On NaNoWriMo and the Dangers of Overambition

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), that annual challenge to write 50,000 words during the 30 days that make up November.

I’ve done it (successfully) 10 times now, but the weird thing is, every year, at the end of November, instead of being grateful that NaNoWriMo is over and looking forward to some much-needed and well-deserved rest, I catch myself thinking something crazy:

I should do this EVERY month.

Yes, I know that I tend to be a bit of a workaholic, but even for me, writing an entire novel every single month of the year is just too ambitious.

The thing is, NaNoWriMo makes the novel-writing process look DOABLE.

With its clearly laid-out daily quotas and the way it forces you to make time in your busy day to work on your writing, National Novel Writing Month teaches you that anybody really can finish writing a whole book.

But doing it every month? That’s just overkill, especially for someone who already has two full-time jobs like I do.

Still, I have to admit that the thought does run through my mind every year. It reminds me of the way I react when I find one of those rare books—the kind that you start reading and literally can’t put down, all other things in your life be damned, until you’ve finished it.

Whenever I stumble upon a book like that, the kind that even a slow reader like me can finish in a day, if not mere hours, I find myself thinking, “I could read a whole book every day, no problem.”

Again with the overambition.

Just because once in a blue moon you find a really great book that forces you to put your normal life on hold doesn’t mean you can do nothing but read all day, every day (as much as we bookworms might wish it were otherwise).

And just because you can write a full novel in a month with NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean you can—or should—do it 12 times a year.

And why not?

Because sometimes speed isn’t the goal.

Sometimes we need balance.

Sometimes we need to put in the hours, the daily grind, the little-by-little, the long-term discipline, the WORK, in order to create something great.

You probably can’t read War and Peace in a day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. And just because you might not finish your latest work in progress in 30 days doesn’t mean it’s not worth writing.

Sometimes it’s good to pace yourself, to savor the process, to let things add up day by day into something truly amazing.

As much as I love and appreciate NaNoWriMo, I’m glad it only comes once a year—if only because it’ll take me those other 11 months of the year to clean up the mess I wrote this November.

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