Hey, it’s July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been participating! Mostly.
I feel like after the first week of Camp NaNo, the excitement of the new endeavor to write words tends to die down, and this month has been no different. I feel it both in the writing community, in the cabin of people I’m hosting, and in myself. It really is a shame that the motivation to GO GO GO splutters and halts within 7-10 days like it’s standard shipping.
So take this post as a few things:
We are still under the half-way point today as far as progress, but my word count is far below that. My goal for the month is 50,000 words by July 31, and I still intend to get there. That means that to be on-track, I should be at 20,967 words by the end of today. I can tell you now that, with a current word count of 14,474, that’s not going to happen.
I could be discouraged by that, and my first instinct is to see the disparity between those numbers, consider how much WORK that would be, and to consider giving up because there’s no way to catch up. My goal word count and my actual word count are now fare enough apart that giving up has become a tempting option to me.
So let’s address this emotional response. I feel certain that I’m not alone in the “all-or-nothing” mentality that comes along with perfectionism, so let’s take a close look at this response together.
First of all, this is very much an emotional response to my situation. That means all I’ve done about it so far is feel, and aside from choosing to write a blog post about it instead of working on my word count, I haven’t really acted on it either. Decision-making is done based on emotions, and guess what. If you always do only what you feel like doing, there’s probably a lot of things that you need to do even when you don’t feel like it that are falling through the cracks. For me, this creates a cycle of feeling worthless because I’ve accomplished nothing I need to do, and not changing anything about it because I’m making decisions based on how I feel right now, and not on how I’ll feel after I’ve accomplished them. This is the kind of decision-making that can get you into trouble. Making decisions based on your emotional response to something is the way you get into fist fights or arguments, or that causes you to insult someone who didn’t really deserve it. They might feel nice to act on in the moment, but they are usually paired with bad consequences that you’ll have to deal with later. In the case of giving up because I’m not meeting my own word count goal, I might gain the relief of removing a responsibility from my own shoulders, but since that doesn’t actually change the fact that I want to write a novel, I’m still going to have to do this eventually, or have a mindset change later and give up on my dream. I’d argue a mindset change now is the better option.
So it’s time to employ logic and reason! Huzzah! The heroes have arrived! …Or have they?
So now that I’ve recognized that the instinct to give up is misguided because there’s just a part of me afraid of hard work, I can look for a solution. The obvious other choice is to make it to my goal word count today even though there’s still a part of me that feels like giving up.
Okay, so let’s take a look at that for a second. I have over six thousand words to write. Which is a lot, but I’ve done it before. In fact, I did it the first day of Camp NaNo this month! The logic stands that I can accomplish six-thousand words again.
But now that we’re focusing on logic, it’s easy to forget the emotional component to this. Sure, we just faced our emotional response, recognized it’s hindering us, and we moved on, but until something changes, that emotional response is going to be the first thing that happens when we think of this problem (which if you remember is “I feel like I can’t catch up in time”) therefore, the solution cannot be to do the thing that we’re afraid of and not also confront the fact that emotions are a part of us and we can’t go through this experience without them. Writing 6,000 word on Day 1 was a LOT easier when I had a few extra hours on the clock, and the motivation to write as much as I could. AND that 6,000 was supposed to be 10,000! Which was a goal I had set with the expectation that I would not reach it (and so falling short of it was not something that elicited the same emotional response as my current predicament does).
So I can’t give up, but I also don’t actually have a hope of catching up today. So then… maybe I don’t catch up today, but I can split up the extra work over today and tomorrow, or even a few extra days. It’s not ideal, but I have tomorrow off work, and it’s possible. But what if doing EXTRA work doesn’t work out for me tonight, and then I’m just as out-of-sync tomorrow as I was today, and I get to have this entire conversation with myself again. Ugh! I’m not actually interested in doing that. But 50,000 words by July 31 is looking like it will just become more and more difficult day-by-day. So if I don’t split up this work over a few days, or I don’t catch up RIGHT NOW, then I really am going to fail as the burden of missing out on writing days just increases as time goes on.
The Camp NaNo status software does a cool thing where it will recalculate how many words you need to put out every day for the rest of the month in order to reach your end goal. This is nice, and I’m sure that for some people, this would be an acceptable solution to their problem. But here is my problem with that: As someone who is VERY motivated by the graphs that Camp NaNo displays to show you a visual representation of your progress vs. where you should be if you’ve written every day so far, if my bars are below the par line, I have anxiety about it. This is actually motivational if I’m close to my goal, but once it can’t be solved by an extra ten or twenty minutes of writing, it starts becoming the reason, as we’ve discussed, I consider giving up.
But here is the GLORY of Camp NaNoWriMo (with no offense to November’s NaNoWriMo, but really this is the GAME CHANGER for July and April):
I would say that for most of us, getting to 50,000 or whatever goal we’ve set for the month, is arbitrary. You don’t actually know how many words it’s going to take to finish your novel, even if you can guess closely, so 50K is an ambitious goal without being entirely unreasonable. If you’ve won NaNo in November before, as I have done twice, then you know you can accomplish 50K in one month. This knowledge can be empowering, but it also can enforce your expectation that now you MUST do 50K in one month, even when you don’t have to set your goal that high and is likely to do to you what it has done to me and make you worried that you won’t live up to your own expectation, so you should just quit now.
I guess if you have someone waiting for you to turn in 50K at the end of the month, then you really do have to find a way to get it done. But if you’ve set this goal for your own personal progress, you’re not going to lose a job or a friend or piss off your editor if you don’t hit your goal by the end of July. And that goal that you set earlier? It doesn’t even have to be your goal.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go take a look at that graph and the stats that accompany it, and see how many words I need to write every day in order to reach 50K. Then I’ll write that down.
Then, I’m going to go into my word count goal and change it so that the word count that I have RIGHT NOW is on par.
After that, I’m going to write my words for today based on the 50K catch-up daily word amount I wrote down a minute ago.
And I am going to blow my new goal OUT OF THE WATER.
And THE SECOND this becomes too easy and stops motivating me to write more because now my graph is showing I have words to spare and so I don’t have to write today… then I’m going to bump that goal up and make it a challenge again.
So the lesson today is: It’s okay to fall short of your expectations. You might be scared to push forward, but being aware of your own shortcomings or obstacles is going to give you the power to work with those things to reach your goal, instead of pushing and pushing against them and grinding your gears instead of making ground.
If you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, good luck to you. Don’t let fear win; Follow your dreams. <3