Coping With the Effects of NaNoWrIMo (Or Life After NaNoWriMo)

Let's face it, NaNoWriMo is a stressful time of the year. 

For most people, 50,000 words in 30 days is a nearly unattainable goal. I'm lucky in that I'm a fast typist, and I have the time to sit down and write when I want/need to. Which resulted in me increasing my goal to a more challenging 80,000 words in 30 days this year.I think every stressful period in life needs to be followed by an opportunity to unwind.

Let's look at some of the symptoms (physical, emotional and behavioral) of stress:
  • headaches
  • muscle tension
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • lack of motivation and/or focus
  • procrastination (the art of putting things off until later and/or ignoring the issue)
  • evasion (or what I like to call filling up your time with other things to avoid that which is stressing you out)
  • overeating or not eating
  • doing nothing (e.g. vegging out in front of the T.V.)
  • drinking, smoking, other drugs
  • withdrawing from activities
  • blowing up at others over inconsequential issues

This are just some of the effects that stress can have on your life.

I'll be the first to admit it--I felt the stress. I felt the fear as November 30th closed in and I still had 12,000 words to write in three days. This November's word count was a big goal for me, a personal best. I had to bring my A-game and blow away my previous record.

Although I felt the fear, I also felt inspired. I am a goal-oriented person, and I enjoy setting new personal bests. (When I go running and get a new PR for a 10K, there's nothing more encouraging than that for me.) So when I realized I was going to set a new PR, I became obsessed with "stalking" other NaNo-ers' word counts. *ashamed* But I found a buddy of mine who had written just over 92,000 words, and I became determined to beat them.

Thus, I was awake this year when November turned into December, and the NaNoWriMo website cut off my ability to enter my word count at 12:00:00 a.m., December first. Darn it! 

Regardless, I ended the month with 93,464 words. (It should have been 93,511, NaNo!)

Anyways, back to the stress of NaNo. After I entered my final word count (and tried and failed to update it one final time), I promptly turned off my computer and went to bed. I was exhausted. 30 days of madness can (and does) exhaust you.

So December first, I woke about seven hours later (because I can never, ever sleep in), promptly fired up my computer and stared at my NaNo novel with a blank look.

The pressure was gone. I had no words to write. I had no need to write the words. Where was my reward? Where was the purpose?

I still have a few scenes left to write. I wrote 93,511 words and I'm not done. Granted, some of those scenes will be tossed out on their ear, probably entirely, and a solid novel is at least 80,000 words, but I have several thousand words left to write, and NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY.

Conclusions always get me. I've never been good at ending a story. I want it to continue and want to write more meaningless scenes. But what I have left here on my NaNo novel is my conclusion. My climactic scene of...I DON'T KNOW.

I honestly don't know where to end this novel. I have an idea of what's going to happen, the protagonist will reconcile with her inner demons and outer antagonists, but I've no idea how. And I've no idea how to get to that point.


But this post's purpose is getting away from me as I cope with my stress of not knowing what to write by, that's right, procrastinating.

1. My #1 drug of choice for stress is, most definitely, procrastination.

Thus, you could have found me yesterday driving forty-five minutes away to go Christmas shopping, and promptly abandoning that idea when I realized everyone else in the world was also doing their Christmas shopping on the first Sunday in December.

So I reevaluated how I would spend my day, and while completing the final scenes of my NaNo novel was certainly in the back of my mind, I went on to my next coping tactic: evasion.

2. My #2 drug of choice is evasion.

Yes, I returned home...to clean and rearrange my living room.

Huh. Haven't done that in awhile. (So I could, legitimately, make an argument for its necessity...)

Essentially, it boils down to the fact that there was no NaNoing for me yesterday. (Well, I guess it's technically not NaNoing anymore, but simply writing.) I put aside my writing in order to clean house (actually, just one room).

And then, since I was that far into cleaning the house, I decided to catch up on the other tasks which had suffered in November due to NaNo, like the laundry and reading the mail...


Now these were just the two tactics I employed yesterday to avoid completing my NaNo novel. Throughout the month of November, the stress of NaNoWriMo attacked me in other ways. I was afflicted with two migraines, I had significant lack of motivation and/or focus (and spent way too much time on the Internet as a result), I procrastinated, I avoided NaNo by doing other things like walking the dogs or watching T.V., and I think I gained about three or four pounds this past month from obvious overeating and lack of exercise.

So now it's December.

And my NaNo novel is not completed, despite 93,464 words.

I think it's time for me to get in gear and apply some of the things I learned during NaNoWriMo 2012.

Namely, there is no time for writer's block.

So my point is this: stress can have its drawbacks, but stress like NaNoWriMo is a good type of stress. If you set a reasonable goal (for you, not for anyone else, keeping your own personal limitations in mind), then the pressure of having a deadline can be beneficial.

I'm at the point with my NaNo novel where I wish I'd set a higher goal for myself in November and pumped out those final scenes. At least then, I'd have something on the page. Now, I'm faced with combating my own inner demons and completing this novel on sheerly my own willpower.

I may have a lot of self-motivation when it comes to writing (because I love it), and I'll be darned if I let this novel get the best of me, but I also know myself. I know that if I leave this novel and start working on another, I'll get too distracted by that novel and think that I'll forget everything I want to do to that novel and put this novel aside for a looong time.

I don't want to place this novel to the side until it's ready to be rested in its entirety. And I can't do that until the final scenes are written, imperfect though they may be.

So no more procrastination. No more evasion.

NaNo 2012 taught me a few things, and it's time I apply those lessons to real life.

Final word count. That's right. Next year, 100,000 words in 30 days. Yikes.