What’s it Like Being a Hermit? (Or NaNoWriMo part 2)

by Tess Adair

Me, circa May 1st.

Me, circa May 1st.


I had so many plans going into NaNoWriMo. Plans are good. Plans can be helpful. But that quote about mice and men is a cliche for a reason. You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off* for starters.


{*reference to Eddie Izzard referencing The Italian Job (original.)}


I had one excellent plan going into NaNo--and that plan was my carefully detailed plot outline. I had another plan that didn’t work out so well for me--posting blog updates on my progress.


After successfully completing an initial update post after week one (using a mini-blog template I’d laid out for myself before the month started,) I was sure I’d be able to keep it up, and I’d hit all my goals, and everything would be roses and trophies and praise. Yeah, not so much.


In summary: I had 3 very good weeks of NaNoWriMo followed by one very shitty one, and I never used another one of those little templates I’d built for myself.


The first week was my best week, but that’s unsurprising: not only did I have the momentum of all my hopes and dreams to propel me, but I was secluded from my normal life and social routine by a mandatory work trip for most of the week. With a goal of about 1600 words per day, my best day of the week (which turned out to be my best day of the month) saw me hitting 2300 words out of the park. I’m still not even sure how it happened--I remember moving a few words past the 1600 mark and thinking “well, I’ll just write 100 more so I have a leg-up on tomorrow.” The next time I checked myself, 2300 was the count. So...sweet.


The next two weeks weren’t so bad either, although I never hit that 2300 high again. I did hit a few more in the 2000 range, both on Saturdays. This is entirely unsurprising to me as well: Saturday has been my best work day for a while. It has also been my designated Writing Day for about about a year and a half. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s simple habit that makes Saturday so productive for me, or if it’s a mix of other, more nebulous elements. What I can say for sure is that Sunday is never as productive, and my results from NaNo bear this out. Of course, I usually take an intense pole-dance class in the middle of the day on Sunday, and my mind seems to turn into a sluggish eel sometime around 4:00pm--either because I’m exhausted from the workout or because I’m exhausted from the whole week. Never sure which.


So, I had three good weeks. And then my fourth week landed like a fucking rock. What happened?


So many things, and nothing at all.


I’m not really sure how deeply I want to go into it on the blog (if I do, I’ll give it a separate post,) so I’ll just summarize and say I experienced a sudden, (mostly) unexpected emotional upset that affected me enough to throw me completely off-track.


The day it happened, I wrote 0 words. The next day, I wrote...0 words. That second day, I didn’t even try. From the weight that dropped through my stomach and dragged me to the floor the day before, I understood that there would have been no point whatsoever. So instead, I had a bunch of friends over (all that social contact I’d been denying myself the rest of the month) and I engaged in purely recreational activities. And then I dove deep into Netflix for a while. (Finally watched Daredevil and mostly loved it, but found the end disappointingly predictable.)


In the middle of the following week, I managed to pull it together enough to write a litte over 100 words. Pitiful compared to the month preceding it, but at least I proved to myself that I could string any words together. Then the last day of the month came--and it was a Saturday. I decided I might as well force one more good day out of myself: I managed to pull off 1800 words. Out with a bang, muffled though it may have been.


Of course, just because NaNo is over doesn’t mean my novel is. I’m still working on it, though I have so far failed to recapture the momentum of that glorious first week. Still, for someone who’s had a pretty busy May (including a wonderful Mother’s day visit from my far-away Mommy, helping a bestie get ready for her wedding [and getting ready for it myself,] resumed weekly RuPaul+Dinner nights [omg the QUEENS this season,] a day spent in Kirkland checking out an isolation tank [possibly also getting its own post soon,] making a new friend and seeing Data IN PERSON at the opening party for EMP’s new Star Trek exhibit, as well as maintaining my full-time job this whole time,) I would say I haven’t done half-bad in the writing department. Since the end of NaNo, I’ve written about 6,000 more words.


If I’m being perfectly honest, I wish that number were double what it is, but as it stands, 6K isn’t too bad. I just have to remind myself that I do have a full-time job, and that I am now taking care of a few things (like updating my glasses/contacts prescription) that I’ve been letting slide. NaNo was a good experience for me, but it did make daily life functions extremely difficult. (How can I go to the doctor/grocery store/gas station/drug store when I have to work-work for 8 hours and then write-work for 3 to 5 hours after that?)


So what did I learn from being a hermit? Mainly I learned that I am capable of more than I sometimes think I am. I am certainly capable of more output than I used to believe. I used to think the amount of writing I completed on any given day was entirely subject to how well I could channel the muse that day. To some extent, that may be true--without the muse, I really can’t explain that 2300-word day. But now I understand that I’m not only perfectly capable of writing without it, I’m perfectly capable of writing a lot without it--it just isn’t quite as fun.


I also learned that the burnout factor for pushing yourself like that is high. Once I let myself go a single day without writing, the whole wall came down, and it was almost impossible to push it back up again. Right now, I’m focusing on finding a middle ground--not pushing myself so hard that complete exhaustion is inevitable, but still trying to pump up the outer limits of what I can accomplish during a normal week. This past week, I have settled for a few work-week days of writing between 100 and 200 words, reminding myself that even though that feels like a small amount, it adds up. As long as I keep moving, I will get there.


And every once in awhile, when you tell yourself to write just 100 words more, you do end up tapping into that elusive muse vein.


I can’t say for sure exactly how many words I have yet to go in this novel, but I can say I’m well more than halfway done. The closer I get to the end, the clearer it will become.


And then after that, only two more novels to go before I move onto the next stage in my plan!



(I’m guessing two more NaNos lurk in my future.)

I was so cute once.

I was so cute once.