When the greatest barrier is me

November has come to a close, and Nanowrimo has drawn to an end. My goal this year was around 12,000 words — a mere fraction of the 50,000 some of you brave writers committed to. If you succeeded, congratulations! If you fell a little short, don’t be disappointed. I’ll leave a tweet below from the official Nanowrimo account that perfectly captures my feelings:

For me, November had a bumpy start. I didn’t start writing until the month was already half over (oops) but when I got going, I wrote every night for 45 min-2 hours. I used writing sprints, roughly writing 800-1200 words per night. It ended up requiring quite a bit of discipline, there were multiple evenings when I just didn’t feel like showing up. Taking that time to work on my goals gave me a small sense of accomplishment which kept me coming back.

So, did I make it? Just about. I find myself about 200 words shy of my 70,000 goal for this draft of The Tower Project. This is the farthest I’ve come in the 10 years I’ve been writing.

But I’m having a hard time crossing the finish line.

My current Nanowrimo status, sitting at 66,941/70,000 words

There’s this thing I do, when I get to the last piece of Halloween candy or the last drop of my favourite shampoo or the last serving in the box of cereal  — I stop myself. I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want the good things to run out. I don’t wanna miss out tomorrow, when I really want that candy bar.

I think I’m afraid to finish this draft, because life has changed, and I don’t wanna miss out on the good I had planned.

I remember telling my husband that when I finished we would celebrate. Go to our favourite restaurant, get a babysitter, have expensive food and expensive alcohol and celebrate it as a milestone. An accomplishment. The support it’s taken, the dedication. The hours and hours. The tears.

My husband left me this summer. The last few months I’ve been forging ahead on my own and I’ve had to reevaluate a lot of things, including how much of my own accomplishments and successes I contributed to him. I discovered how much of my language had to change. I had been saying “us” and “we” for years, when what I meant was “I”. I wanted to acknowledge my husbands role in my work. His sacrifice, the time we didn’t spend together that I was hunched over the computer or locked in a room with a notebook. I wanted to thank him for supporting me. For cheering me on. I’m finishing this draft without him. And it feels really really hard. Much harder than I expected.

I’m trying to find empowerment in finishing this alone, but I wish I could celebrate with the other loved ones who have been on this journey with me. Miki, Carolyn, Amy, Sabrina — and all the peeps in our writing group. I love you so much right now. I’ve gotten a lot of advice and support on how to make this milestone special. Top suggestion is to order expensive takeout, put on a face mask, and have a bubble bath. I’m into it. My personal desire is to drop $400 on a single item of clothing because that’s how my dreams usually end, but I may have to resist. I’m gifting myself an IOU as I put the last words on the page, an IOU for a babysitter and a post-COVID-19 dinner with loved ones. I can’t wait to hug you folks. COVID-19 makes all of us more isolated, makes everything harder.

If you’re out there struggling to celebrate, whether it’s finishing Nanowrimo or reaching some other goal — I’m thinking about you. Your accomplishment is no less valid, even when we can’t be together. Your success is no less yours, and no less worthy of celebration, even when the celebration looks different than you anticipated.

These words are for me, but they’re also for you.

I have 200 words left to write in my novel, and I’m doing it tonight.

The Home Stretch

70,000 words is the goal for my first draft. It’s a carefully chosen word count, a minimum amount of words for my carefully chosen genre. The average number of words in my genre is somewhere around 100,000, so there’s room to expand in my second draft. Hopefully I gain words, and don’t just lose them. In the past, I’ve made it to about 30,000 words in a project before petering out, so trust me when I say that minimum goal is still ambitious.

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month and, although I’ve participated in the past, I’ve never “won”. The goal for the month is to write 50,000, a feat which previously seemed impossible. I’ve only ever come “close” once, when I wrote 28,000 words.

I have a hard time staying motivated. I’m a planner, a plotter and inevitably, when my project veers away from my careful plot, I get overwhelmed and frustrated. A feeling that shortly leads to abandonment.

So you can imagine my feeling of excitement as I mosey into Nanowrimo with a tiny little goal of 12,000 words. That’s it. That’s all I have left before I reach my goal of 70,000 words, and it’s only taken three years to get here. Three years on the same project, with the same characters in the same world. It feels impossible to me that it’s taken so long, and it feels equally impossible that I’ve come this far. 12,000 words — I think that makes this my official home stretch.

All this to say, keep going! Don’t lose momentum and, if you do, don’t give up.

Drop some encouragement in the comments below! November might not be the month everyone manages to write a novel, but I move to make it National Cheer on a Writer Month! If you have a writer friend in your life, now’s the time to send them some love!

A collage of images representing characters in my current novel WIP, TTP