Why I Quit NaNoWriMo


By Eliza David

My mother taught me a lot as a child. Even as a grown woman approaching forty, I continue to receive pearls from her – even from three hundred miles away where she resides in my hometown of Chicago. One thing she often reminded me to do was to finish what I start. ‘Don’t be a quitter’ was a common refrain whenever I was ready to be done with whatever hobby du jour I was invested in during the many phases of my upbringing: piano lessons, track and field, cheerleading, not judging others.

Most of the time, I’ve taken her advice because I never want to be a quitter. To quit is to admit defeat, a lazy admission of failure. When is quitting ever a gratifying experience?

I got my answer to that question this past week when I deleted my NaNoWriMo novel profile.

To be fair, my account is still active. National Novel Writing Month gave birth to my career as a romance author. During the 2014 event, I wrote the first draft of what would become my debut novel, The Cougarette. NaNoWriMo 2015 was the birthplace of my fifth novel, BrewGirl, a feminist romantic comedy. Both have gone on to moderately good reviews and pose as the cornerstones of my brand of fiction. It’s a fair assessment to say that, without NaNo, I probably would have never begun writing novels. It is a special event and is the most creative time of the year for me. This is why it pained me, after over thirteen thousand words on the page, to back up my mess of a first draft for the final time.

I could sit and tell you that I regret quitting, that I admitted defeat. I could give excuses about not having enough time to commit to writing fifty thousand words in thirty days. There’s truth to these assertions, I suppose. The truth is that after two successful years, NaNoWriMo defeated me this third go-round. The words didn’t come to me and I never looked forward to writing my manuscript-in-progress. Then the election happened and my creative zone shut down. To say that I was unhappy with the results would be an understatement, this is true. It’s just that I hadn’t imagined that it would have affected my writing the way that it did. When I came back to my piece, there was no connection. I’d lost the desire to build the story, even though I’d been equipped with a healthy plot outline.

So what went wrong? Nothing.

Choosing to quit NaNo was a question of sanity for me. Writing should never be forced and, toward the midpoint of the month, I was forcing the words. I struggled less with the decision to quit when I realized what I had accomplished. I put over thirteen thousand words on the page, for better or worse. These are words I’ll come back to eventually, I know this. In the meantime, I’m blogging to keep my writing fingers in shape. Over the holidays, I’ll begin outlining the draft for the sequel to my latest novel, Savage.

I’m a writer so it’s in me to tell stories. One setback won’t quell that calling but it has taught me that the true admittance of defeat isn’t quitting – it’s never getting going again. I quit NaNoWriMo, but I didn’t quit on myself. My mother taught me better than that.

Eliza is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap.  To apply to become a Contributing Writer, click HERE.

{featured image via Unsplash}

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