Lady Catherine Will Never Know (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)

People have strong feelings about NaNoWriMo. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. People have strong feelings about everything these days, from things that matter a lot to things that really, really don't matter at all. It's like we're all in the strong feelings habit, and we really need to tone it down on some things.

I'm going to put whether or not you do, or like, or win NaNoWriMo in the category of things that really don't matter at all.

For a couple of years, I followed Gretchen Rubin's blog, The Happiness Project, and read two of the corresponding books, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. I liked them. I also got a lot out of Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you do a quick Google search, though, you'll see that a lot of people not only didn't like these books, they really didn't like them. They went so far as to burn their authors in online effigy (another popular pastime these days that makes real tarring and feathering seem kinder).

I think it was because somehow these books made them feel criticized, like if they weren't doing it the Rubin Way or the Kon-Mari Way, they were somehow failing. People get a similar brand of crazy about Elf on the Shelf this time of year. Just do it if you want to! Don't do it if you don't want to!

Here's what I don't get. Why do people always feel like they have to do everything exactly by the book in order to get something valuable out of it? Just take what works for you and leave the rest! Other parts might work for other people. If you're going to get worked up, get worked up about something that matters.

I'm reminded of the scene in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, where Maria Lucas is frantically repacking her trunks.

One of the Gretchen Rubin's takeaways from her own happiness project, oft-quoted by me, is this:
What's fun for you may not be fun for other people. What's fun for other people may not be fun for you.

I quote this so much because people seem to have a hard time understanding it, but it's so very clear to me now that people are just different, so some people might like NaNoWriMo and have great success at it, and some people might hate it and find it a hindrance or just unhelpful. That's fine. Both ways are fine.

There are things I like about NaNoWriMo and things I don't like about it. So here's what I do.
I just make my own rules and determine for myself whether or not it's a win.

I find writing a first draft quickly to be the only way I can get out of my own way long enough to write a first draft.

So I've written a fast first draft in November. I've written a fast first draft in March.

I've written more than 50,000 words. I've written way under 50,000 words.

I've focused solely on one project. I've jumped around.

I've used the time to draft. I've used the time to revise.

Now, it is true that I have never gotten the badge. I don't care about the badge. But it might matter to other people, so I don't begrudge them the badge if it helps.

I've never even officially signed up, or gone to an event, or uploaded my manuscript  for the judgment of the NaNoWriMo gods.

This year, I felt like I wanted to do it. I wanted to tackle a longer project, because while I've written and published a variety of shorter essays and poetry and the like since I published my first novel, I haven't actually finished another long piece, and I wanted to get out of my own way and do it.

(Contrary to popular belief, my failure to write another novel is not the baby's fault. I've written a ton of words. I've just psyched myself out about whether I could actually write another halfway decent novel, and I've chosen to spend my time writing for money instead of glory so I can keep an active résumé. #practicality)

I'm writing this on November 24, and this year I've written (rounding)
--        -- an 18,000 word discovery draft of a novel I can't see myself publishing anytime in the near future
·        --2,000 words on a nonfiction project I'm super excited about (can't wait to get back to this one)
·         --a 3,000 word rage poem (Did I make that term up? TM, if so.) mostly about how stressed out the holidays and people who ask me what I do all day make me. Definitely won't publish that, because I definitely named names. It helped to get it out. I believe this is called a "thought download."
      This blog post is over 1,000 words, and you better believe I'm counting it.

That's 24,000 words. There are six more days left in November, and I'm sure I'll write more. I'll keep writing in December, and in January, and so on. It's not like the clock strikes midnight on November 30 and we all turn into pumpkins.

I won't get to 50,000 words, but that's okay. I'm proud to have made it to 24,000 so far. As others have mentioned, November is a crazy month to try this. I did this with a sick husband, a sick toddler, a sick me, and relatives in and out of my house, and during the month of Thanksgiving and Christmas prep.

I got to producing serious word counts again. I remembered how important it is to practice your scales if you're ever going to play Carnegie Hall. I had forgotten that for a while, lost it in the glamour (if it can be called that, which I don't think it really can, except in the sense of the word that means it obscures what's real) of publication.

As far as I'm concerned, I won.

So make up your own rules.

This is your trunk.

These are your gowns.

Lady Catherine will never know.


  1. I love this philosophy so much, and not just for NaNo.

  2. I love that line from P&P! And yes: Lady Catherine will never know. Unless of course you post about it on Facebook. :-)

    1. I always make sure to hide my posts from Lady Catherine. ;-)

  3. I love the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, BTW, even more so than the Keira Knightley version. Jennifer Ehle was perfect as Elizabeth.
    I like Gretchen Rubin's book too. I think that the people who dislike her book don't seem to understand that she's not trying to dictate how people should live; like you said, she's describing something that worked for her.

    1. 1995 will always rule the P&P universe! And yes, people need to lighten up about certain things. Whether or not an author's ideas work for you seems like a silly thing to get worked up about.


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