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December 4, 2010

OK, in the month of November they have this crazy contest called Nanowrimo, where you complete a 50,000 word book in 30 days.

Insane, right? Intriguing, right?

For anyone who has ever thought they wanted to write a book or get a jump start on a new one, or wished they could hold a job as glamorous and creative and fabulous as being a writer, well, they can all try it out for a month. After all, how hard can it be? Just devote the spare time needed and push through a book.

I equate writing a book sometimes to child birth. People laugh. Then I explain, no, that is sometimes how it feels. The only difference is the pain is more mental than physical. Well, my butt hurts a lot and I’ll  probably get early arthritis in my fingers and I drink too much coffee but it’s nothing like physical labor. More like mental labor.

I remember the birth of my second son. There I was again, being induced, at night, in the hospital while my husband bunked beside me. They gave me a few drugs to push him along, then told me to get a good night’s sleep.  I guess the more children you have, the more your labor pain increases.  Hmm. Would have been nice to know that going in. Anyway, I remember the pain was the worst from 2:00am – 4:00am. I did my best not to scream with agony while my husband snored , and I desperately trained my gaze on the television where Akeelah and the Bee was on. I used to like that movie. Now, just the title sends my body into shock waves of pure horror so it has been ruined for me as a film.  Sorry, I’m digressing again.

That pain all led up to a pretty awesome experience of pushing out my stubborn second boy into the world. Slimy and bloody and wrinkly, he let out an old man roar of disgust for having to go through such an ordeal and it was love at first sight.

Writing feels like that. Pushing out characters and development and making them mean something to someone else. Figuring out what they are going to do that’s interesting enough for someone to care. Shipping them out into the cold, cruel world where people may pick on them or make fun of them, even though you believe and know they are absolutely perfect.

I didn’t make the 50k mark but I wrote a lot and learned even more. Lessons in writing always translate to lessons in parenthood. Here are a few:

1.   Sometimes we have to fake it to make it.

Many times I don’t feel like writing. OK, most of the time. But I do it because I want my career to flourish and sometimes I really, really love it. It completes me. Same thing with motherhood. I may not want to get up at the crack of dawn and make breakfast and do crafts and cater to the whims of my children. But I do, because it’s my job. And then many times I find satisfaction and even joy. The process sometimes evokes the emotion.

2.    Sometimes we don’t know what the hell we are doing.

Who am I to create a living breathing character on the page and tell her or him what to do?  Each time I start a new project, my inner voice tells me there is no way I can write as well again. After all, I have no idea what’s going to happen next. The good stuff I wrote before was just a fluke. What do I do? Ignore the voice even though I may believe it.

Same thing with being a mom. I remember bringing my first son home and lying him on the bed. I stared at him. Then asked the room, “What do I do with you now?” Lord, I just didn’t want to kill him. Half the time I try things that don’t work and wonder if we will all make it out ok. There are no clear instructions for life. We just need to keep pushing through the fear and do the best we can. The rest will work out.

3.  Sometimes we just want to quit.

I quit writing a bunch of times. Always went back. It felt good to quit for a while though. Almost like playing with the idea of getting a new job, so the one you have seems better because you have another option. Things get bad with life. Family problems, financial difficulties, children not going with the plan. It’s overwhelming.

I’ve reached this point before, mentally and physically exhausted, watching my children bounce off the walls, feeling completely out of control of my life and not sure I will ever find my balance again. So, I take the night off. I do a bad mommy thing. I let the house go and the children stay up late as long as they leave me alone, and I take a break. If I don’t, I might implode. Sometimes you have to quit for just a little while in order to have the stamina to go back.

If there are any fellow nanowrimo writers out there, or anyone else who’s learned a few lessons along the way, drop in and say hello.

❤️ Leave a comment → 


  1. Liz says:

    I did not try NANO – I know better – lol. But I did write about 2K which is better than what I wrote the previous month – a big fat ZERO.

    And by the way – screaming during child birth made me feel better – think lamaze was only creating so they didn’t have to hear you scream.

  2. I thought childbirth was supposed to get easierthe more you did it!
    I don’t get NaNo. I don’t get people who do NaNo. I strive for good words, better words, the best word, not just mass quantities of words. Seems to me there are enough thoughtless words already in this world. It sometimes takes me awhile to find and it often takes me awhile to find the right word, the absolute best word. I’m a cobbler and a tinkerer. I don’t mind if that takes me awhile.

  3. Now, see, I wrote that fast. Would have made more sense and needed a lot less editing, if I hadn’t.

  4. Regina Richards says:

    I wasn’t laughing at your pain, but the description of your husband snoring while you screamed is too funny and way too familiar. My husband sat confortably in a recliner, happily reading the newspaper while I labored in pain to bring forth our second.

    • jennifer121 says:

      Oh, if only they could understand what it is like. During the birth of my first son I chewed on ice chips. My husband kept bringing food from the cafeteria into the room and munched out. I told him I’d kill him if I made it through!

  5. Great post, Jen! I didn’t do NaNo. Like Taryn, I prefer to get down good words and that takes time and reviewing and rewriting. (For me anyway.) But I kind of wish I had made the commitment. Then I’d be a lot further along on book 2 than I am now!!!

  6. Didn’t do NaNo either. I do like your equating it to giving birth. I’ve always thought of my stories as my children. Also this could be equated to passing kidney stones. I’ve done both and no it does not get easier. Like books each birth is different.

  7. Amy says:

    Writing = childbirth. Yep, sounds about right!

  8. I *love* NaNoWriMo. I love the whole motivation and group effort of it. Last year I I did it and wrote 50K in 3 weeks, taking the last week to tinker with it. This year I wrote a 72K novel, and now in December I’m slowly going back through it and revising. But that’s how I work – I plow through and write fast to get the story down before I lose it – then I go back and polish and make everything sound nice. But I think writing 72K in a month *may* have been a little crazy. Next year I’m going to stop at 50K so I can think clearly, instead of walking around with what I’ve come to call “Nano Brain”. LOL I’m glad you joined in the fun, Jen.

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