Why I backed out of NaNoWriMo

“I’m going to do it,” I enthusiastically announced to Pawel about a month ago. “Now is a great time to go ahead with a project like that. After all, there might never be a ‘perfect time’ to pursue it.”

As always, he supported me in my plan. Without deadlines, I could spend the entire day hovering in the land of daydreams, without producing anything. A deadline was going to be great for me.

Fueled by this spark of optimism, I headed over to the NaNoWriMo website and created an account. Then, I came up with my plan of action, choosing the month of October to prepare the plot, character development, and other details of my novel in preparation for the first day of November, when I was to sit down and write approximately 1,670 words. The idea of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is simple: sit down every day from the 1st to the 30th of November and write a novel. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but after November 30th, I would have written 50,000 words.

The month of October turned out to be an interesting one, and without going into too many personal details, I will say that the only time I managed to carve out for writing was the weekly online writing class I’m currently taking through Firefly Creative Writing Studio, as well as a few minutes, here and there, to work on the homework projects assigned.


About a week and a half ago, I started to have doubts. I confided to Pawel that I was no longer feeling the rush of excitement at the prospect of sitting down every day to write a certain number of words.

“I have been running off my feet since the beginning of September. When am I going to make the time to take on another project?”

“You’d have to write late at night, after the kids have gone to bed,” was his simple reply.

“But I can’t keep my eyes open or think clearly past 9 p.m. on most nights.” I stated this without a hint of complaint in my voice. This is a fact to which I can finally, after many years of denial, confess with ease.

And that’s when I realized that I would need to back out of the NaNoWriMo idea. Feeling deflated, I headed over to the website and with a loud sigh, deleted my account.

The wave of relief that flooded a few minutes later was a surprise to me. Was I not supposed to feel sad and disappointed that I had let something drop? Instead, I realized I freed up my time to focus on what has already been set in motion and on which I have been working, in my own subtle way, for a while.

Then, I read a post last week on Facebook, by Elizabeth Gilbert, that helped me to make clear sense of my feelings regarding this failed project. In her post, she writes about living her dream and letting go of what did not serve her. In E. Gilbert’s words:

I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I’ve had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. I never choose those lives. I’ve never lived the dreams that other people wanted for themselves — nor have I lived the dreams that other people may have wanted for me.”

It has always been my dream to write a novel. But at this point in my life, I am not prepared to sacrifice my much-needed sleep to work on this project every day for a month. You may judge me for this, dear reader, and I am also okay with that.

Instead of taking on a project that might push me past the Type-A edge, I am choosing to focus my energy during the month of November on leading new yoga classes that have just been added to my schedule (I will update our website with this information shortly), playing outside with my family, recommitting to my daily meditation practice, working on Christmas gifts that I am making, and getting as much rest as possible.

As for my novel, I have found a medium that I think will work well for me. I have one more writing class in the series, scheduled this week, and to keep my creative momentum on the go, I have made a commitment to continue to reserve the same evening each week, the same two hours, to sit down and write, write, write my heart out. It might take me two years to finish my book at this pace. That’s fine. I’m setting my own deadline.


As E. Gilbert continues in the same post:

Ask yourself this question, whenever you are given any choice or opportunity. Ask: “Will saying YES to this path bring me closer to the source that brings me to life? Or will it take me further away?”

So, here’s to being more gentle with ourselves and choosing to move away from stress, continuing to challenge ourselves, but in a sustainable way, without ever allowing ourselves to deplete our precious reserves.

I’m curious to know how you create the delicate balance between setting challenging deadlines for yourself and working diligently while also making more space in your life for what truly matters. If you would like to share your ideas, please leave a comment.


Dharma Wanderlust

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