November. I bet, if you’re not doing it yourself, you know someone who’s frantically scribbling away for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Have they been hiding? Not answering your calls? Are they looking a little pale from lack of sunshine? Don’t fret. It’s normal. They’ll be back to their usual self by December.

Because, taking on a challenge like writing 50,000 words in a mere 30 days is life-absorbing. Take it from a veteran NaNo-er; you don’t have time for socialising. For friends. For family. You know; frivolous things like eating and sleeping. But, in all seriousness, I’m not even joking. NaNoWriMo consumes your life for one month a year. And, with Christmas on the horizon, it’s not even a quiet month besides the writing.

I’m a great fan of NaNoWriMo. Yes, some people decry it as a pointless exercise that promotes quantity over quality, and produces nothing but bad, unpublishable fiction. True. Absolutely true. But then, how many first drafts are of a publishable standard?

NaNoWriMo also promotes some great habits; writing every day, sticking to a deadline, companionship, turning off the inner-editor, and, at the end of the day, just writing. Just doing it. I love NaNo, I really do. But there is a potentially harmful side to it, too.

I see a lot of people side-lining their health, both physical and mental, to chase that target wordcount. People stressing to the point where it’s really affecting their wellbeing. Putting themselves second to that wordcount goal. Let me say this: you are far more important than your wordcount. Let’s say that again: you are far more important than your wordcount.

If you need a day off, take it. If you want to go for a walk, or watch trashy TV, or read a book, or eat cake, or whatever you need to keep yourself well, do it. Your writing will still be there tomorrow. And don’t feel guilty for it, don’t feel like you’ve failed. Because your writing needs you to be healthy. If you want to write well, you need to look after yourself as well as the words.

At the end of the day, if you end November with 20,000 words, you may not have the big NaNo win, but it is a huge win in itself. A huge win. Which other months have you managed to write 20k? Celebrate what you achieve, don’t focus on what you don’t.

Take care of yourself. You are so much more important than your wordcount.

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