By Erik Hane
National Novel Writing Month, in all the best ways, can be exhausting. Even when feeling good about your work, it can difficult to summon the energy to consistently write at a high volume for a solid month, let alone if you have to spend additional energy getting yourself in a creative headspace.
This is the reason that simply participating in NaNoWriMo is an accomplishment in and of itself; it’s like a marathon. Sure, maybe we’ll spend a second examining the time it took to run it, but the thing worth celebrating is that you finished the race at all.
Summoning the energy for that race has always been tricky for me, as someone who invests a lot of time in his own writing after I’m done working my day job as an agent. That switch at the end of the day—putting away everyone else’s manuscripts and opening up my own—can often be difficult to hit. Reading for work is far different than trying to focus on my own craft, and changing between mindsets can be hard when my word document starts to look identical to the ones I just spent a full day treating like a job.
Some stock advice has always been to treat writing like a job: if you’re going to write professionally, you have to, well, view writing as a professional task. But the reverse always happens for me in November; rather than trying to write like I read, I often find myself reading in the same creative headspace I spend the month trying to cultivate for my own writing.
This means that in November, I read manuscripts more slowly, with more care, fresh off a reminder to treat someone else’s words with the same empathy and attention I afford my own. It’s tricky to do year round; we read so many submissions that we simply have to be clinical most of the time. But for one month, I read less like an agent and more like a writer.
NaNoWriMo becomes a yearly check-in of sorts, when I refocus on why it is I do what I do, what brought me to this work in the first place. The answer is that I love writing, whether it’s someone else’s or—on those nights when I’m feeling focused and inspired by the many manuscripts I spent that day with—my own.