NaNoWriMo 2020 by Ben Collier

NaNoWriMo 2020 – Flashback to 2019

Posted on November 18, 2020 by benjaminfrog

We’re a little bit over the halfway point and personally the exhaustion is starting to amp up. I expected having this blog post written and ready to publish a couple of days ago but by the end of the daily quotas I’m finding the past few days that I don’t have much energy left.

I’m taking note of this as a learning experience. I’ve realized that in my regimen of inspirational intake I’ve made the mistake of making everything ‘work.’ Even the time that I spend gaming, normally to chill, I’m doing as Let’s Plays for posting on YouTube. In other words, I’m spending a lot of creativity but not intentionally taking the time to just get filled. When there isn’t a natural flow of intake and output, and all you do is output, the logical result is that you’ll feel drained. It’s actually a life lesson that I learned long ago and just forgot about, in my excitement to do another writing project, but hopefully I’ll learn from this experience and plan better in the future. Maybe actually journaling the experience here will help me remember.

This time also takes me back to mid-November of last year, when I came down with a dental infection – a challenge I had not anticipated. I’d had tooth aches before, but there was something different about this particular affliction. I wasn’t always in pain, but it came unexpectedly, and in waves, and sometimes stayed until I finally gave in and took an Advil. But eventually that also stopped helping.

I had a number of theories about what the pain was, and repeatedly assumed that it would go away. I was after all under a lot of stress, and assumed that I was simply clenching my teeth too hard and that all I needed to do was relax. For the most part it didn’t interfere with my work, though at times something about sitting at certain angles made it difficult to type on the computer for more than a few seconds at a time, meaning a lot of stopping and starting while I caught my breath.

The concern came when it got to the point that eating almost anything caused an unreasonable amount of pain. I’m not sure how most people rate pain on a scale from 1 to 10. For me, 1 would be a minor discomfort and 10 is the point at which the pain actually prevents me from being able to function, in which case I would have some hard 9s at random times throughout the day, and a few scary 10s. I remember when the infection made its way to my jaw joint and it became painful to eat. I made myself popcorn one day because I figured it required the smallest bites and was the softest thing to chew through – so there should be no resistance. It took me forever to eat just half of that bowl before putting it aside because the pain from every bite was so strong that I had to actively convince myself that eating to avoid starvation was worth the pain.

At that point I knew I needed a doctor to look at it and tell me definitively what the problem was and, hopefully, how to fix it. I managed to see someone at the clinic who revealed it to be a dental infection and prescribed a combination of antibiotics and probiotics, which took a bit over a week to get through, taking me through the rest of NaNoWriMo. It took another few days for the infection to recede though. By that point it had spread to my incisors and even the feeling of air passing through my nose or mouth caused intense pain. It hurt just to breath. Fortunately that was as bad as it got, and it only lasted for a day. I don’t recall if I continued working on that day or took a sick day, but I certainly would not have pushed myself too hard that day.

I remember going over the scenarios in my head, in case I did reach a point where I absolutely had to stop NaNoWriMo and how I would try to honour the challenge under altered circumstances. I wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of taking a chunk of days from November and adding them at the end, extending into December, because even if I wasn’t working as far as actually typing words I could still be thinking about what to write during those days off, and that’s sometimes half the work. It didn’t feel in keeping with the spirit of the challenge I had given myself. Fortunately I didn’t have to figure something out because I was back in decent shape before long, but the situation forced me to come up with contingency plans in case of similar scenarios in the future.

The way I figure it, it is best to take whatever unexpected challenges come my way and work around them or through them, but if anything was ever so bad that it legitimately prevented me from even being able to type words then odds are I’m also struggling to think about what to write ahead of time, so that would probably balance out for me to simply move some days around.

As hard as it was to go through at the time, the accomplishment has become a fond memory, and something that makes me prouder of ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ as a completed project. It makes me feel a little bad-ass to say that not only did I write and edit a whole novel in a month but that I did half of it while fighting a debilitating infection.

On the flip side, it makes me feel like a bit of a wuss right now since all I’m currently struggling with is exhaustion. It obviously could be worse.

~ Ben