What does an IEP have to do with NaNoWriMo?

Today is Day 1 of NaNoWriMo 2019. Over the past couple weeks, I went back and forth in my mind. Should I participate or not? I tried it last year. It was – for various reasons, some out of my control – a big disaster. So, this year I decided I would not participate.

Then a writer friend persuaded me to change my mind. Truthfully, she didn’t have to persuade that hard. I love the idea of NaNoWriMo, the online community, the buzzy energy. But there are aspects I don’t love. The stress of that 50K word count, for one. The emphasis on speedy word count to the detriment of one’s own writing process, for another.

Then I read “Making NaNoWriMo Work For You” from Writers in the Storm, one of my favorite writing blogs. The key takeaway from Tasha Seegmiller is “Only maintain that speed of writing a story if it is working for the story AND if it is working for the writer.”

Like I said, my friend started talking about how she was doing NaNoWriMo. It did sound a lot more fun to do it with a friend, less stressful, too. So, I decided to plunge in and participate, even after telling many people that I wasn’t doing it this year. And here’s the main reason why I was convinced: I’m not setting a 50K word goal.

November is a busy month for me, not least because it is IEP month. My IEP meeting for my son is in two weeks. It consumes a lot of my mental and emotional energy. Even when the meetings play out smoothly with positive results, they still give me a massive headache. They are stressful as hell. Why do I bring up IEP meetings other than to note they take up time and energy that could otherwise be used for a multitude of other, more pleasant, pursuits?

What do IEP meetings have to do with writing?

The core of an IEP meeting is coming up with goals for your child to achieve in school. The trick to creating excellent goals for your child is to make them just ambitious enough so that your child is challenged, but not so overly ambitious that you set your child up for failure to achieve. That’s how the 50K NaNoWriMo word count goal feels to me: setting myself up for failure. I pride myself on being a realistic, analytical thinker. And I know that, currently, I cannot write 50K words of a novel in a month. I do want to write a whole bunch of words onto my novel draft, and I do want to be a more disciplined writer. But the other trait of an excellent IEP goal is to make it quantifiable. Goals such as “a whole bunch” are useless in their vagueness. Therefore, in light of what I’ve learned during countless IEP meetings, here are my NaNoWriMo goals:

Write 20,000 words continuing on my novel draft. This is definitely a challenging amount for me, yet it feels reachable.

Sit down six days a week to write any number of words.

My expectation is that if I am steadily training myself to write every day, then the word counts will grow without my having to stress about them.

I’ll be posting updates on Instagram @sarahmcinneswrites if you want to see how I do with my modified Nanowrimo goals.

And if you are doing NaNoWriMo this year, Best of Luck & Happy Writing!

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