NaNoWriMo: Welcoming Stress, or Self Care?

I’ve been thinking about NaNoWriMo for months – and trying to convince myself to do it.

I think I have a lot of good reasons not to: it’s a huge time commitment, I don’t have time with my teaching and homework and grading and life, it’s a waste of time that I could spend writing poetry for my thesis (that I haven’t started).

I don’t think I have the time.

As a person with anxiety, I think about time a lot. The time it takes to get somewhere, time I have to spend there, time I’ve been talking in any conversation, time I have in the day. I’m constantly planning and parceling out my time. So I’m very aware that 90 minutes spent every day this month is 90 minutes I could have been grading, or reading, or working on final projects, or writing creative work that might be more useful to me.

That thesis won’t write itself (but if it did I’d have this MFA in the bag y’all).

But November 1st I sat down to write for NaNo anyway. I stopped commenting on my students papers, which I desperately needed to finish, and I wrote 1,228 words for a novel that’s just a rip off of two of my favorite tv shows with some ideations toward a conflict inspired by conversations about curses and chemistry with my partner.

And it was really fun! I loved writing it. Everything seemed to flow so easily, and characters who had previously only had names suddenly became agents with motivations and different voices. It came together and I loved doing it. I was so happy for the rest of the night because I had written.

It wasn’t as easy on the 2nd, and I didn’t write the 3rd or the 4th, but I’m looking forward to writing tonight. It’s hard to not open up the document and write the morning away – but I’m not because I still have to comment on those student papers.

But writing this novel has been making me happy. I think about it when I run, or between classes, or in classes, and when I’m driving or biking. I’m thinking about the next scene I want to write, and what the characters need to say to each other – and I’m not obsessing about an interaction and overanalyzing what I said and if I talked to much and if that person likes me less now or if they think I’m stupid or if my students think I’m stupid and planning out future conversations in my head that I’ll never have – I’m thinking about my characters.

And honestly this is so much better. It’s nice to spend time with voices that are interesting to me, rather than spend time dwelling in my anxiety.

I always have trouble justifying time for self care. It’s something I’m working on. And while it hasn’t been the best decision for my classes, taking the time to write this novel is something I’m going to commit to for the sake of my mental health.

Buckle up y’all – this is gonna be a month of creative endeavors and self care, just watch me.


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Chicana, feminist, writer slugging through grad school with a job teaching composition.

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