November is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a month encouraging others to somehow write an entire novel, 50,000 words, in thirty days. Yes, you read that right. 50,000 words in thirty days. If it sounds like the most horrifying, glorious, exhausting idea ever conceived, it’s because it is.
I finished the first draft of a manuscript two days before Halloween. I was feeling good. I’d given up on this story so many times, but it refused to let me quit. I kept coming back to it and back to it and back to it. I took all summer off from writing, convinced the book would never be finished. But, in September, with the kids in school and needing a distraction from querying, I came back to it and, nearly killing myself in the process, managed to finish it in just over six weeks.
It’s three weeks later and my brain is still on fire.
But it’s hard to leave well enough alone. Log onto Twitter, pop your head in any writer chat group, and there it is: NaNoWriMo.
“How far along are you?”
“15,000 words in and I just CAN’T stop writing!”
“I’m falling so far behind, but I managed to squeak out 3,000 words this afternoon.”
And, before you know what’s happening, anxiety takes over:
I just finished a manuscript. But maybe I should be writing another one. These people are going to be ready to query in no time, and I’m just sitting here, trying to remember how to form a complete sentence with my burned out brain. They must be better writers. They’ll get an agent, a book deal, and a legion of fans before I even finish my edits.
What should be a well-deserved rest after a marathon writing session becomes riddled with worry and apprehension.
If I ever want to be published, I need to do more. Look at everyone else. I need to keep up.
Friends, can I just tell you, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, STOP.
Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Let them do them and you do you. If they–and you–want to crank out 50,000 words in thirty days, great. If you’d rather not write anything at all for thirty days, fantastic. If you want to write every single day, have at it. If you can only write on the weekends or at night after the kids go to bed, that’s wonderful.
There is no time limit. There is no right or wrong way. Every author is on his or her own journey. Yours may not look like mine. And mine may not look like the person next to me. It doesn’t matter. We are all working towards a dream in our own way, at our own pace, of finding the books of our hearts in the hands of readers.
And that dream is way too precious to allow yourself to burnout simply to keep up with the imaginary race in your head.
So keep writing, friends. And for goodness sake, take a break if you need it.