it’s not you, it’s me. well it’s kind of you.

Dear NaNoWriMo,

I think we should see other people. I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me, and I think we’ve both grown and learned a lot over the years, but it’s just not working out the way it used to. I’m sure you can see my enthusiasm flagging. The excitement just isn’t there for me anymore; I keep feeling like a failure. I think it’s best to just stop now, while we can still be friends. I hope you understand.


There are things I do still like about NaNo, but the more I struggle with it the more I feel like my peg just isn’t cut out for this hole ifyouknowwhatimean. The discipline of “write every day” is useful and important; the idea that the only way out of a block is through, also important. But too much else about it is arbitrary in a way that does me more harm than good. It’s an imaginary deadline for a form that doesn’t come easily to me at a pace that I can’t sustain consistently. The timing during the year is terrible (and no, I don’t subscribe to the party line that making it more inconvenient adds to the excitement). The tracking tools on the website wind up demoralizing me further — “I wrote 1200 words today! Now I’m… further behind than I was yesterday, shit.”

So. Thanks for all the fish, NaNo, but I really think I need a process that fits my life and patterns better.

Right now I’m poking at HabitRPG again, which I wandered away from a few months ago while they worked out some crippling bugs, but is now functional and comes with a mobile app. I’ve been a gamer for the last decade or so (yes, I got started late) and the idea of getting POINTS for doing stuff has gotten wired into my brain pretty well. So now I have Dailies to do on Habit: take my meds, go to my job, go to the gym on certain days, and write 500 words. I have to do those things or imaginary pixel me will lose hit points, oh no! 500 is much lower than the NaNo pace. MUCH lower. But that’s the point where I’m setting the stick for my carrot/stick routine. Because in the Habit column (along with things like “cook real dinner” and “take out trash” and “write blog entry”) there is another “write 500 words.” The first 500 words of any given day go in the Daily requirement, just keeping writer-me healthy. But if I do 1000 words I get to click the one in the other column and earn bonus points. If I do 1500 words in one day I can get a second helping of bonus points. One stick, potentially endless carrots.

Whoops, just summed up the blog post in five words there. I’m a perfectionist with depression; too many sticks just leave me curled up under my desk feeling beaten (the morale does not improve). Just enough of a stick to get me out of inertia, though, and then the potential for rewards as long as I continue the good behavior? Oh. Yes, there we go.

How about you? What motivates you when you’re dragging your feet on a creative endeavor? Any tricks or brain-hacks or tools that work especially well?


Filed under word factory

2 Responses to it’s not you, it’s me. well it’s kind of you.

  1. Ann

    I was just talking to M this morning that I feel my NaNo is dead in the water and I’m ready to let it stay there. I haven’t touched it in days, and the only thing even vaguely making me feel like trying to catch up is that I’ve never lost a NaNo I started, but I’ve finally received the wisdom to know that that’s just silly. I have a dozen other creative projects I’m enthusiastically working on, so I’ve decided to go ahead and focus on those, rather than drag on this one that I only kind of want to do because… it’s NaNo. And I signed up and everything.

    That said, I do still enjoy Camp NaNo. It has the flexibility that November NaNo lacks, and that works better for me these days. I’ll be signing up for one or both sessions next year, but I think November will be left to other ambitions.

    Other than that–what motivates me? It varies. Sometimes all I need is a check-mark on a to-do list; for a while I had a very simple spreadsheet that tracked my activities through the day and I got to buy myself something when I “leveled” (I may check out HabitRPG again–tried it several months ago and it was too fussy for me); and sometimes I need to journal prolifically about the project until I can figure out WHY I’m dragging my feet, and then figure out how to fix that problem.

    • Yessss letting go of the “but I have to do THIS one, it’s NaNo!” is a huge relief. No. There are no NaNoWriMo police who come around and hit you with sticks if you just don’t feel like doing it anymore (and let’s pray they never get that kind of funding). I’m writing every day still, and enjoying myself more, and not feeling like something will have gone terribly wrong if I’m not at a milestone point by 11/30.

      And yeah, give Habit another shot! It was really clunky code for a while and I gave up on it, but they rebuilt the whole thing in a different script, plus they got the mobile app running, so it’s now a lot easier to use. :3