Life

Measuring Your Own Success – How NaNoWriMo Went

First of all, a big congratulations to everyone who completed NaNoWriMo! Seriously, well fucking done.

So you may remember at the beginning of the month I wrote a blog post all about challenging yourself and so I tried to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. Well, spoiler alert I “failed”. But I don’t feel like a failure and I think that’s because of how I measured success.

As I was working on this project I defined success as simply having something (anything) to show at the end and writing every day. I certainly have created something: an incomplete, messy, objectively bad something. But something.

As for writing every day, well I nailed that until just over half way through the month. It didn’t matter how much I wrote just that I spent the time to write each day. My average was around 900 words a day. In order to hit 50,000 words you need to write 1,667 so I was nowhere near reaching that but still I wrote something.

One of the things I learned about writing was that even if I cleared my whole schedule and had a full day to write the most I could do was 3 hours until my brain shut down. Turns out I had a very relaxing first half of November. Because I pre-filmed videos and pre-wrote blog posts I didn’t have a lot of work to do. But turns out I didn’t need to save myself that much time. November was good, days were spent writing for a few hours and then chilling out, working on myself and maybe playing some Civilization VI…

My main motive to do NaNoWriMo wasn’t to write a novel but to escape this motivational funk I was in. And it worked. By allowing myself time to relax without punishing myself for not being productive I’ve managed to find that spark again. I’d call that success.

19th November was the last day I wrote anything. The total word count for my novel sits at 17,446. I stopped because I was bored, I got ill and I had other work to do.

1) Boredom
I’d taken other writers’ advice and not bothered writing chronologically instead just writing the bits that excited me first. I wrote the beginning and then I kept jumping around to different scenes that contain key moments in the narrative. Once that was done, I got bored. I didn’t really have the motivation to fill in the gaps, I didn’t really know what those gaps were.

2) Being ill
The evening of the 20th I started feeling awful then for the rest of that week I was a useless lump of snot and headaches. I did the bare minimum I had to with work to get by but mostly I let myself recover. At university I always ploughed through my colds and fevers never letting myself rest. As a result, I was always ill. One of the “adult” things that I do now is allow myself to really recover. You gotta look out for number 1 (me).

3) There’s work to be done!
Early/mid-November wasn’t very busy. End of November, holy balls, there is lots to do! I’m doing Vlognukah again this year where I make 8 videos for the 8 days of Chanukah but Chanukah is earlier this year. I’m away in Manchester and then New York at the beginning of December and then Vlognukah begins! So end of November has been prep for that. Lots of filming, editing and scheduling. Fun times.

And so I stopped writing and I feel fine. I don’t feel like a failure. I don’t feel that sense of doom of having not completed something. Maybe I’ll come back to my shoddy manuscript in the future and try and make something out of it. Right now I’ve got other things to focus on.

So technically I failed NaNoWriMo but I got exactly what I needed out of this month. So here’s to measuring your own success!

I would love to hear in the comments how NaNoWriMo went for you if you tried it or about any other times you’ve failed at something but not seen it as a failure.

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5 Comments

  1. I completed NaNoWriMo and it was exactly what I needed. I had been messing around with my novel for a year but this November I just pushed forward. I wanted the ‘winner’ tag, I was determined! I was definitely slack in the beginning but in the last four days I wrote about 10k words to catch up. I’m riding the after-NaNo motivation wave so I have started editing because I know I will grow bored v quickly. I would definitely do it again but I know there isn’t a hope on this earth that I could write 50k words in 30 days. Something for me to think of for next NaNo. Well done, Hannah! X

  2. There you go, Hannah! You did a good job, but to be truthful, I feel like your generation is suffering because of your ideas regarding success. Sure, you got yourself out of a motivational slump but you set the bar too low. The reason I think you were in a motivational slump is because you stopped being excited about creating the content you create. This is probably because you shifted your format to topics which require length filming times that take place over the course of weeks. Also, a lot of the stuff you film puts your body and mind through stress. I, for one, struggle to finish political videos properly because they literally give me a headache. Beyond that, I think of all of the fun videos I could be making as it pertains to string puppets while I’m making political videos and I convince myself that I’m wasting time on a video topic I’m not really passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk politics extensively just fine, I can even comment on them with no trouble, but dedicating a block of time to a political video topic is not my thing. For one, I’m not really interacting with anyone. I’m mostly responding to idiotic points and losing my faith in humanity due to the realization that people are stupid enough not to see through them. I address both conservatives and liberals alike and it hurts my head to deal with so much biased bullshit coming from both sides of the political spectrum. However, when I imagine the bright worlds of puppetry and the otherworld scenarios I create for the production, all of the colors, sounds, delightful randomness, and Easter eggs referencing video games, anime, 90’s culture, and now-obscure and largely forgotten famous people, I can’t help but feel the pull to creating these videos mid-process into the political ones (resulting in the abandonment of political videos.)

    Now, as far as your first point, I can provide some tips that would’ve helped:

    “1) Boredom
    I’d taken other writers’ advice and not bothered writing chronologically instead just writing the bits that excited me first. I wrote the beginning and then I kept jumping around to different scenes that contain key moments in the narrative. Once that was done, I got bored. I didn’t really have the motivation to fill in the gaps, I didn’t really know what those gaps were.”

    I use this technique and the point is to see these parts as “dots” to connect the beginning, middle and end. You find the “gaps” through the parts you’re developing by asking yourself what has to happen in between the parts you’re excited about for the separate parts to lead up to each other.

    I’m glad you’re out of your slump and you’ll continue making videos, but there are no failures in life, only lessons. When you fail you can find the answers to what you can improve upon and what you need to do to improve upon them is the next step.

  3. This was my third time doing NaNoWriMo, and my third «win». I completed on 20th November after writing 16k in three days, because I had exams coming up and needed to focus on them.
    I feel like there is too much emphasis on «winning» NaNo, and not enough on just getting some writing done. I’m boyond impressed with anyone who just attempts and writes 3k words, because you’ve at least done something.

  4. I completed NaNoWriMo but my word goal was only 20,000 so not entirely impressive. Still, considering it was my second year and I’m only twelve, I was proud of myself. In December I plan to write a poem everyday as well as editing and redrafting my novel. I’m so proud of you, Hannah! This blog post is really motivating.

  5. I did NaNo for the first time this year and technically I didn’t succeed. But I’m super proud of myself because my goal was really to finally make a start and to get an outline of my novel sorted. Now I have that plus I have 15k more words than I did before, so definitely feel like it was overall a success!

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