NaNoWriMo Confession

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I have a NaNoWriMo confession.

But first, some history. Last year around the end of November, my first book had recently been published and I was at a local conference with my publishers. I was (nervously, dork-ishly) babbling talking with a few other authors. Accomplished authors. Award winning authors. Not dork-ish authors. They asked if I was participating in NaNoWriMo.

Am I participating in what?

NaNoWriMo.

(Scratching my forehead) I’m sorry, it’s loud in here. In what?

Na…No…Wri…Mo…

(Sweating now) Ummm…what?

As they went on to explain, it was obvious that I was not participating. (P.S. NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – you spend the month of November plowing through a rough draft of a novel. The idea is that you’ll have 50,000 words by the end of the month. You just write as much as you can every day without overthinking it or revising. Revising is for the months that follow. The idea is that you just get that novel on paper.)

Fast forward one year and another book. I am now Facebook friends with these brilliant, talented authors (dork squeal) and when they shared a group page to encourage one another through NaNoWriMo 2014, I signed right up. By November 3rd, I bowed gracefully out of the NaNoWriMo groups. I was overwhelmed by how behind I was as authors from all over began posting their words counts for the day.

Instead I spent NaNoWriMo…reading.

I, like many authors, used to read all of the time. To be lost in a good novel is one of life’s greatest and sweetest pleasures.

When I became a published author, reading was ruined for me. Instead of losing myself in the story, I was distracted comparing my style with the author’s. Instead of reading books that I found on the shelf at the library, I tried to read books by the many authors I was now coming into contact with online and at different functions. I am not sure why, but once I know an author, I have a very, very hard time getting into their story. I can see their face and hear their voice and I can’t get lost in the novel like other books. I wanted to be able to talk to my new friends about their stories and felt guilt every time I read something by a non-author-friend.

I learned very quickly that I couldn’t read anything while I was writing because when I’m writing I compare and contrast waaaay too much. I become paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy (I know far too many talented authors!). The Heavens Are Telling took a longer time for me to write, so the books I wanted to read (and hoped that I would enjoy) piled up. For the better part of 6 months, I stopped reading. And I was miserable. I started to think: if I have to choose between writing and reading I’ll just sit at that hypothetical the fork in the road and never move. I cannot choose.

When I hit November 3rd and still couldn’t decide which story to work on, I decided to read instead. To read as many books as I could and just soak up being a reader without worrying about not measuring up. I just read to read. I put my own insecurities aside. I also put my writing aside. I read cheesy mysteries. I read historical romances. I read contemporary Christian fiction. I read a lot of Junie B. Jones to my girls.

It. Was. Glorious.

I read romantic books that gave me butterflies. Side note: I do NOT read smut. I believe strongly that erotic novels are equal to pornography and I will not trash up my mind or marriage that way. But I love a sweet, innocent romance. Just wanted to be clear.

I read books that kept me up late, trying to figure out who the killer was. I read books that made me cry. I read books that made me think. I read a lot of books that made me appreciate my Savior even more.

Now I feel ready and anxious to continue to work on my stories without the pressure of so many words per day (someday I’ll tell you how word counts ruined my life – I can tell you are so anxious to know!). I can just soak in my process (read: a lot of coffee Saturdays with my Dad who finally lives in town again, notes scribbled everywhere—and then immediately lost, numerous conversations with my characters in my head, library visits, internet searches, etc). I can just write for the Lord in His time and not my own self-imposed deadline.

I think NaNoWriMo is a wonderful concept and I know I can use it to my advantage someday. But I’m wondering if November might become my month off. To reconnect with my favorite authors as a reader. To discover new authors. To remind myself of why I write. To just enjoy books again, without being so crippled by fear that I will not be enough as an author.

That’s it. My NaNoWriMo Confession. I broke all of the rules and, technically, I bombed big time. But I rekindled my love for reading and think I’ll be able to work reading back into my writing life as well.

And that was totally worth the big fat failure of NaNoWriMo 2014.

P.S. I’m hosting a big giveaway through the 5th. I’m giving away a $15.00 coffee card to either Starbucks or Dutch Bros. (winner’s choice) plus a copy of both of my books. Because coffee and books are my favorite. Follow this (a Rafflecopter giveaway) link and enter! Good luck and happy reading!

B.D. Riehl is the award winning author of The Earth is Full and The Heavens Are Telling.

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