NaNoWriMo is notorious among the experienced WriMos. It is Hell Week. It is a miserable time of writer’s block, burning out, self doubt and walls of exhaustion. The writers are dropping out of the race in droves. It is a sad sad time.
It started easily enough for me. I was on a roll. I knew exactly what I was doing and why. I had moved on to act two, twenty thousand words flowing from my fingertips like fine wine. I was ecstatic that things were going so well and I was beating the Week Two Slump. I was suffused with over confidence.
At first, all went well. I was a rock rolling down a hill. Then I hit a pothole. It wasn’t something major, or at least, no one else thought it was major. My supreme self confidence took a major hit. They added word counters to the forums. One day, I most innocently logged into the forums, much as I did every day, prepared to offer sweet words of encouragement to all those poor souls who couldn’t get their write on.
I nearly quit right then and there. There they were, the word counters of doom, glaring at me in reproach. I looked above, I looked below. All I could see was the accusation that I hadn’t been doing my best. I had been coasting along, doing only what was easy. I wasn’t pushing myself. Oh, sure, I was ahead of the necessary, I was happy with my writing, I was happy with where my story was going, I love my characters, and my story was still just as fresh and exciting as it had been on day one. None of that mattered all of a sudden. The only thing that mattered was that I hadn’t been doing my best. I wasn’t as far along as I should be. I had been lazy.
It was a panicky ugly feeling deep in my gut. I wanted to cry, or curl up on my couch and not wake up until December first. In short, it was a panic attack. I hadn’t expected to have my personal failure on display for everyone to see. The worst part, no one was there to offer me the support I had given so freely. My problem was only me being stupid. I should “get over it.” The word counters had “always been a part of the experience.” I felt betrayed, in addition to being a failure.
It was a truly miserable, horrible few days. Just the thought of opening the forums was enough to cause heart palpitations. I closed my skype chat, abandoning the poor lost souls therein. I didn’t log into the forums. I curled in on myself, trying to figure out why I couldn’t just make myself quit.
It wasn’t like I wouldn’t finish my novel, I would. It was still giving up, taking the easy road. So I stayed. I forced myself to write those two thousand words each day. Only one thing made me do it, the fact that my pretty little graph would get irrevocably screwed up if I took time off. Not to mention, taking a day off would only make me that much more behind where I thought I should be.
I still don’t know the point anymore. What had started as a wonderful adventure and personal challenge had turned into an ugly out for yourself competition. The community didn’t feel so friendly anymore, they felt more like leeches, taking without giving back. Everyone was busy comparing themselves to me, as I couldn’t help but do to them.
The admins ply me with platitudes and excuses. “It is a challenge, not a competition.” Then why make it a competition in a way that forces people to compare numbers? “The word counters have always been a part of the site.” That is a cowards answer, not a true argument in their favor. “People see it as a motivational tool.” Making me feel bad about what was once a beautiful achievement has never been a good motivational tool, I have never felt so demoralized in recent memory.
You know what the worst part was thought? It seemed that no one understood my angst, not even those poor souls who are actually behind on word count. I was alone in a sea of recriminations. The community had abandoned me, leaving me to the wolves I had saved them from.
Thankfully, I was able to find a way to block the evil glare of the word counters using adblock, some kind soul told me exactly how to do it. I don’t think I would have been able to continue without that small kindness. I also had my troop of writers on skype to think about. They needed me, my own personal crisis or not. I had promised to get them on track and keep them there. Even if I could abandon myself, I could not abandon them.
Week two is now behind me. My writing has progressed, always onward. My characters and story have survived week two and I have topped thirty thousand words. I am two thirds of the way to the finish line. I will beat this monster into submission, even if it is on my own. I will ride the tiger to the bitter end, because that is what I have promised to do.
Ride on, WriMos, write on!