To give you an idea of how close I came to losing, here’s a rounded (up?) number for my word count three days before the end of the month: 16k.
When I looked at that number with only three days left to go, I hung my head in shame. I was going to lose. For the first time ever, I began to accept defeat in one of the things I look forward to most each year, like the holidays or my birthday. It was all over for me, and it was still just November 27. There would be no champagne. No winner’s certificate. No 50k words.
Then, feeling glum, I opened my email and read Chris Baty’s “Homestretch pep talk.” This was by way of punishment, really. I figured his words of encouragement would make me feel poorly about my lack of progress, but instead I felt, well, encouraged.
I changed my mind.
What the Great Chris Baty did to encourage me was simple. He broke down NaNo participants into three different categories:
“Group One: The Superheroes.” These were the WriMos who had worked diligently all November and had already won or were going to win with no problem. According to Baty, these made up only 3% of WriMos.
“Group Two: The Come-Back Kids.” These were the participants who were still pushing through the 20s or 30s and would make a final push for the finish to win at the last minute. They had had some fallbacks, but the end was in sight, and November 30th would be a day of success.
“Group Three: The Go On Without Me’s.” This was my group.
I’ve never been in that group before. It’s not the worst thing in the world, I realized. In fact, after reading the pep talk email, I remembered what an incredible undertaking NaNoWriMo really is, and how impressive it is to give it a shot at all.
And then I read this note from Chris Baty to the Go On Without Me’s:
“This is going to sound really weird, but you’re in the best shape of all three groups. You’re off the map, but that’s the point of this escapade. NaNoWriMo is to there to put you in such an impossible situation that you can stop worrying about perfection and achievement and just savor the thrill that comes with making and doing. Think of the remaining days in NaNoWriMo as an anything-goes creative retreat. You sacrificed your novel to the world around you this month, and the world around you appreciated it. But you now get some time for you. You may not write 50,000 words, but you still have plenty of time to create something smaller and equally wonderful. Return to the page—there’s still a beautiful adventure waiting for you.”
That’s exactly what I did. Suddenly I felt as though anything were possible. I’d already given up, so what did I have to lose? I pulled out my calculator and did some minor division (yes, calculators are necessary; I’m a writer, not a mathematician). In order to reach 50,000 words in three days, I needed to write over 10k per day. Impossible? Of course. But if I was going to lose, I was at least going to aim high.
And so, instead of losing, I won.
Yes, I wrote over thirty-thousand words in three days. During that time, I also worked and did research for the class I’m taking. My mind is officially mush, but I exceeded my personal goals, and I’m exhausted but elated. This NaNo win has turned out to be the sweetest of them all because I tried to do something impossible, and it turned out to be possible.
At 11 p.m. on November 30, I validated my word count, and there it was:
Victory is a lovely thing. Sometimes it even comes with graphics of fireworks. 🙂
Several of my WriMo buddies won this year, too, and I applaud them! In fact, I applaud anyone who even attempted NaNo; it’s an amazing experience that has turned November into the favorite (or least favorite) month for writers all over the world. Participating in a challenge to create 50k new words within 30 days shows exactly how dedicated we all are, and we should be proud. Or locked up.
Either way, congrats to every WriMo out there.
Did you participate? How did it turn out for you? And have you dontated to NaNoWriMo yet?