Since it was half-way through 2017 last week, I took the opportunity to look over my plans for the month ahead.
To my delight, my schedule – which is a hyper-organised, multicoloured Monica Geller wet dream sort of affair – for once did not seem to reflect someone on the verge of burnout.
In a nice change, for the first time since February this year, there was a whole heap of blank space. Apart from the upcoming publication of “The Black Flower” and a few assorted day jobs, I’ve got a relatively easy four weeks ahead.
Now, if self-care rated higher on my list of priorities, I would have kept the slate clean and spent the whole of July playing the Crash Bandicoot reboot and binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
But, much like nature, I abhor a vacuum.
So I decided to join a competition to finish my second novel by the end of July.
Camp NaNoWriMo is supposed to be the “light”, more fun version of NaNoWriMo, which I’ve taken part in (and blogged about) before. The cool part is that participants choose their own project and goal. There are virtual cabins where you can chat to other writers: I am the lone Aussie among 19 American writers, so at least that part of the camp experience is authentic. Of course, it’s -200 degrees here and there are no canoes, so it’s not quite a summer camp experience, but I will enjoy it nonetheless.
My project is a YA novel that originally began as a novella, which I completed the first draft of in February this year. With the working title of Damage Control (this will change, because I already have a few stronger titles in mind), it is by far the most vulnerable and personal work I have ever written. In some ways, it is difficult to write while drawing from that well of past pain. In other ways, it is a relief, like a toxin being extracted from my blood.
My goal was initially going to be 40,000 words in a month – a little less pressure than the traditional NaNoWriMo. But when I looked over my existing draft, I saw I already had about 20,000 words written – so, if I completed 50,000 in July, this would enable me to reach my target for the whole novel, which is 70,000.
So, 50,000 it is.
After yesterday’s late-night effort (Day 5), I’m sitting at 12,599/50,000. It’s actually one of the strongest starts I’ve had on a NaNo project in a long time, maybe ever. I’m also really excited by this novel and, dare I say it, I’m even a little more eager to share this one with the world than I am with my first novel.
But as I plug away on my Camp NaNoWriMo project this month, I’ll be paying attention to something I don’t usually pay attention, at least not very consciously: self-care.
Filling my once spacious July schedule with blocks of writing time made me realise just how much of my own time I spend on writing. In and of itself, that isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s pretty important when you’re trying to break through to become a professional writer that you put in a good amount of time.
But I suddenly realised how often I use my evenings and weekends for writing and writing admin.
Enthusiasm and (blind) ambition are two of my greatest qualities, and I consider them strengths. But it seems like I kind of suck at chilling out and having fun, which is kind of a sad thing to be bad at. Case in point: my copy of Crash Bandicoot is still in its plastic wrapping, unplayed, and I’ve had it for a week. I physically have not made time to have any fun. Gamer fail. Hell, human fail.
So while I’m going to push myself hard this month to achieve a goal that is incredibly important to me – the completion of my second novel – I am also going to be conscious about not burning out.
I’m going to make time to play video games.
I’m going to make time to watch something on TV.
I’m going to make time to go outside.
I’m going to set aside time to do absolutely nothing.
This sounds a bit common sense, but with my perfectionist tendencies, it isn’t easy to find a balance. It’s either all (multiple jobs and projects with deadlines) or nothing (burnout). To find a middlepath is a new challenge for me, and it’s one I’m looking forward to – albeit with some trepidation.
Here’s to a hybrid month: of productive, emotive, fulfilling novel writing, and an orange bandicoot smashing wooden crates, collecting Wumpa fruits and dealing with Aku Aku’s ambiguous sound effects.