year. And while talk of a vaccine seem promising, it still feels so far out into the future that I haven’t let myself in good conscious try to think much about or plan anything about 2021.

Even trying to scale back with quarterly goals seems silly right now (to me personally). I’m incredibly hard on myself and have unrealistically high expectations and standards that are hugely misplaced. Despite knowing this logically, it’s still been a massive challenge in my adult-life trying to reckon with that and my visceral reactions to it, and slowly try to shape my initial internal reactions to better match my external, processed ones. Ugh existing is too much some times. That sentence sounds so dumb lol but trying to train my brain to just fucking be nicer to myself has been *THE* challenge, has been the source of all of the work I’ve been doing since starting therapy.

Obviously a big part of this year has been managing and tempering expectations. I’ve been fairly fortunate thus far that all of the tectonic shifts happening this year didn’t affect too much of my external life–my husband and my health and jobs have remained stable, as has our immediate family, and most of the people we know. We know people who have gotten sick, family members, friends, family members of friends, some who have unfortunately passed away, some who are still feeling the effects months later. We have been so fortunate in all of this mishandling.

So everything just feels a little strange right now. It’s been that way, no doubt, but it also feels especially out of touch to think about the future when we are still living through this ongoing trauma. It feels callous. For me personally–I’m not faulting anyone who’s coping mechanisms have launched them into 2022 let alone 2021. I think I’m just overly sensitive about how fragile everything still feels, and my response is a fear of rocking the metaphorical boat. Of daring to expect more time when so many had theirs unfairly and unnecessarily cut short.

This of course isn’t a perfect handling of this, I am very much aware. And it isn’t for lack of trying to plan and aspire and still make goals. I am also somewhat bitterly aware that life goes on, that work–the wheels of capitalism, etc. etc.–keep spinning. And not bitterly, there is that, yeah, life goes on, and there’s so much I want to do and I want to use my time to try everything. It’s been hard to do that this year. It’s felt guilty, exhausting, and self-centered. But when so much of what we were asked to do this year was to be more inward than ever before–to stay home, to not occupy public spaces and see familiar faces, it was an opportunity to do some inward-facing work. It’s just hard, ne impossible to try to heal when there’s an old wound that keeps getting ripped open. I think people underestimate what all of this is doing to us mentally. I don’t think we’ll ever fully understand it, this strange, consistent trauma that for most seems so casual and benign we doubt it exists.

Anyway, I wrote a bunch. Not as much as a lot of people, but a lot for me. A fuck ton for me. And I’m happy. I wasn’t always happy as it was happening, but even when I’m not happy writing I am always happy to have written. Part of what made it daunting was it was a free-for-all–no outline, no assignment or guidelines to follow, and my ideation muscles are even weaker than my rock climbing muscles (or like, every literal muscle in my body, tbh). I’m gonna keep taking some time this month and think about how I can try to manage next year as healthily as possible regarding ambition and goals and expectations and what not. Gonna try to continue finding some sort of balance of structure with a lot of give.

I do now have several great rough starts to blogs and videos for Animation Complex, that now require research and refinement and what not, and that’s very exciting. To have gone from all of these big plans starting a company this year with big goals and benchmarks to celebrating the tiniest win of having a few rough drafts in the can makes me feel like shit, makes me feel like the millennial with the participation trophy I didn’t ask for (nor want) DESPITE everything I JUST wrote, but I’m working on that. We’ve been conditioned to reject so much kindness and vulnerability and, gee what do you know–traits more typically associated with women and more feminine-leaning people. We gotta restructure everything, at every level. I gotta start with my brain.

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