NaNoWriMo: Feel the fear and do it anyway

It's only 50,000 words, what are you afraid of?

By now some of you may have gathered that the advice I dish out and some of you have very kindly said is helpful, is often written for myself.

I’m afraid. Of NaNoWriMo. Of wanting to be a writer and not properly getting round to do it. Of striving and never getting a novel published. Of having an idea and not being able to elucidate it in a manner even remotely to what I imagined it could be. Of losing life balance while chasing impossible dreams.

The title of my newly completed short story collection is Random Acts of Optimism. Life isn’t straightforward even at the best of times. It does not unroll easily. It’s like cling film – bits tear off when you don’t want them to. You can’t get a clear run (Ha!). If you stop to think about it, life can be scary, all the things that can happen, that will happen to people. You have to be crazy to be optimistic and yet we do, we get up, we go to work, we try to raise decent kids, we hope for health, fulfillment, a peaceful retirement. When things don’t work out we get up again, take comfort from small things and keep going mostly.

NaNoWriMo is just one of the challenges we are up against. And it’s one we’ve set ourselves. That (like choosing to have children for example) doesn’t make it easier. It’s a tough call and we may not be up to it. While we are writing during NaNoWriMo, these are some of the fears we might face:

  • I’m not going to make it to the end
  • I’m not really a writer, this is my first novel, what if I find out here that I shouldn’t be writing at all?
  • This idea isn’t as good as I thought it was, this novel isn’t going to work
  • I’m stuck and can’t find a way out of it
  • I don’t have the stamina or the inspiration, I’m going to fail

When I did my first NaNoWriMo last year I opened a document which I called MetaNano. In it I kept track of my daily progress but also included stray thoughts as I went along and any niggles or queries relating to the story. So I would jot down if I thought that the connections between scenes weren’t good or if a character was being inconsistent or a situation didn’t quite ring true. I also wrote down any negative and positive thoughts about the process. For example on day 4 (day 4!) ‘Already beginning to feel weary about this.’ And later ‘my time today curtailed and I’m sitting here distracted, thinking about other things’. On the positive side ‘3040 in one very domestically arduous day. Goddess.’ and ‘Bashing the gremlins on the head with heavy mallets’. 

By writing my fears, dips and areas where I wasn’t fully happy with the novel into a seperate document I acknowledged them and was able to proceed on with just getting writing down in whatever manner possible. I was also able to monitor my energy levels. Exhaustion is the friend of fear. I made this observation. Start off in flying form. What time does the dip occur. After about 40 mins. What to do, star jumps, break away?

If you can judge when you are at your most vital, positive and productive. You can guard against fear. Take breaks. Revive. Break your daily wordcount mountain into bite-sized manageable chunks. (Have you ever tried eating a mountain?)

Using some of the suggestions here will also help you keep your ideas coming. If you have ideas you have impetus and that dispels fear. But fear doesn’t go away, it’s always there, you just have to look the other way or you just have to remind yourself that you’ve always wanted to bungee jump and if you don’t you’ll regret it.


  1. Another brilliant post! Thanks Alison, great idea about the separate document. I’ll give that a go. Also very encouraging to hear you were tired on day 4 but still completed it even with tiny children.


  2. I’ve never done NaNo before and, much as I would love to get past the finishing line this year clutching 50,000 words of a new WiP, I’m not going to make it into a life-or-death scenario. Because it isn’t.

    Your advice might be primarily for yourself but it’s been extremely helpful and encouraging to read. Thanks for voicing your thoughts here and sharing them.

    1. Yes totally agree about not making it a life or death scenario and if it really gets too much or in the way of family concerns then it’s right to ease off or let it go altogether.

  3. Attempting NaNoWriMo really does require “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” I’ve been a fan of the book by Susan Jeffers for years and some of tools described in it about getting out of your comfort zone have really helped me get writing during difficult times. Good writing to you this month. I’m certain you can do it.

  4. I like your idea of tracking personal progress along the way [although I draw the line at star jumps. I’ll substitute more coffee and fudge cake] -wishing you nanowrimo success

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