It’s been a stressful year, following a crazy-stressful year before it.
I’m not doing NaNo this year, breaking my six-year streak. I’m perfectly aware that I don’t have to justify this decision to anyone, but since every year on social media I see writers of all stripes agonizing about whether they can manage it and if they should try, I thought it might be worthwhile to write about why I’m choosing not to do it.
When those writers are unsure and asking for advice, I’m generally of the camp that responds, “Try if you want to, it’s no big deal if you don’t win. Any progress is progress.” And beyond that, if somebody tries and hates the experience, then they’ve still learned something about themselves. Most of the time, for most people, I think attempting NaNo is a positive thing, no matter how many words they do or don’t have by December 1st.
But this is not most times, and this year, I am not most people.
This year, I need to rest.
I don’t think it’s an accident that my creative energies have flowed away from writing and towards hand crafts. I’m knitting and working on an embroidery project consistently every day; I’ve produced more sweaters for myself, and more knit Christmas gifts already this year, than ever before, plus I finished the largest needlepoint project I’ve ever attempted. That isn’t to say I’m not keeping up my daily writing habit–I’ve paid for my 4thewords subscription though mid-2022, so I’m using it–but I’m mostly fulfilling my minimum word count with book reviews and journal writing, rather than fiction. I do sometimes have passing ideas for plot bunnies, which I dutifully note down for the future, and occasionally I’ve been rereading and nibbling at the editing for my mostly-finished NaNo20 novel, which is/was supposed to be my next book release, the sequel to Fifty-Five Days.
And that could still happen. Fifty-Five Days took me just short of two years of work spread over a four-year period. This novel isn’t going in the trash any time soon.
But I gave up hope pretty early on this year that I would get back to my yearly publishing schedule. Too much was going on in my life even then, and more has happened since. Plus, it took me a while to recognize how burned out I was from falling into the “lockdown = productivity” mental trap that pushed me to publish Fifty-Five Days in the first place. I’m proud of it, but did I really need to release it last year? Couldn’t it have waited until I was in a better head space?
I’m not there yet. It’s telling that this is my first non-book-review post in over five months (aside from my book-series update, which is easy to maintain) and that even before that, my posting schedule was full of holes. It’s telling that I haven’t had a single idea for any of my ongoing post series in order to revive this blog. It’s telling that when my writer friends on Tumblr started counting down to NaNo, I felt nothing but dread and a vague sense of guilt. It’s telling that I can pump out thousands of words when I sit down to “talk” to myself in a journal entry, but struggle to write anything creative.
I need to rest. NaNoWriMo is a wonderful event and a valuable experience, and it has a strong and supportive community around it that I’ve been happy to be a part of for many years. But this year? I just can’t do it.
And that’s okay.
No matter how much pressure you feel from seeing your friends and fellow writers participating, it’s okay for you not to.
No matter how many times you’ve done NaNo before, it’s okay to take a year (or more) off and break your streak.
No matter how guilty you may feel for letting yourself down…you’re not. Not really. Taking care of yourself is more important, and if that means you need to Not NaNo, then that’s the right decision.
I said that I felt guilty, and a month or so ago when NaNo fever started percolating through my social media feeds, that was true. As we creep ever closer, that guilt has slipped away under the increasing certainty that I’m simply not up for such a challenge. And if somebody else needs to hear that in order to feel better about their own decision not to participate, I’m here for you. We’ll sit this one out together.