Today is the fifth of November. Last year, this would have meant that I was cloistered in my writing room, working to hit 11k words on my manuscript by midnight. But this year, like it states in the title, I decided to not participate in NaNoWriMo.
I did wonder if I needed to write a post on this subject, but. . . I’ve been feeling a little guilty (silly, I know) and this is my way to “clear the air,” so to speak. I’ve realized that in a way, not participating feels like I’m going against the image I’ve built of myself, which has included various art and writing challenges for the past few years. Also, there’s a heavy feeling in our society that to succeed, you must hustle, hustle, hustle. Challenges were my way to hustle, so taking a break feels. . . a little alien, perhaps.
Well, it may feel alien, but I’m quite happy with the decision! And there’s a couple reasons for that. So today, I’d like to talk about why I chose to take a break. And there are various reasons I could cite, but it really boils down to two intrinsically related factors:
- Opportunity cost
- Changing goals
Now, this post is rather long, so I’ll go ahead and give you the punchlines:
- You are the only person who knows everything about your situation. Only you can say whether you are in a place, with the right resources, to do a certain challenge at a certain time. No one else can make that decision for you.
- A challenge should always serve your goals, whatever they may be. Don’t feel like you need to participate in a challenge just because other people are doing it, or because that’s what a “good” writer / artist / blogger / creative person does. Do it because you want to, because you’ll gain something from it. And if you’ve got better things to do, then great! Go do them instead.
Are you ready to dive into the full post? Great! Read on. . . .
Opportunity cost is just a part of life. Call it sacrifice, call it being realistic, it all amounts to the same thing: Any time you choose to take one opportunity, there are other opportunities you can’t take.
Often, we represent opportunity cost using money: “If I buy this, I can’t buy that.” But opportunity cost includes other factors as well: time, energy, relationships, productivity, health.
If you choose to go to the movies, you can’t go bowling. If you choose to be a full-time student, maybe you can’t hold down a job at the same time. To do one thing, something else must be given up. Intangible as it may feel, opportunity cost is a price paid every time you make a decision to do x or y instead of z.
That makes it sound very dramatic, doesn’t it? But it’s not something we think about in everyday life. The opportunity cost is usually small, or something we don’t mind giving up, so it doesn’t cause trouble. But sometimes, you find yourself with two (or more) equally desirable opportunities, and you’ve got to choose.
What are you working towards? And what are you willing to give up to make it happen?
That’s the big question.
Opportunity cost is just a part of life, of course. Changing goals – now there is the real kicker. If my goals were exactly the same as last year, I’d be doing NaNo right now. And I wouldn’t be writing this post because 1) there would be no point and 2) I wouldn’t have the time or the energy to write this post.
But my goals aren’t the same. Over the past year, I’ve grown and changed. That’s only natural. And naturally, my goals are a little different as well.
Right now, what I most want to do is work on my stories (Rondo of the Rising Sun, and others) . I want to do both writing and artwork, and have time for my hobbies too. I want to spend a lot of quality time with my family, especially Thanksgiving week. And I want to relax a little, after doing challenges almost non-stop for 2+ years.
NaNoWriMo is a great challenge. And it is a very specific challenge – write 50,000 new words on a story in 30 days – and that specificity is both its strength and its weakness. And for me, right now, that is a little too limiting. That’s all.
Growth Phase vs Resting Phase
I am developing a new personal theory of productivity. It goes something like this: In life, it’s good to stretch and grow so you can achieve new things that you couldn’t achieve before. To stretch and grow, it’s good to challenge yourself and push your boundaries. But push yourself too far, and / or for too long, and you reach burnout – which is emphatically not good. To avoid burnout, it’s good to take times of rest, when you can recharge for the next burst of growth.
So to grow, you must push yourself. To have energy to push yourself, you must rest. Crazy theory, I know. 😉
You probably know where I am going with this. That’s right: For me, right now, what I need is a period of rest. I don’t mean a period of inactivity; after all, my goals are to work on my stories and artwork. What I mean is a period where I don’t force myself to stretch, where I stay inside my comfort zone and recharge.
So let’s talk about comfort zones. For the purpose of this essay, a comfort zone is the level of effort one can comfortably do, where comfortably means “without courting exhaustion mentally, physically, and / or emotionally.”
Another term is “refilling the well,” and I think that sums it up perfectly: When we are challenging ourselves, we’re drawing from our well of energy. Sometimes, we have to take a break and refill the well, so that we have energy to face our next challenge.
My Situation, November 2017
Writing within my comfort zone is about 1000 words a day, several days a week. It only takes an hour or two to do. That’s less than half of 2.5k / day, five days a week (my NaNo plan from last year, to allow weekends and holidays off). I would still need weekends and holidays off this year to rest so my inflammation can heal, so each day I would have to push myself to produce 2.5x the amount of words I can produce comfortably. From experience I can tell you that those 2.5k words take about 5-8 hours to produce. Yep, that’s almost a full work day, every day.
I don’t want to type for eight hours a day this month. Instead, I want to use the extra six hours in other ways. I want time to draw concept art for RRS, and to learn to use LMMS (a music synthesizer) so I can make music for the Rondo world. I want time to explore short stories, flash fiction, poetry. I want to spend some time creating in more spontaneous ways, instead of staying within a certain rigid structure.
And another thing: I had a lot of fun writing all the Plotober posts last month, and I realized that I want to do more with my blog. I want to write more essays and share the short stories I am going to write. So I’m definitely going to write some more posts this month!
To do NaNoWriMo, I’d have to give up most of that. That’s the opportunity cost. And honestly, for me, it’s not a price I’m willing to pay right now.
Luckily, NaNo isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime event. Maybe it will align with my goals next year, and if so I will participate with gusto! ( ﾉ˚ヮﾟ)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Finally, the Conclusion
Like I said last week, all I can do is talk about my own experiences and hope that someone else finds them helpful. So, I hope this post is also helpful, maybe if you are also struggling with the decision to do a certain challenge or not.
Thanks for bearing with me through this extremely long post! I’ll be back either later this week or next week with a different essay. . . or maybe a short story. Either way, I hope to see you then!