NaNoWriMo and my mental health

Hi everyone!

We’re in December now, which means that another National Novel Writing Month has come to a close. For me it was the second NaNoWriMo in a row, an a second one that I have won as well.

What does that mean to you? Did you participate this year? How did it go? Please let me know in the comment section below!

It’s my second NaNo, so obviously I couldn’t escape comparing my performance this year from the previous one.

I have to admit that I didn’t do as well as I wish I have. But still, I’m happy I did participate.

And now you’re probably asking yourself “what does any of this have to do with mental health?”.

Fret not, for I’m going to tell you exactly what I mean by that.

When I registered to do NaNoWriMo last month, I wasn’t in the best place ever. I have just started by first ever job, the new situation kept me really anxious, and at the same time I had to go to a couple classes a week, which might not seem as taxing, but put it together with already existing depression and physical disability and you’ll see that I could’ve felt a lot better at that time.

The decision to do NaNo came to me two days before November 2017 started. I had nothing but a slightly vague idea for a story, and this thought in my head that maybe I could do this. What I knew for sure was that I was definitely going to try.

And it wasn’t easy, oh no. Looking back, there was a total of nine days in those thirty days of November when I didn’t write a single word. The guilt was almost crushing.

Why do something so emotionally taxing, then?

Well, here’s actually the gist of why I think participating in NaNoWriMo is an amazing thing to do.

You see, nobody is forcing you to participate. Registering to do it is free. If you win you don’t get any prizes. You can get some winner’s merch, but you have to pay for it yourself.

There are seemingly no reasons to do it. You’ll need to bust out 50000 words in a month and get nothing for it?! That’s impossible! No way!

And yet… It kinda works.

Because you see, you could end November with just ten, a thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand, or, who knows, maybe fifty thousand words or even more.

But no matter how many words you write, they are going to be words that didn’t exist before. Starting to write is making a promise to nobody else but YOURSELF, that you are going to follow through with your goal for as long as it’s possible for you. Nobody is going to stand next to you and force you to write. Well, unless you actually ask someone to do that. But otherwise, it’s just you and your writing.

I knew that I could’ve failed both times I already took on the challenge so far. I knew it could’ve happened, and yet it didn’t. Every time there was a moment when I decided to open that Word document and write those words. And after them came some more.

And then, when I finally hit that 50000, when Word was crashing every three minutes because it never had to carry a document that big before, what I felt back then was like nothing I’ve felt ever before in my life. I felt genuinely proud of myself. So often my depression, my anxiety and my impostor syndrome would take my little and big victories alike away from me, but not this time. Because this time I have done something right, and it was big, and I had proof of it right in front of my face. I have done it.

In a way I felt like I have kicked my own ass when I succeeded. But really, I just kicked by depression’s ass. And not just once, because a year later, when I have made the decision to leave the job I have just started back then, I got up and did it again. And next year, hopefully, I am going to do it once again. And again, and again, and again.

It’s possible that NaNoWriMo is going to be the first challenge in your life to write something of such length when you aren’t really required to do it. You don’t have to hand it anywhere, nobody is going to read what you wrote unless you share is deliberately, you won’t get judged or graded for your writing in any way. The only thing that is important for the system is your word count. Whatever the words are, and whatever is the quality of your writing, is not of its concern. And really, if you want to make it in time, it’s best that you don’t pay much attention to those either. Just write. Editing is why December was created.

Oh, right, how is everyone’s editing going? Mine not so well, still. But I’ll get there. I just want to give myself a proper pat on the back for following through with it. It’s important to celebrate your success.

And it’s important to start. I hope that last month you did start something as well, and that you’re going to get through with it.

Until next week!

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