Why I Quit NaNoWriMo 2018
When I woke up this morning and saw that the tiny blemish I had on my chin earlier in the week had turned into a full-blown, weeping coldsore, I knew things were bad. I don’t usually wear worry, as Memphis from The Diviners would say, but this was a sign to the outside world that stress is getting the better of me.
It seems that everything that has happened this year has finally caught up with me, and when I think about what is still to come, including some self-imposed challenges, I honestly want to break down and cry. The coldsore, and spending my Saturday at work catching up on things with looming deadlines, finally gave me the lightbulb moment I needed. Things have to change or I’m going to find myself in a worse state than just with a blister on my lip.
This brings me to a decision I have been putting off making. One that I am honestly so disappointed to have to make and yet I do feel a sense of relief knowing I’m not going to put myself through it. I’ve decided to quit NaNoWriMo 2018.
So, what’s been going on and what am I planning to do to put an end to my stress? Let me break it down and hopefully by the end of writing this post, I’ll be clearer in my own mind about what the rest of the year is going to look like for me.
Back in August my colleague, and general all-round superstar, left her post to move interstate. It’s been 10 weeks since she left and no replacement has been hired. The job is actually posted now, but given that I was offered a promotion over a month ago and still haven’t seen a contract, it looks like it’ll be at least another 6 or so weeks before someone is in the position, and that someone will take a while to get up to speed. While I could never hope to take on all the things she used to do, and my manager doesn’t expect me to, it’s coming into a time of year where her role begins to ramp up, and I take twice as long to do anything as I’m having to learn a lot of it by trial and error. To say I’m overwhelmed at the moment would be an understatement. I usually love going into work as I enjoy my job and I have an awesome team, but right now I’m starting to dread each day, and that is not a nice feeling.
Solution: Funnily enough, after the last week, which was insanely busy, I’m already feeling a bit better as I’ve started to get my head around the work, the systems, and the timelines of the tasks that need to get done. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’m getting there slowly and I’m seeing positive results which definitely helps. This is also where quitting NaNo comes in, I can’t stomach the thought of getting up early to write, or of making time each night when I get home from such a busy work schedule. So in favour of the paid employment, NaNo has to go. Overall I think the work stress will start to resolve of its own accord. I just have to keep doing the best I can and trust my own abilities.
Since Isabel and I joined the book community, everyone has been so welcoming and supportive of our content, and weirdly it’s been kind of crippling. Posting videos, photos and blogs that people actually see and comment on is a catch-22. Of course when you spend a lot of time and effort on your content, you want people to see it, but then when people see it and start liking and commenting on it, you put pressure on yourself to post more often, and create better quality content, and then something terrible happens: you start worrying about the number of followers you have.
I got a tip from a great friend in the book community about how to contact publishers to be added to their influencer mailing list. I flicked off an email to one of the publishers he mentioned and within a few minutes they came back and said that we didn’t have enough followers to join their list of bloggers. It hit me harder than I thought something so small would. Setting up, taking, editing and posting photos is hard work, and I spent many hours working on our first few YouTube and Instagram videos, and to hear that none of that matters and only number of followers counts, it hurt my pride a little. I felt so upset by it (and obviously with all the crazy work stuff going on) that I’ve taken a little step back from Instagram and YouTube, and not been able to find much inspiration to write any book reviews. Another catch-22, you need content to get more followers, and right now everything has stalled.
Solution: Basically, get over it! And don’t set myself a crazy goal, just start back slowly and enjoy creating the content. Don’t be a slave to it. I have a couple of half edited videos so I’m going to start there, and once they are done then Isabel and I can think about what we want to film next.
I think we also need to have a big Bookstagram photo session, but rather than try and do it all myself, I’ll wait for a weekend when both Isabel and I are free and we can do it together. I love taking the book photos, so it won’t be a chore at all, but I have to remind myself that I don’t need to post every day. Commenting and liking other people’s photos is a great way to connect to the community and something that I really enjoy, so I’ll definitely be getting over my little hissy fit and coming back to Instagram this week!
I have literally dozens of ideas for blog posts but I can’t seem to get any of them down on paper (or screen), why? Well, writing takes practice and I’m not writer fit at the moment. So how can I improve my writing fitness? Just write! I’m starting with this post, which I know is a long one, but they don’t all have to be this long. I’ve made a list of my ideas so now I just have to get started. I’m positive that once I start writing again regularly, the words will flow a lot easier. I’m not setting a goal (as goal setting stresses me out, which I’ll talk about in a moment) but my overall aim is to improve my life and stress levels by writing more.
NaNoWriMo and October Goals
I ‘won’ NaNoWriMo last year and met an amazing group of writerly friends so I was eager to jump in again and started planning my new novel a few months ago. The one I wrote last year has sat in Scrivener untouched for the last year so it turned out to be an exercise in whether I could actually do it, rather than writing anything useful. This year though I planned to write THE novel. The one I’ve been thinking about for years, and the one that was going to require a lot more planning than just the half hour a day goal set myself for October. In fact, 24 days into October and I have done a total of 3 X 30 minutes of planning, on days 1, 2 and 3. Did I mention that I also need to finish my 50k words by the 25th as I’m going on holiday to New Zealand? This was a crazy goal that has been causing me to lose sleep, and because I announced it on Instagram I felt like I was locked in. Random people on the internet and a few friends knew I was doing it, so I have to do it, right? Wrong!
Solution: Don’t do it. Even if I have to announce it, which I am doing right now, I’m not doing NaNo. What I am going to do though is not stop writing. My friends are doing NaNo and when I can I’ll head along to our usual catch ups and do some planning, write a few scenes, maybe some book reviews or blog posts, just keep writing. November is going to be a month of writing, until the 25th anyway, just without the target of 50k words.
I’m planning a full blog post on this topic, but I’ve learned that this type of goal setting i.e. doing something every day for a month, or posting a certain number of photos/blog posts/videos a week, doesn’t work for me. It puts unnecessary pressure on myself and I end up freaking out rather than being productive. I have found to-do lists work better, as they are a way writing things down so I don’t forget them, and flexible enough that I can work on things when I have time, whether it’s a couple of hours or a few minutes.
Money, Holiday and Party
My partner is a freelance creative, a winning combination in the world of not getting paid a lot (‘exposure’ doesn’t pay the bills), and not getting paid on time. This means that our family is under constant financial stress, him more so than me, and some times worse than others, but it’s always there. The last few months have been particularly bad, and we’ve planned a 2 week holiday to New Zealand and a Summer Solstice party, so right now money stress is a big one.
Isabel and I have become so obsessed with the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, by Sarah J. Mass (total trash but we love it) that instead of having Christmas this year, we have decided to have a Summer Solstice party. Because we are going to NZ, we’re not going to have a lot of time for Christmas decorating anyway, so this seemed like a fun thing to do and not exhaust ourselves setting up the decorations for only two weeks. But, I really should have put more thought more about how the party would fit into the NZ trip dates. The party alone could be the source of my coldsore at this point. There’s the invites, food, drinks, decorations, cooking, cleaning, setting up, packing everything away and then doing Christmas with my family anyway. What have I gotten myself into?
Solution: With the money situation there is not a lot I can control personally, however one thing I can definitely do is work toward reducing my spending, paying off my own debts and building up some savings. This is more of a long term solution, and it’s something I’m quite excited to do, starting from right now. Although there might not be any debt paying off, or saving going on, until the new year, finding ways to cut down on spending, especially around Christmas will hopefully ease a bit of the stress and worry we both feel about money.
The three of us went to NZ two years ago and we had a brilliant time so we’re all excited about going back. I think the solution to being worried about the expense of the trip is to accept that amazing experiences cost money, and we don’t get the chance to do this kind of thing often, so it will be well worth it. Accept the cost and make the most of the trip to ensure every cent is well spent.
The stress of the party is two-fold, the organisation and the cost. But, it’s also something that both Isabel and I are really excited about, so I want to try and make it work. I think we just need to get organised. This weekend we can sit down and make a list of everything we need to do before we go on holiday, and make some shopping lists for the week before the party so we can do a lot of the food shopping online. Another thing might be to look over our ideas and think of ways to reduce the costs of things we had planned to buy. We’ve bought a few things already, but not too much stuff, so I think if we improvise with some of the decorations, and hunt for bargains at thrift stores and cheap shops, we’ll be able to put on a really nice spread without breaking the bank.
Family and Relationships
I had dinner with a friend last week who said that this year has been terrible for her and her family, and I tend to agree. Not that I believe in back luck years or anything, but 2018 has really done a number on my family too. My grandad passed away early in the year and my grandma had to go into an aged care facility which has put so much stress on my mum and my aunt. My sister and I are helping out and supporting our mum as much as we can, but even being the support person takes its toll.
Then, in a cruel twist of fate, Adrian’s dad passed away just a couple of weeks ago, before we made it to NZ to see him. I think losing a parent puts a lot of things into perspective and gives you a sudden taste of your own mortality. Again, I’m only the support person, but there is an underlying sense of sadness that seems to creep into your day no matter whether you consciously feel it or not. There is no worse time to work for yourself when something happens and you need time off. Not only do you not get paid when you don’t work, but you don’t get time to process and grieve. Those bills have to be paid somehow, so where I might be able to take annual leave in a similar situation, Adrian is right back to putting on a smile and getting back out there.
Solution: I wish there was an easier answer for this one, but there just isn’t. It’s a matter of being there for the people I love, taking time for myself and the things I love (all mentioned above) and getting through difficult times as best as we can. There might be changes in the future, with Adrian looking for work interstate, but that’s a bridge to cross when it comes along, and I have to try not to worry about it in the meantime.
Well, there you have it. If you made it down this far, thank you. I wrote this post for myself mainly, and I have found it to be extremely cathartic, but if you were interested then I am very glad to share what’s been going on. I’m not a good goal setter as I mentioned above, preferring to-do lists, and I feel as though this blog post is a very wordy to-do list about what I need to do to overcome the stress that is going on in my life right now. Hopefully the things I have proposed will help and over the next couple of months, and into 2019, I can find more time to do the things I love, and not spend precious time on things I don’t want to do, or worrying about things that I can’t change.
I hope your year has been a fabulous one so far, and that 2019 proves to be happy, health and successful for both of us.