Amanda Gates

How NaNoWriMo is like Giving Birth

Three years ago this November I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I wrote about 1,000 words a weeknight and 3,000 words a weekend day (November 2008 had five weekends – bonus!) and completed a 50,000-word+ young adult novel (you can read a little about it here.). If you finished, they offered up a free, bound copy of your masterpiece, so I even have something in book-form to show for it.

My husband says I should do it again. “Write the sequel,” he says. “But we have a baby,” I say, as I lay exhausted on the couch each night. With November coming up, I was thinking about my NaNoWriMo experience, and also the experience of giving birth, and thought, "You know, they’re kind of similar."

At first, you’re like, “No, I can’t do this. That’s crazy.” Write a novel in month? Get pregnant and have a baby? Too hard. Not for me. But then you think about it and think about it and, well, you like a challenge (and maybe someone else is there too like, ahem, a husband, who is very persuasive). So, you say, “OK, I’ll go for it!”

You start off all excited. You write a chapter (you get pregnant). Woo! But after a short time – say, one week of NaNoWriMo or 5 weeks of pregnancy – you start to feel tired and sick to your stomach and all of a sudden you wonder, “What am I doing?!” But you can’t stop now! (Obviously, you can stop NaNoWriMo, but I wasn’t going to quit, so just play along…)

By mid-week the second week (i.e. second trimester), you’re renewed with energy. Maybe you’ve got some cheerleaders in your corner pumping you up, maybe you’ve found your groove (you’ve nested) and you think once again that this whole big, hard thing is something you can do. “I’m kicking butt!” you say.

However, by the end of week three (i.e. month nine), you’ve had it. “I just want this to be over!” you say. But there’s still work to be done. You’re losing sleep. This project is All You Can Think About.

And then comes the end, where you have to write like 5,000 words in two days to finish (or, you have to head to the hospital and push out a baby). You work at it and work at it, your husband says, “You can do it!” and finally, just when you think you can’t write one more word (or give one more push), this thing you created, your baby, is here.

And you feel relief. And exhaustion. And so much pride. Everyone is proud of you. They look at what you’ve done and tell you, “It’s the best thing ever!”

So, yeah, you’re proud. And happy. And so glad you did it!

But, my God, you never want to do that again!

Until you do.

Because that’s the thing with the memory. You remember it was hard, but the rewarding feeling and the feeling of pride you get every time you look at what you made, well, those feelings override all that hard stuff.

(So, yeah, I kind of want to do NaNoWriMo again. Now, if only I could pop the baby up on a shelf like I can a novel.)



You could totally do it! At some point.

I can totally understand wanting to do it again. You have a talent, and as someone who loves to read your work I would LOVE for you to get some more out there. It sounds like maybe this year is out, but I do hope that one year you can. Wouldn't it be cute to set Mason up at a computer and you both participate? Obviously I'm thinking when he's older. Steven and I both have stories of our childhood that include "months" of writing plays. We both loved writing plays. What a good project for Mason at some point, because you know he's going to be focused and studious like you and Jon are.

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