Last week, I froze up and stopped writing. I was ten days into NaNoWriMo, but I’d already missed five days – which put me about 10,000 words behind. On top of feeling like I’d never catch up, I felt afraid of failing. I hated my novel, I hated finding the time to write every day, and I felt like I’d lost the point.
I write every day, period. I spend at least 20 minutes writing my daily practice on 750words. I often write far more than that in a day – I write for the blog, I write for our products, I write guest posts, I write emails (which I only include in my writing count when they’re long, thoughtful emails), I occasionally write microfiction. So I lost sight of why I was writing a novel – or, rather, why I was cramming writing a novel in one month into my already busy schedule. I lost sight of why I was writing this particular way with this particular goal. I thought about it and wrote about it at great length, and over and over I found myself asking why am I doing this?
It’s supposed to be fun.
It’s supposed to be a learning experience.
For me, it had become a stressful obligation. And I was flipping out about it.
I posted on Twitter and Facebook, “My NaNoWriMo issue: I can write 50k of crap, but why bother? What’s the point in that? What do I learn? What do I get out of it?” I was really stuck on this, on writing 50,000 words in a month, because I’ve already written 50,000 words since I started my daily practice. I’ve written a month’s worth of blog posts. I’ve written six weeks worth of journal entries. I’ve written quite a bit of craptastic stuff that no one will ever see. My issue became: I know I can write 50k in a month, but why bother?
The response I got from our community was encouraging. People offered support and love. Many of you asked excellent questions.
And then I realized the real issue. And then I admitted the real issue to myself. And then, I took a deep breath and admitted the real issue out loud: “You know what the real issue is here? I’m fucking terrified. I’m 10k words behind, I hate my novel, I don’t know how to recover. I don’t know why I’m doing this anymore.”
I am terrified.
I’m terrified of succeeding. I’m terrified of failing. I’m terrified of pouring my heart into this novel only to find that it utterly sucks. I’m terrified of loving it. I worked myself into a frenzy of fear, flipping back and forth so fast I couldn’t even keep up with my own self – and the fear was keeping me from writing.
On top of the fear, I started beating up on myself. I started talking to myself with words so harsh, I made myself cry. I would’ve slapped anyone else who talked to me like I was talking to myself, but here I was doing it over and over. I even resorted to calling myself some pretty nasty names, which started a big old fight with myself. And into the downward spiral I plummeted.
But then, I started getting responses from our community. Everyone was so kind, so supportive, so loving. My friends encouraged me to relax. They encouraged me to keep going – or to stop, whichever I felt was right. There was no judgment, no harsh words were said. Everyone gently supported me.
And then I realized that the only person judging me harshly was me. I had indeed become my own worst enemy.
I cried. I took a step back. I took the day off, I intentionally didn’t write in my novel. I gave myself permission to skip a day, free of guilt or anger or fear. I mulled it over in my head; what am I doing this for? What do I want? If I’m in, let’s be intentional about it – and no more cruelty. No more abuse.
Then, I took me and my fear out on a date. I went to Starbucks and treated myself to my favorite drink (Pumpkin Spice Latte ftw!). I sat down with myself, I held my own hand (I really did – it’s quite comforting), and I apologized to myself.
I said, “I love you, me. It’s okay that we’ve been so afraid. It’s okay that we feel uncertain. It’s okay that we’re writing a novel so close to our heart that it hurts sometimes. It’s okay. Everything is okay.” I started breathing deeply. I felt the hurt dissipate. I felt myself open up. I felt the words come back, surging within me like the tide. I felt the fear – and I just sat with it. I let it fill me. I breathed it in, I held it close, and I loved it.
And I started writing again.
I don’t know if I’ll finish NaNoWriMo the way the rules say. I’m not sure if I’ll hit 50,000 words. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish this novel. I haven’t gained certainty or lost the fear.
But I’m back on my own team. I’ve repaired the damage to my relationship with myself. And I’m here, writing intentionally, with a clear and loving open heart.