Getting Over a NaNo Hangover

I don’t think people talk about the subtle depression you fall into once NaNoWriMo is over. For those of you who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a decade long tradition of writers gathering in person and online to each write 50,000 words (the average length of a novel) over a period of 30 days. It sounds like insanity and it basically is. 50,000 words in 30 days amounts to 1,667 words a day, which is roughly 2.5 pages single-spaced for 5 pages double spaced. It’s like writing a small paper every night for a month.

After years of saying I would do it, I finally participated this year. And I fell into a surprising groove. It felt somehow easier than I thought it would be to fit in the time to write those words and pages every night. I missed a couple days here or there and the catch-up days were brutal, but for the most part I stayed on track. That is until I wrote up until midnight on the 30th, realized I had miscounted my words, and fell 2,400 short and had to end the month not actually achieving my 50k. But the amount I wrote still felt like an accomplishment.

A life goal of mine is to publish a collection of essays, so I participated as a NaNoRebel. A Rebel is someone who plans on crushing the 50,000 words but not as a novel. I wound up writing 19 individual essays. 19! My intention was to create about 15, so only a couple landed shorter than I intended. It’s been just under a week since I finished and a weird depression has settled over me. In fact, it feels a little like loneliness.

Perhaps it’s because I had to restructure my entire social life to fit all the words and people in together, side by side, or perhaps because I spent the entire month reflecting on my entire life up until now or perhaps, and I think this is the one, it’s because I miss the friend I made– my potential essay collection. A book… if you will. I decided long ago that after the month I would spend all of December detoxing from non-fiction and reading other work before tackling any kind of editing come January and February. But I already miss the soul-crushing responsibility of having to write everyday. It’s like when you workout for a couple months straight and miss a week. You feel less like yourself and… exceedingly guilty.

I rarely hear anyone discuss this side effect of finishing NaNo, but I know I am not alone. Like finishing a marathon, when the thrill of the accomplishment dies down, and your routine no longer includes vying for that accomplishment, you feel empty. Like you’ve lost a key relationship. I’ve already started looking for other challenges. Lucky for me, I have enough parties this December to make attending each one a challenge in itself. But, for the part of me that wants to remain driven and ever moving forward, I am excited to focus my energy on other interests and pursuits for a little while. Including this blog.

For my fellow NaNos. Your pain is real and I recognize it in you. No need to pretend like everything is fine. We’re being welcomed back into a loud and confusing world right now. Take it easy. Lay off the obsessive need to scribble and relax. You’ve deserved some rest. I know, it will be hard.

As for me, I will recover from my NaNo hangover by enjoying the season. I will welcome a normal social life back slowly. And get cozy with some books, Christmas movies, and my smelly little dog. ‘Tis the season for that.

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