Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo.) I talked about it a bit last week. Writers around the world sign up to write at least 50,000 words during the month of November—at least, that’s how it started. I’m not sure what it’s evolved to since its inception back in the late 90s. The prize is bragging rights about a) having finished a novel and b) having finished a novel in thirty days or fewer. Whew!

As someone who has attempted NaNoWriMo many time but has never crossed the finish line (the closest I’ve come is 37,901 words in 2012), I don’t feel like I have any right to offer a pep talk to writers about how to stay on track and get the wordage they want crammed into that tiny time-frame. But I do know how NOT to win. It applies to non-writerly pursuits as well. Ready?

Here are the usual Seven Deadly sins:

7 – Pride

6 – Envy

5 – Wrath

4 – Sloth

3 – Greed

2 – Gluttony

1 – Lust

Here are the Seven Deadly Sins of Pursuit:

7 – Pride = Too scared to ask for help or encouragement

We can’t do this alone, WriMos! We need outside support. Don’t be a hermit this month. Get on the NaNoWriMo forums. Ask your supervisor for help when you’re stuck on a project. Contact with people vital. I need to remember this, as I’m an introvert (ISFP, thank you very much.) My tendency is to hunker down in my room with computer with my earbuds (I’m doing this right now—gulp!) and shut out the outside world for hours. Not healthy.

6 – Envy = The curse of comparison

This one’s related to my version of pride: they’re both two heads to the same ugly coin. If you can’t help but covet your neighbor’s word count, their promotion, their new job/boyfriend, etc….then make straight paths for your feet. Don’t look. Stay out of your NaNo buddies’ profiles. Don’t dwell on your friend’s job. Think, instead, on your own blessings and abilities.

5 – Wrath = Wanting to attain perfection, becoming furious when you can’t

Every word had better be perfect. Every project had better gleam with your very best effort and then some. This sort of thinking has led me to emotional paralysis. I end up not doing anything, for fear it won’t be good enough. Don’t be like me. Allow yourself to suck at something. Do a half-butt job at the first draft of your project. December is for editing. November is for writing.

4 – Sloth = The curse of procrastination

This the person who’s favorite words are “later” and “tomorrow.” They put off their goals for another day and wind up accomplishing nothing very quickly. To solve this, set minor goals for yourself. I have a day planner where I write my accomplishments at the end of the day. It makes me feel good and wanting to be able to write something down every day.

3 – Pride = Wanting to outdo everyone else

I get it. You want to make your mark on the world. Taking a Bible verse out of context: What does it profit a man that he should gain the whole world and yet lose his soul? If you lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing, then you can get in trouble. Why do you want to win NaNo? To prove to yourself that you are capable? To meet a deadline? To show dumb-head so-and-so that you are gifted? Make it a positive, print it out, and put it over your bed. When you forget, look at it. Reassess if your motive changes.

2 – Gluttony = Biting off more than you can mentally chew

50,000 words is a lot. Be sure you’re up for it mentally before you take up the challenge. And have mental health accountability if you need to, someone to check in with weekly or oftener who can tell if you’re about to lose control and need to back out of the challenge or dial it down a notch or seven.

1 – Lust = Being so in love with your work, you forget to take care of yourself

Yeah, I stretched it there. Don’t let the drive to succeed overpower your basic needs. You need water, you need sleep. Fifty cups of coffee a day? BAD. Hygiene may be optional during NaNo, but your health is important to getting done what you need to. And that includes mental health.

When I was in a Bad Place mentally, I attempted to do NaNoWriMo all by myself, encouraging people to hold me accountable with a friendly wager (I’d give money to a cause if I failed.) Yeah, I totally set myself up for failure by failing to realize where I was at mentally and emotionally. Yeah, I sank a little deeper into the Bad Place for a while after that. It was a major setback.

What is your hardest “sin” to deal with? Mine is Wrath.

Keep your nose in a book,
Beth

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