Underneath my yellow skin

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NaNoWriMo confessionals

I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times in the past decade, and while I haven’t done it every year, any time I did participate, I completed the original goal–handily. I have a personal goal of writing 2,000 words a day, and I’ve been doing it consistently for many months if not a year. This means if I just continue doing what I do, I will easily meet the NaNoWriMo goal.

One year, I set my own goal. I decided I would edit a manuscript I already had, and that was very satisfying in its own way. I’ve realized that while I appreciate NaNoWriMo and thinks it’s an excellent way for people to make themselves write if they ordinarily wouldn’t, I have no use for the original goal. I don’t feel any sense of accomplishment in meeting it, so the whole thing is a bit hollow for me. One year, I set the goal at 200,000 (I think). I made it, and that was quite the thrill. However, I’m not sure that setting an arbitrary number is the most productive use of my time. In addition, I have OCD tendencies, which means I fixate on numbers as if they’re gods.

It was one of my biggest problems when I was dieting. I had all these numbers that Meant Something, and they slowly morphed into the be-all, end-all. In addition, the final number (the goal weight I wanted to be) kept moving any time I got even close to it. The first time I started a diet, I was counting calories. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but I started assigning values to the numbers. Some were bad and some were good. That spiraled into they were all bad, and at the end of that road was anorexia/bulimia.

The second time, I had a goal weight, plus I used a tape measure. I was losing roughly a half inch a week, and that quickly became the standard. If I didn’t reach that half inch, it would make me miserable for the whole week. In addition, I had a hard and fast rule about how much exercise I had to do a day, and I thought it was reasonable that I set it at 2 hours of aerobics every day and forty-five minutes of weight-lifting every other day.

It works the same when I’m writing. Because I have a personal goal of 2,000 words a day, I have a mentality like, “Reach 500 words and take a mini-break.” “Reach a thousand words and do one mission/quest in MHW.” It’s not a bad way to write, but it can become rigid. My own weird brain thing is that things have to be broken up into quarters. In this case, quarters of a hundred. I’ve told this story before, but I used to have a compulsion that if I saw a clock at any quarter of the hour, I had to rapidly count to 25 (another quarter) before the clock changed. My last therapist once asked me what would happen if I didn’t make it, and I said I would be upset. She persisted, asking me what practically would happen, and I was flummoxed. I couldn’t answer her, of course, and that was the beginning of the end to my counting.

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