No NaNo 2021

Dec 13, 2021 | My Sabbatical, Noveling Life, Writing

November 30th has come and gone, so I wanted to give an update on my NaNoWriMo 2021 experience.

November was strange. I began the month with boundless energy, and a little bit of panic as my self-imposed end-of-sabbatical timeline inched closer. My plan for this time has always been to start 2022 with a next step. I won’t elaborate on the details here, but I’ve been working on that next step more seriously. These are big decisions, and I have done a lot of considering, self-evaluation, and soul-searching over the past few weeks. Months, really. It’s exhausting.

I also embarked on NaNoWriMo, which I posted about a few weeks ago. I have always wanted to write a novel, and have dabbled more seriously with it over the past few years. It’s been a roller coaster, and there is much to learn. I love books, I love story, and am passionate about what makes a story work. My spelling is a little wobbly, but I’m ok at stringing words together. All this = write a novel.

What I hadn’t ever considered writing was a nonfiction book.

Let me take you back to November 8th. I had written about 6,000 words of my novel for NaNo. I sat down in the morning knowing I needed to focus or I’d fall even more behind. What followed was a bad day. I couldn’t focus, I sat at the computer paralyzed. I tried to feel excited about the story I was creating, and ended up feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and uninspired. I spent the day organizing my bookshelves to avoid writing. I NEVER organize my bookshelves.

All of this on its own is not enough to stop writing a novel. These feelings are part of the experience, I understand that. But I’ve been trying to listen to my instincts. Learn to pivot. Give myself grace to start something, and learn from it, but know if it’s time to take the next step towards something else. To take this experience for what it is: exploring and trying. And when something I’ve been exploring leads me somewhere else, it’s ok to deviate and take steps in another direction. 

It’s not giving up when you grow from it.

In short: my horrible day on November 8th led me to pivot from writing a novel to writing a nonfiction book. As soon as I let myself make that pivot, I felt energized! Writing 1,000 words took me an hour and a half instead of three days. I’m writing about rest, creativity, and sabbaticals, all topics I’ve been immersed in for months. This is where my heart and mind are right now, and it feels much better to be working on a project that fits that.

I’m still in the early stages of the nonfiction experience, but one thing I’ve learned: I love being able to write in my own voice. One of my struggles with fiction was writing characters who didn’t all sound like me! With nonfiction I don’t have to stress about that, I can write as me.

I haven’t given up my dreams of writing fiction, I know I will someday. Maybe I’ll work on a fiction project simultaneously with this nonfiction project. I’ve been into mysteries lately, perhaps I’ll try writing a mystery! 

I didn’t win NaNoWriMo 2021. My word count didn’t rise above 10,000. But the process was a powerful experience nonetheless. It took everything in me to NOT chase the 50,000 word challenge. Of all years, this is the year that 50,000 should have been easily attainable for me. 

Instead, I pivoted. And I’m proud of myself. Time to wander down this new road!


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