The Camp NaNo Loser

I’d looked forward to Camp NaNoWriMo. Since 2009, I have loved writing my way through November, learning about myself as a writer and creating this text that, for better or worse, comes from me and is born of my own imagination. When I heard they’d be holding summer sessions in July and August this year, I signed up for the August camp and got ready to write.

It’s worth noting that I’ve reached the 50,000 mark (the word count required to “win” NaNoWriMo) in November 2009 and November 2010. In both cases, my novel was far from finished, but I had a tremendous start. Really, you’d be hard-pressed to find a novel of substance that’s only 50,000 words. I finished the first draft of my 2009 work in June 2010, and I continue to work on my 2010 work-in-progress now. So August seemed like a great time to get back into it and cross the final finish line.

Timing had no plans to get on my side, though. For the most part, good things like job interviews kept me busy during the week. Other obligations ate up my weekends. My dad had emergency surgery and spent a week in the hospital. Taking care of him at home took up a sizable portion of my time.

I won’t really complain about so many things requiring my time and attention. It got stressful sometimes, but I enjoyed keeping occupied. I’m not very good at saying no and I don’t like letting people down, so I kept showing up as needed or requested, telling myself that I’d get back to the writing soon. Besides, I like the challenge of figuring out how to make everything work.

I regularly took 18-20 credit hours per semester in college. One semester I took 22. One semester I took 24. I double-minored my teacher prep program, which everyone told me I was insane to do. But I did it. I worked three on-campus jobs for a total of about 20 hours a week while I was student teaching and taking a night class. I once had a total student count of 178 ninth graders that I was responsible for teaching. While working a part time job on the side. And going to grad school two nights a week. After I moved back to PA, every Wednesday for the first semester, I would get up at 6 a.m., teach all day, get in the car right after school and drive 165 miles to Fairfax, VA (outside D.C.). I’d go to my night class from 7-10. Then my mom would drive us 165 miles home. I’d go to bed at 2:30 a.m. and get up for work at 6 the next day. I never called off. I show up for the game.

The point of all of that? Don’t eff with my time management skills. I can make just about everything work, which is probably why I get so frustrated with people who can’t or don’t want to.

But my plan to get to the writing never actually happened. Or at least not the way I hoped it would.

In total, I only wrote something like 3000 words in the novel during the whole month — less than I would do in a single day in November sometimes.

So I lost.

I don’t like being a loser, but I’ve accepted it.

It makes me afraid, though, of contentment. If I become content with being an underachiever, how does that alter the big picture? Will my novel ever get finished?

Pride is also something to consider. I came into this with two wins and I felt like I had a reputation to uphold. I didn’t want to let anyone down (although no one else probably really cared, but I didn’t want to let myself down either). At some point, pride stopped being an issue. At some point, I stopped telling myself, “I’ll write tomorrow.” I stopped berating myself for giving up too easily.

I tried to let myself off the hook for not being able to make everything happen. My odometer indicates that I put 1700 miles on my car in August alone. I wasn’t home enough to write. Or is that just an excuse?

What bothers me the most about losing, though, is that I feel like someone’s stripped me of my cape. I worry that I’m losing my ability to do everything, to be everything to everyone as they need or want me to be. In my eyes, that’s a sign of my own weakness. I hate that there was one piece of the puzzle left and I just couldn’t make it fit. It makes me feel like I just didn’t care enough or want it badly enough, neither of which is necessarily true.

Still, I’ve never believed that anything worthwhile was ever rushed. I’m suspicious of things that happen too fast and seem too easy. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” and whatnot. So the fact that this process is long and sometimes frustrating, tiring, and difficult isn’t stopping me from believing that the sense of achievement at the end will be worth it.

Motivation may be needed, but I’ll get there. If I have to fake it ’til I make it, I’ll get there.

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2 thoughts on “The Camp NaNo Loser

  1. I don’t see how that’s losing. You’ve got 3000 words you wouldn’t have otherwise. When I attempted it in clearly impossible conditions last year, I just figured each word was gravy because I was crazy even to be contemplating such a heavy commitment.
    You should reread what NaNo says: there are no losers. They want you to enter in the spirit of getting some words on paper, never mind how many. If you think about it, 50,000 is a totally random number. Why that and not 40,000 or 60,000 – or 60,001?
    You can take your time. I just sent off something that was 700 words long and I’d been mulling it over and working on it on and off for at least 15 years. Rejected by the first place I sent it, so I’m moving on to another place.
    To me, there’s an enormous amount of pride in helping out family and friends when they need it. It involves giving up a lot. Not everyone is willing to do that, so it says a lot about you.
    Might provide material for a good story later on, too :)

    • You’re right. And I know I’m probably a little bit hard on myself about it. And it’s true that it very well might provide excellent writing material later!

      Good luck with that piece you’re working on! You’ll have to let me know when someone publishes it. :)

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