First, if you’re just joining us for the NaNo series, then head over to Part 1. Or don’t. Up to you! Choose your own adventure.
It’s Week 3 in the NaNoWriMo adventure, which means you might be feeling many things up to and including: elation, zippiness (like yayyayyay storytime!), stress, despair, doubt, fear, worthlessness, magic, exhaustion and perhaps in great need of all the coffee and wine. I get it. I’m there, too, which is why I’m writing this post. It’s as much for me as it is for you. This is a tough week. It’s the midway point, so for those of you that haven’t been hitting your daily or weekly word count goal (guilty as charged), you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. You’re wondering why you’re doing this, what the point of it is, anyway, and also, you’re pretty sure this novel is terrible. The worst novel EVER, in fact. It’s a first draft so, yeah, it’s probably not so great.
And that’s okay. First drafts are notoriously bad. There’s a reason Anne Lamott calls it a “shitty first draft.” So how do we get mindful about all the emotions that are coming up right now, especially the ones that land on the side of REALLY FREAKING OVERWHELMED? The first thing is to allow yourself to sit with whatever emotion you’re feeling. Don’t try to push it away, ignore it, give it the cold shoulder. Being mindful means being in the present moment and if you’re feeling like the shittiest writer in the world in this present moment, then mindfulness means leaning into that feeling. We do this by pushing away from the laptop, closing our eyes (optional), and just sitting with this feeling. How? First, acknowledge what you’re feeling–name it. When you know something’s name it has less power. Fellow fantasy writers, you know what I’m talking about. Then, gently investigate where in your body this feeling lives. When I’m feeling like the worst writer in the world or am overwhelmed by a deadline, that feeling lives in my chest and, sometimes, my throat.
Now, get to the bottom of this feeling. This is a kind exploration, not a chance to beat yourself up. If you’re feeling frazzled by the NaNo deadline, see what that’s all about. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself right now? Is it possible that it would be totally okay if you just did your best and your best ended up being 30K of the 50K word count goal? I mean, look, I’m not suggesting you give up–I’m all about challenging myself as an artist and making every effort to keep the promises I make to myself. Maybe you can totally hit this goal, but your struggle is that you’re allowing your inner critic too much headspace, or your perfectionist is nosing around, forcing you to polish each word before you go to the next one. This is my personal struggle right now. In order to win NaNo, you have to forge ahead, pants your way through the work, and not stop to make things pretty. Onward! This is hard for me, but it’s also a great challenge: What does it feel like to not let your perfectionist hang out in the driver’s seat? Whatever your struggle seems to be, just see what’s up with that. You don’t have to solve anything–you’re just figuring out what’s going on inside you, and if you can hit on why, great. If not, no biggie. The whole point is that you’re being mindful and living in the moment.
Art credit: unknown
Now, take a minute to give yourself some love. Self care might look like having a nice long stretch, writing yourself an encouraging note, or having a mini dance party. Whatever it is, be nice to yourself. No self-haters allowed. If you’re curious about learning more about this mindful process I just laid out, you can check out my blog post about it here. Keep in mind that grappling with our emotions in this direct, mindful way does not mean all that stress vanishes. Like writing, it’s a process. But what it does do is put a time-out on the crazy so you don’t spiral into a full-on meltdown / writer funk. And it allows you to better handle these emotions when they come up in the future. It also gives you perspective. By looking at how we’re feeling head on, we begin to realize that we may be feeling these emotions, but they are not us. If I’m having a bad day and hardly write any words, that doesn’t mean I’m a shitty writer – it means I’m a writer who had a shitty day. Big difference. Being mindful about our emotions as much as we can chips away at these unhealthy habits many of us have as artists. We begin circumventing the cycle of despair and self-doubt. We start to see things as they really are, and this gives us more space for the work itself.
Hang in there, NaNo fiends! You’re halfway through and rocking it simply by having the intention to do this really hard, wild thing. And remember: Every word written is a win.
Breathe. Write. Repeat.
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