NaNoWriMo Tip – Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Writers

A couple of days ago, I officially “won” NaNoWriMo.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 4.11.48 PMAfter I did a happy dance, I went online and skimmed through posts and Tweets about NaNoWriMo. As I did, a sense of unease overcame me. So many writers were acting discouraged and defeated because their word counts weren’t as high as others. It made me wonder:

Do early winners kill the motivation of other writers?

I decided to ask a handful of writing buddies this question. Some declared early winners inspire them because it proves NaNo can be done. But others admitted early winners make them feel overwhelmed, panicked, and even resentful.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. During the last NaNo I signed up for, early winners irritated me more than they inspired me. While they declared themselves finished, I continued digging myself out of the 10K word hole I’d  fallen into…It wasn’t a fun or happy time.

So, today I thought I’d offer some encouragement to anyone out there who might be feeling overwhelmed, panicked, and/or resentful by early NaNo winners (or anyone with a higher word count). First off, let me assure you, writing 50K words in less than two weeks isn’t normal! It’s crazy.

Second, a variety of factors play into how fast people finish NaNo. To finish in ten days or less, I discovered you need to:

  1. Have ample time. Life is calm, work is slow, sleep is futile, etc. Writers who finish NaNo early tend to have plenty of time on their hands. Personally, my life was abnormally peaceful the past ten days. The only thing that prevented me from writing all day, every day was my job, and even that happened to be calm and stress-free.
  2. Be extremely focused. I made NaNoWriMo my main priority the past two weeks. I passed on invitations to events, turned down requests from family and friends, and resisted blogging and working on other non-essential projects. If it didn’t have to do with my manuscript, I ignored it. (Hermit, party of one!)
  3. Act like a competitive overachiever. Early NaNo winners can deny it all they want, but the majority of us are competitive overachievers. That doesn’t mean we’re trying to beat other writers. Not at all! It means we’re trying to beat ourselves. We have to match or do better than we did the day before. It’s a natural compulsion we can’t control.
  4. Experience creative energy overload. All writers experience creative highs and lows. Sometimes the words have to be ripped out of us, and sometimes they tumble out faster than we can type. During NaNo, some of us get lucky and experience a high. We get in an amazing groove and can’t stop writing even when our eyes hurt and our fingers cramp. It’s a blessing, and it’s a blessing that needs to be embraced before it disappears.
  5. Word vomit. A lot. I’m usually a sucker for revising as I write, but this time during NaNo, I refused–absolutely refused–to revise anything. I word vomited all over my pages and didn’t care about the giant mess I made. If I had a new idea or discovered a plot hole, I jotted it down in my notebook and kept going. I never went back to fix things. Never.

unnamedAnd if I didn’t like the direction I was taking my story, I added a few spaces between my paragraphs, wrote “SWITCHING GEARS” , and carried on as though I’d made the change. Nothing stopped me from writing, writing, writing.

Bottom line: It takes a magical combination of luck and hard work to finish NaNoWriMo early. Time, inspiration, and determination play key factors in propelling some to the 50K mark in the blink of an eye.

But, that’s them.

And you are you!

You can’t look at another writer’s stats and then question your own. You can’t! I learned that during my first NaNo when I kept comparing myself to those who finished early. Their amazing success didn’t inspire me. It hurt me and it made my journey harder.

So, if you’re like me and get dragged down rather than lifted up by early winners, here’s my advice:

Tell yourself everyone handles NaNoWriMo differently, and a million factors influence how fast people reach the finish line. Some writers are able to sprint, others must jog, and others are forced to walk. The truth is, the pace doesn’t matter. What matters is you achieve your goal. If that goal takes two weeks, one month, or an entire year, then so be it.

Just keep writing!

Take it one day at a time. Don’t think about how far you still have to go, or how much work you will need to do in the future. Think about today. Today is all that matters in the land of writing.

Keep up the good work, everyone. You can do this!

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Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

16 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Tip – Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Writers

    1. I would already be done too had it not been for my laptop melting down and being chained to the desktop for a week, my art business getting its influx of holiday orders that I tried to prevent but people wouldn’t listen, oh yes and that pesky wedding anniversary that snuck in there! BAH life! 😀 Seriously, I am stoked at having been able to keep above the min-target count. 🙂 Novels, like life, are a journey, not quite a destination. That is part of it, but not the whole. Congrats. I hope to join the victorious at my time. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Amazing job!

    I think I remember my dad telling me once about how Mozart composed things quickly while Beethoven labored over his works. In the end, though, they both made music. We all have different speeds and writing styles. Do what works 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s crazy!! 🙂 Congratulations!
    And this is almost completely unrelated, but what is the second video from? XD I know the actress, but can’t remember her name, and it’s gonna drive me nuts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, Jenna. You know I was racing you. And it really did keep me pushing through a Fibromyalgia flare up. But it’s nice to be finished early to the word count so I can now go back and work on research and tightening up during this month where it’s all about writing.

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    1. Yes, you definitely kept my competitive edge sharp. Too bad you beat me to 50K. Grrrr 😉 Thanks for the support and good luck putting all the puzzle pieces together. I’m currently staring at all of mine and trying to figure out what’s what, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I keep hearing about NaNo, and in some ways that sounds cool, something giving you a deadline to push you to keep writing. Sometimes I think I might need that. I know for school, having a deadline helped me write like crazy. Heck I wrote a 40pg Senior Thesis in like a month, and that’s dealing with all the weird requirements and research to go with it. But then again, after doing that I stopped writing for like 3 months because I was burned out. Either way, it is intimidating with the authors I deal with who seem to be able to churn out these great books so quickly. Maybe not in just a month, but I’ve been working on my book for years and it’s still not close to done. Honestly, what I found inspiring was this post I read the other day, http://geekritique.net/2015/11/12/novel-debut-event-length-of-days-by-rohret-buchner/ , and I found it more inspiring that this woman took decades to write her novel. I mean I don’t want it to take me that long, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who takes forever, and that if you never give up you can eventually achieve your goals. It’s really easy to get discouraged in this world, and some people need people like you to inspire them, and some people need folks like Rohret Buchner to make them feel better. But we can’t help but want to know there are others like us out there.

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    1. I completely agree! I think not comparing yourself to other authors is just as important as finding those you can relate to. It proves you’re not alone and inspires you to keep going when the going gets rough.

      Good luck with your novel! Even if it takes decades to write, I hope you never give up on it.

      Liked by 1 person

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