Writing Relieves Stress — When It’s Not 50K Words in a Month

Words in the Dark: Post 4

In Get Into the “Write” Frame of Mind, Elizabeth Scott, MS introduces two other November writing opportunities in addition to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that some of us, like myself, may not have known about: National Lifewriting Month (turning “memories into memoirs”) and National Family Stories Month, also called Family History Month (finding out facts about family, lineage, and history). If your writing interests lie in those areas, you may want to investigate.

The article proceeds to describe how you can “Write Yourself Into Stress Relief” through gratifications, self-reflection, and journaling benefits.

I enjoyed this article a great deal. Without a doubt, writing can be cathartic and relieve stress. As an initiative to get you to write more than you would, or at all, these writing opportunities are a good thing.

nano-gate-photofunia-1477975787Let’s get back to NaNoWriMo for a minute. If you don’t pressure yourself to write at any cost in order to meet the threshold, then you may find NaNo fun and recreational. But let’s be clear on one thing: writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days moves beyond the realm of relieving stress through writing release–unless you have a novel pre-written in your head burning to get out and the time in which to write it. To accomplish a feat of 50K words in a limited time introduces  a degree of burden and sacrifice, with consequences during and after.

Anyone who’s done NaNo alongside a day job and/or young family will tell you how the housework gets backlogged, social events get postponed, grocery shopping is neglected, meals are out of a box or delivered, coffee consumption triples, and the writer is sleep deprived for a month. One thousand six hundred sixty-seven words a day doesn’t seem like much, except it has to be kept up diligently and consistently. If anything unexpected gets in the way of my writing month, my 50K is shot. If I miss even a day, and definitely two, I will never catch up. For example, I can’t go out of town for the weekend to visit relatives.

The attraction of NaNo is the challenge, which can be good for a competitive soul and just plain fun. (Must be, since I’m submitting myself to the torture again.) But it is a difficult challenge if you have inadequate writing time.

BooksAndLantern-dreamstime_xs_3723449I’m the only person I know who won the 50K badge while working six days a week, with a family, while taking three to five hours a day to try to make my quota and up to twelve hours on Sunday, my only day off, to either catch up or get ahead in preparation for the next workweek. I type fast, but I construct fiction slowly, even if I have a plan and know where the story is going. That first win in 2014 was an example of mind over matter. I had to get a NaNo win off my bucket list. That was my stress relief–to get one more thing off my life list. It was satisfying to achieve, but it hurt.

I have never tried National Lifewriting Month, journaling as a contest or event, or National Family Stories Month, nor do I know anything about their word thresholds, if any, so I can’t speak for them directly, but I can say with confidence that anything that involves a high word count in a limited time, like NaNoWriMo, will have the writer focused on quantity over content. Believe me, during such a process, there is no time for self-reflection or “sorting things out” of any kind. Assessment comes during the rewrite. A volume of 50K words in a month is a sprint that commands full attention just to execute: you’re out of the gate and you don’t look back until you reach the finish line. Even if you do look back, you can’t afford to get caught up in any significant thought process. You have to constantly plough forward and break new ground.

Along with its sacrifices, NaNo has its rewards: the satisfaction of trying or winning, the camaraderie of a writing community taking part in the same frenzy, and a possible manuscript. Something about a 50K badge denoting a “win” not only tells the world of a writer’s commitment and capabilities, but validates the writer’s effort and justifies certain neglected tasks.

Those are NaNo’s attractions, because I certainly don’t need any prodding or incentive to write. I do, however, like to achieve goals, break personal records, and partake in friendly competition.

P.S. Words in the Dark–aptly named. Sunrise in Edmonton is now at 8:38 a.m. (!), and it has been cloudy and grey almost every day (“a day that barely escaped dusk,” Beyond the Precipice). This constitutes something called “biological darkness.” I’m taking my Vit. D so I have the energy to make it through NaNo.

About Eva Blaskovic

I am a multi-genre author of literary fiction, fantasy, and paranormal, and writer of non-fiction articles on parenting, writing, education, health, and travel. My background encompasses both the sciences and the arts. I teach at a specialized clinic for learning disorders and mentor young authors. In addition to writing and teaching, my passions are weather, Indian food, gardening, and music. I have played eight musical instruments and spent many years immersed in taekwondo and karate. In my youth, I was an avid canoeist. I was born in Prague, Czech Republic, grew up in the Great Lakes region of Ontario, Canada, and moved to Alberta in 1988, where I raised four children.
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