NaNoWriMo as Therapy

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on

National Novel Writing Month — cheaper than therapy and you get stories out of it.

For real, though. It’s been a therapeutic month for me. In other years, when I’ve seriously pursued my NaNoWriMo 50,000 words, I’ve had one large project to focus on, an actual novel. I filled in my word count with a few smaller pieces of original writing, but had a path already started and more or less went down it.

This time, my goal was to finish the first draft of a novel that was already nearly complete and then write a bunch of short stories and essays. I’m never at a loss for ideas. I always have too many works in progress at any given time, to be honest. I knew a couple of the story ideas I wanted to work out, but hadn’t decided on all of them when I began the month.

Now I’ve completed six new short stories and three essays, two of which are memoir. If you ever want to have your brain talk to you about what your issues are, push yourself to write a bunch of new stuff in a short period of time.

Even though my short fiction pieces all had different settings, themes and characters, looking at them now, I can’t help notice a couple of things I keep inserting in my stories over and over. I love for my characters to rescue vulnerable animals. And food insecurity pops up repeatedly. I know some reasons why this might be.

Then the memoirs. Oh my goodness. I most likely will not share them with anyone ever. At least not without severe redactions. The piece I wrote this week presented me with a major psychological breakthrough. I began writing about one incident from high school, planning to include everything I could remember about it and use it in the future to mine for bits and pieces I could include in other projects. Not too far in, I realized there was a kind of sidebar that needed to be explained for context. Well, the sidebar explanation took over and became the core of the memoir.

In fact, the more I wrote, the more I saw how this thing I was explaining had influenced me. (Sorry to be cryptic. I only want to share the effect and not the details at this time.) I kept believing I was nearly at the end of what I had to say about it, and my brain would nudge me. Dig a little deeper. There’s more. I kept putting words on the page until I had a walloping epiphany about the root of many of my triggers and anxieties. There’s a situation from my formative years that has so obviously informed my life and actions and reactions for decades. But I never consciously realized the extent of it until I wrote it out.

Here’s what I will be open about. My anxiety has been spiraling lately. And now I see how my feelings about current life events are largely reactions to similar past life events. That alone has relieved a lot of the angst and was worth the price of admission.

Writing doesn’t have to be for someone else. Even if you don’t ever want to share a single word you put down, take some time to write for yourself. It’s damned good therapy.

NaNoWriMo Goals, Lagging and Met

Happy cat
This guy is my writing companion, or writing hindrance, depending on his mood.

Once again, I have signed up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’m a semi-rebel this year. Instead of attempting to write one single new novel, my goal is to reach 50,000 words in thirty days through a mish mash of projects.

Number one on my NaNo to-do list was finish the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on for a year. After that, I hoped to fill out my word count by writing a variety of short stories and essays.

I regret to say, I am lagging badly in word count and might not hit 50,000 this year. I even scheduled time off from my day job for a couple of days at the beginning of the month in order to get ahead early. Then I ended up using part of the time picking up gigs for a side hustle I do, because I need the money. I guess that’s life.

In the good news category, I’m pleased with the goals I have met. I did finish my novel’s first draft. I also have completed one long, rambling memoir/essay, which will need a lot of editing. And I’ve written complete first drafts of two different short fiction stories, both of them turning out better than I had hoped when I started. Even if I don’t “win” the word count, it’s been a great writing month for me.

The novel has a fair amount of dark humor. The short memoir/essay piece has a theme of thumbing one’s nose at “the system.” One of the stories has characters working to save a cat, and the other has characters just trying to eat their lunch, damnitall. So basically, adhering to the “write what you know” adage.

Happy wordsmithing, fellow NaNo participants!

My November Word Count

6,207. I said it in my previous post, and I think I’ll have to adopt it as my motto: “No sneering, NaNoWriMo participants. I’m a busy woman.”

I know many of you cranked out 50,000 words this past month. Yay for you! I mean that; it’s not sarcastic. Or bitter. Really. No, really, I mean it. I’m impressed. Maybe some year it’ll be me.

Knowing I would have next to no time in November (day job at which I worked extra hours in early November, one homeschooling kid, one public schooled kid who has auditory processing difficulties and thus requires a fair amount of parental involvement to keep track of what’s going on, providing driving lessons to the older child who has a permit but no license yet, taking one of the kids to physical therapy appointments, taking the other kid to orthodontic appointments, assisting with the running of a writers’ conference, oh and a fabulous week-long vacation in Florida, which required planning and packing for and unpacking from) there was no way I could do NaNo. I regret nothing, especially not the vacation.

Still, I tried to absorb inspiration from all the dedication wafting around in my writerly circles. I decided to make an effort to write every day, even if I only had ten minutes, and keep track of my word count.  This went okay until vacation, when I dropped the ball (or quill or something) and didn’t pick it back up for ten days.

I have written a bit of a novel. I also counted blog posts, both personal and work-related. Add in a couple of other miscellaneous forays into the brain-ink continuum and my 20 total days of writing resulted in 6,207 words. One of those days, I managed five minutes for a word count of 76.

Thing is, though, I can keep this up year-round, and accomplish a respectable amount, all things considered. For now, I accept my lot as a plodding SoMisWriYe (Solitary Miscellaneous Writing Year) tortoise amongst the crowd of NaNo hares.

Eventually, I might join the race. Or I might not.

And to  think, I could have spent that time at a desk, subsisting on coffee and toast crusts, hunched over a computer, frantically typing until my fingers bled. Awww…too bad for me.


That’s Not Quite National Novel Writing Month. It’s my own event. I have way too many responsibilities in November to commit to NaNoWriMo.

For NoQuiNaNoWriMo, there is no registration and no minimum word count. Only a desire to use a writers’ movement to inspire me to buckle down as much as possible. Most of my write-ins will take place in my home office, where I plan to be accompanied by a cat and a space heater. My goal is to write something every day.

If anyone else is interested in participating in NoQuiNaNoWriMo, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you.

My writing buddy