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NaNoWriMo Prep: What You Can’t Prepare For

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“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” – C. S. Lewis

This wasn’t the post I was planning to write for today. That will go up on Friday, talking about beginnings, endings, and middles both in our fiction and in our writing. It’s mostly written, save for whatever I choose to illustrate the piece. It was a box to be ticked off on the list of things I feel I must accomplish on the path to being ready for NaNoWriMo 2016.

Mischief October 2008-October 18, 2016
October 2008-October 18, 2016
All those plans went by the wayside yesterday morning at about 10:30. That was when the husband and I took one of our two cats to the vet. Some three hours later, we said goodbye to him.

In these last two weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, we talk a lot of about prep. How do we prep our story, our environment, how do we get everything ready so that when NaNoWriMo comes, we can dive in and know we’re ready to face any possibility. But we’re not, nor can we ever be. There will always be days when life or work interferes, when the commitments we have are just too great for us to get to the keyboard. If we do get there, we’re frazzled and our concentration shot, the words that come out not as many or as good as we would like.

For those days, we do what we can and know that we’ll try to get back on the horse tomorrow. It’s why we urge ourselves to write more than just 1,667 words in a day, so we have that extra just in case we have the day where we can’t write. Sometimes, you know where they lurk in advance (Thanksgiving comes to mind), but even if you don’t, you know they’re there and you do your best to prepare as so you don’t have to scramble to pick up the pieces when it happens. And if it doesn’t happen, great! You have extra words.

But we shouldn’t forget that there are days and moments we can’t prepare for. Not the days that are annoying for keeping you from what you’d planned to do, but the ones where you can almost see the dividing line between your state before and your state after. The ones where your world shifts for one reason or another: you’re laid off, you find yourself in emergency, the phone call letting you know a parent or other close relative is gravely ill, when you lose a beloved pet.

Maybe writing will be a comfort in these times. For me, some writing was done late yesterday because it was a way to escape from the big ball of pain I was feeling. If that works for you, great. I would not, however, depend on either the quality or the quantity of what you produce. You can revise later, when you’re not hurting so much, and if it helped you get through whatever crisis was happening, they are not wasted words, no matter how many you throw away.

But if you just can’t face the keyboard in the moment when everything is going wrong and your world has fundamentally tilted on its axis, please don’t beat yourself up. Focus on getting through the immediate problem and keeping yourself sane. Give yourself time to grieve or rage. When you have had some sleep and feel slightly human once more, then return to the keyboard. If it will help, pour out your upset onto the page. It can always be edited later.

These days will come. Not every NaNo, hopefully not even every other NaNo. But come they will, because they are a part of life. Sometimes, the only preparation you can make is to know that you will not be prepared. In the meantime, hug your loved ones close, be they two-footed, four-footed or feathered.