Okay, so this is the last time I post something related to the Overachiever debate – I promise! But I’m still thinking about it, and it lead me to write this short story. I never really share my writing on here, but I figured I would share this if only because it would never make sense to anyone who has not followed the overachiever debate. For those of you who are tired of hearing about this – I apologize. Like I said, this will probably be my last post on here about this. For those of you who aren’t tired of hearing about it – well – enjoy.
Ashley A. was always very shy growing up. She only spoke when spoken to. She didn’t have any close friends. The people in her classes didn’t talk to her. Her parents became concerned that their daughter didn’t have any friends, so they sent her to a special club after school that they thought would help her make friends, as everyone in the club was named Ashley, and at least she would be able to say that she had one thing in common with everyone else in the club.
Ashley A. wasn’t sure that this would help her make friends, but she decided to try her best. Maybe she would actually be able to make friends for once. So the first day of the club, she put on the nicest shirt she owned, and she went to the club, determined to make friends with at least one person.
But everywhere she looked, people were annoyed with her. They didn’t like the shirt that she was wearing. Some said that the green was too bright, that it hurt their eyes to look at and that it was ugly and stupid. Others said that the shirt looked expensive, and that she was trying to shove it in their faces that she had more money than they did. Still others sneered that it was probably of really cheap quality, and that their own shirts were obviously so much better than hers.
“It’s not cheap quality,” she tried to say, defending her shirt. After all, it was a nice shirt. She had worn it special for this meeting. She thought it was nice, and she didn’t like that other people were making fun of it.
“Oh, so you think your shirt is better than ours?” they sneered.
“No!” she said, horrified that they would think that. “I think everyone has nice shirts on!”
“Our shirts are nice,” the other Ashleys said, “but yours is horrible, and you’re ruining this club for the rest of us. Why don’t you just get out of here and leave us alone?”
Ashley A. was miserable. She didn’t want to go back there, but her parents were so excited about it that she knew she had to go back. So she did. She tried to look for a different shirt that wouldn’t upset them, but green was her favorite color, and that was her favorite style of shirt, so she had a lot of shirts that looked like that. She eventually just gave up and wore another green shirt, since she figured they would hate her anyway, so she might as well wear what she wanted to wear. She did wear a jacket over the shirt, though, so that the other kids might not notice.
This time when she went to the club, the people who didn’t remember her shirt from before were nice to her. She thought she was making friends. But it was getting hot in the meeting room, and all of the other Ashleys were wearing short-sleeved shirts, not jackets. She wanted to wear a short-sleeved shirt, as well. So she decided that it would be safe to take off the jacket.
But then the nasty comments returned, all of them saying that she was showing off again, that she should take her stupid green shirt and go somewhere else. Once again, Ashley A went home in tears, sad that she didn’t even fit in among the other Ashleys.
On her third visit to the meeting, she decided that she would keep her jacket on the whole time, regardless of how hot she got. If she couldn’t get the Ashleys to like her, what hope was there that she would ever find anyone to like her? So she went to the meeting, fully intending to keep the jacket on forever and just sit back and watch the others talk about fashion and show off their outfits.
But at this meeting, she met Ashley B. Ashley B. was wearing a bright green shirt, too, and the other Ashleys made fun of her, as well. Ashley A. was afraid to go up to her at first, but she finally did. She showed Ashley B. that she was wearing a green shirt, as well, but that she was hiding it so that the other people wouldn’t make fun of her. Ashley B. agreed that she would do the same, and that they could be friends and know that they, at least, agreed with what constituted a nice shirt.
The next meeting, though, Ashley A. and Ashley B. were talking when a new girl showed up. Her name was Ashley C., and she was wearing a bright green shirt just like they had been. The other kids made fun of her, and she didn’t care. She just kept her head held high.
“They won’t hate you so much if you cover up your shirt,” Ashley A. told her.
“That’s stupid,” said Ashley C. “I like the color green. I like my clothes. Why should I have to change them or hide them just to make a bunch of stupid people happy? If my wearing a green shirt makes them feel bad about their clothes, then that’s their problem. I’m not going to let them make me feel about what I’m wearing, though, and neither should you.”
Ashley A. and Ashley B. thought about this and decided that Ashley C. was right. The three of them decided to start their own club within the club. They called themselves the Awesome Ashleys, as they were the only ones awesome enough to wear green, which was their favorite color. Together, the three of them joked and had a good time. They were able to talk about fashion designs that the other Ashleys thought were stupid. They stayed in their little corner of the room, away from the other Ashleys, and they had a great time. The other people in the group still made fun of them and called them names, but they didn’t care as much since they had a small group of people to hang out with that they knew would support them. After all, they were the Awesome Ashleys, and they weren’t going to let these other Ashleys bring them down, not when they had enough other for support.
And for the first time in her life, Ashley A. had friends, and she was happy.
But then one day she showed up at the meeting and saw that Ashley C. wasn’t wearing a green shirt anymore. She had changed to a blue shirt, and she was hanging out with the people who always made fun of their green shirts.
“You’re not wearing green,” Ashley A. said when she saw her friend.
“Not today,” said Ashley C. “I wanted to wear something of quality for once. But hey, you should definitely keep wearing green!”
Ashley A. and Ashley B. were confused, but they didn’t say anything. They hung out in their corner anyway, talking about Awesome Ashley stuff and having fun. They even managed to make Ashley D., a new member to the club who also liked wearing green, feel welcome. So they still had their Awesome Ashley meeting, just without Ashley C. And they still had fun.
At the next meeting, though, things changed. Ashley C. came up to them and said, “Look, guys, you can’t call yourselves the Awesome Ashleys anymore, okay?”
“Why?” asked Ashley A.
“Because it’s not fair to the rest of the Ashleys. It implies that they’re not awesome, and that’s just mean. It makes them feel bad.”
“But they always made us feel bad,” said Ashley A.
“Yeah, well, they shouldn’t have done that,” said Ashley C.
“But they’re still doing it,” said Ashley A.
“Just ignore them,” said Ashley C. “You should be proud to wear green shirts. But you can’t call yourselves awesome.”
“But it makes us feel good,” said Ashley A. “And there are so many more of them than us. What do they care what a couple of people they already hate call themselves?”
“Not all of them hate you,” said Ashley C. “Some of them just get upset when they see the green shirts because they don’t have the ability to get a green shirt, and it’s not fair.”
“So we shouldn’t wear green shirts because they don’t have green shirts?” asked Ashley A.
“Of course that’s not it,” said Ashley C. “No one’s telling you that you can’t wear green shirts. You just can’t call yourselves awesome.”
“Because it hurts people’s feelings.”
“But they don’t care if they hurt our feelings.”
“Don’t let them get to you. Be proud of what you’re wearing.”
“But you don’t want us to call ourselves awesome.”
“No. Because it’s mean to the other Ashleys, all of whom are awesome in their own way.”
“But you started this group,” said Ashley A. “You were the one who showed me that it was okay to wear what I wanted.”
“And it is okay to wear what you want. And it’s okay to be proud of what you wear. But you can’t use words to show that you’re proud because it makes the other people feel bad.”
“Well this is making me feel bad,” said Ashley A. She couldn’t believe that her friend was turning on her like this. “Why do you care if a bunch of mean people get hurt but you don’t care that this is hurting me?”
“Of course I care,” said Ashley C. “But this club is for all Ashleys, and you’re ruining it for them.”
“And you’re ruining it for me,” said Ashley A. quietly.
Ashley C. still heard her. “We clearly disagree about this. Look, you and Ashley B. and Ashley D. should have fun. Go talk to other people. Be proud. But don’t vocalize your pride, okay?” Then she held out her arms for a hug. “No hard feelings, okay?”
Ashley A. didn’t know what to do, so she awkwardly hugged Ashley C. back and then watched as her supposed friend joined the ranks of their tormenters.
I thought I wasn’t going to write this blog post, as this topic has been addressed now by five different Wrimos that I respect. However, after the second time when I almost wrote a blog-length reply on one of their blogs, I decided that it was better to just go ahead and write it here. This post deals with overachievers and those who do more than others in other aspects of life. I’m not going to attempt to put anyone down, but I can’t promise that I won’t. Continue at your own risk, knowing that this has been bothering me for the last two days in particular and my whole life in general.
First, some background for why this all started.
Thursday morning I was checking my Twitter messages from the night before, and I saw a conversation between two MLs that I’ve always greatly admired, talking about how we should stop using the term “overachiever” because it’s insulting to others. My ML then changed the Atlanta “Overachievers” thread to Atlanta people “writing more than 50k.” There was then a small Twitter war almost where overachievers were arguing with these MLs, one of whom is going to break 200k this weekend and one of whom who has been an OA in years past but has made it clear that he is not his year.
Most people probably don’t understand why this series of events has been so troubling to me. Maybe they agree that the term “overachiever” is derogatory. Maybe they don’t care about labels. Maybe they agree that the term should remain “overachiever” but don’t care enough to get upset about changing it. Whatever the case, I am well aware that I am being hyper-sensitive to this. But this is something that is very close to me, and I can’t help but get defensive about it.
Second, some background on me.
I’ve always had confidence issues and issues expressing myself, stemming from events that happened in my past which I won’t get into here except to say that it left me isolated from my extended family and desperate to gain other people’s approval. If you look up Avoidant Personality Disorder, you’ll get a fairly good description of me, though I probably experience those symptoms on a lower level as I’ve never been diagnosed and I don’t really think someone with that disorder would try to become a teacher, where you have to interact with people on a daily basis. That said, I definitely experience the fear of looking stupid, the longing to have friends but being too afraid of rejection to go for it. I went to a post-NaNo group in Minnesota for like a year, and I don’t think I talked for more than a total of twenty minutes the entire year I went. This is my sixth year doing NaNo, and this is the first year that people on the forums know who I am. The only reason people in Atlanta know me is because my boyfriend is very vocal, and I’m always with him.
I’ve always done well in school. I almost always had the highest grade in my classes. I graduated high school 7 out of 750 people. My GPA was 97 out of 100. Thanks to my grades, I got an almost full scholarship to attend college. Thanks to AP tests, I started college with 36 credits, which allowed me to get my BA in three years with a GPA of 3.9.
And yet I’ve never been able to tell people that because it sounded like bragging. It sounded like I was rubbing it in their faces when really, all I was doing was being proud of something I had done. I didn’t have friends in high school. I had a few people I talked to in class, but I never did anything after school or on weekends. I was never good at sports. I wasn’t someone people would go to with all their problems. The only thing I had to be proud of was my grades, and I always had to hide them from people if I didn’t want people to hate me.
And then I graduated college, and I lost the only sense of self-worth I ever had. I couldn’t find a job, and when I finally did get a job, it was the job that my mother handed me, at the same company where my little sister, who dropped out of college, also works and makes more money than I do. The only thing I had ever been proud of was my grades, and I didn’t have those anymore. I didn’t have a job I could be proud of. I felt worthless and stupid and like there was no point in living almost.
And then I found the Overachievers.
I started doing NaNo in 2007, when I was a freshman in college. I won that year, failed the next two, and then I moved back home to Georgia after I graduated. I started attending events in Atlanta. My first year in Atlanta, I wrote 67k and learned about the Overachievers, as I think both of my MLs were overachieving at that point. That’s when I learned about this thing called 50k weekend. That’s when I learned that there was a thread where these people posted, where they attempted to write more than 50k.
The next year (2011), I joined that group. I set a goal for myself of 75k and, with the encouragement of some of the people in Atlanta and the people on the forums, I managed to write over 222k. I finally found a sense of self-worth again. Yes, NaNo is a silly event that doesn’t really mean anything in the world, but it was still something that I could do better than other people.
I’m not saying my words were better (though I also don’t think they were worse).
I’m not saying I’m a better writer.
I’m definitely not saying I’m a better person.
But I am better at putting words down on paper in November. Not at any other time. But this one month, I have a higher word count than many other people. I’m currently at 77k, and it’s only day 10, and I haven’t started writing yet today. It’s not the best thing to be proud of, but I am. Because that is how pathetic my life is – I have absolutely nothing else to be happy about than the fact that I can write a lot of words. And you know what? I found a (compared to the total number of people doing NaNo) small group of people who take just as much pride as I do in writing more words. We don’t all write the same number of words, but we cheer on everyone. It’s a great big family there, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I found a group of people who wanted and appreciated me.
And now people are suggesting taking away the name we’ve given ourselves because they’re afraid it will hurt other people’s feelings.
The argument I’ve seen against “overachiever” is that it implies that some people are “underachieving,” and that that’s not true. And while I can understand why some people would see it like that, I feel like they’re forgetting that those aren’t the only two choices. The goal of NaNo is to write 50k. Those who do achieve that goal. Those of us who write more achieve more words than others – we overachieve. Those who write 50k achieve.
One of the arguments being made on Twitter was that “overachiever” implied that those who “only” write 50k could be doing more. And you know what? I mostly agree with that. Are there exceptions to that? Of course. Like I’ve always said, some people work AND go to school AND raise kids AND take care of other friends/family. For such busy people, yes, I’m sure hitting 50k really is a challenge. I am by no means trying to say that these people could be doing more.
But I don’t think anyone can really deny that the rest of the participants COULD be doing more – they just chose not to. Whenever they spend hours on the forums, they’re giving up writing time. There’s an entire forum dedicated to providing people a way to procrastinate so they don’t have to write. I’m sorry, but those people COULD write more; they’d just rather play games. How many people reward themselves with TV shows or movies or video games or social time? Those people COULD be writing more but chose not to. When they hang out in chat rooms and get distracted talking to people, they are giving up noveling time.
And you know what? That is absolutely fine.
NaNo is about writing, but the social aspect is also a huge part of that. I understand that. Some people put more emphasis on the social part than others do. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. If that’s how you enjoy NaNo, by all means, continue to do so. I want you to have fun.
But why don’t others want me to have fun? If writing hundreds of thousands of words makes me happy, then what’s wrong with that? If I want to call myself an overachiever in the ONE thread out of the entire forum, what difference does it make to you? I don’t call myself an overachiever to put you down. I call myself an overachiever because I feel like I am going above and beyond what this challenge asks for, and I want recognition for that, even if it’s only among other people who overachieve.
We already don’t belong anywhere else in this challenge.
The pep talks that the OLL send out each week? They’re not meant for us. In fact, I remember one of Chris Baty’s last year that was incredibly insulting to me as an overachiever, as it said outright that those who hit 50k in week one or whenever aren’t really enjoying NaNo. That’s BS, and it was offensive. But it was there, and we did nothing about it.
The pep talks that our regions send out? They’re not meant for us. My region also includes pep talks each day written by the people in our region. Guess what? They’re not meant for us.
Down in the Artisan section of the forums, there’s a huge thread filled with word count calendars. Guess what? Almost all of them are made for people going for 50k. A few people ask for75k or 100k, but I’ve never seen a request for more than that, presumably because we know we’d be yelled at for aiming that high.
All of the merchandise in the store is for people who write 50k. We will never see a shirt that shows that we wrote 100k in a month. Or 200k. Or a million.
And that is fine. The official challenge is 50,000 words. We understand that. It makes sense.
I’m not saying we try to change the goal of NaNo. I understand why the pep talks aren’t for us. We don’t need as much encouragement as others do. Of course the calendars and the merchandise are going to reflect the goals of the contest. You can’t cater to the needs of everyone, especially in a forum this large, so of course you’re going to focus you attention on those who are aiming for the goal of the challenge and not their own goal.
But this is my point.
We don’t have anything else.
As one of my OA friends pointed out in her post on this subject, there is a separate forum for rebels. The people who openly announce that they have started writing their novels early have their own section. The people who aren’t writing fiction get their own section. The people who are continuing a previous story have their own section, even though the aim of this challenge is to get you to write a first draft of a novel, from start to finish. You’re not supposed to start early. You’re not supposed to continue on a story you’ve already started. You’re not supposed to write nonfiction or screenplays or graphic novels.
And yet all of these people are welcomed and given their own section of the forums to hang out in, and we are not.
I’m not saying to get rid of the rebel forum. I’m glad that they include those with slightly different goals than the official one. But why can’t we get our own forum? We’re not rebels. We’re not starting early. We’re just writing more.
And yet the only place we have to talk with other people who are writing more than others is a single thread. Most of us don’t dare post anywhere else in the forums because we’re afraid of the flak that we’ll get because of it. We can’t be proud of what we’ve done because then we’re bragging. We can’t be upset with what we’ve done because we’re already ahead and therefore should just be happy about it and shut up, even if we’re not happy with where we are. And when I try to mention the fact that we stay in one place, the response I get is that “well, not everyone stays there.” But you know what? We shouldn’t have to hide. Most of us do because we don’t want to make others unhappy, but we shouldn’t have to do that.
Changing the Overachiever name won’t fix anything.
I have yet to see a single thread where an overachiever bragged about their word count (except in the Shoutout thread, but that’s what it’s there for) or put down someone else because their word count was lower. If you have proof otherwise, please let me know. But it has been my experience that the overachievers welcome everyone. I’ve read every post in the OA thread, and I’ve never seen them be anything but encouraging, whether your WC was one thousand or one million. The same cannot be said of the rest of the forum.
As another OA pointed out in his blog, the problem people have is mostly with our word counts. We don’t have to mention our word counts at all, but they’re right there for everyone to see, and they will continue to be mad at our existence no matter what we call ourselves. So changing our name would only piss off the Overachievers. It won’t make anyone else feel better. It will just bring us down.
And that is what it feels like it was designed to do – to bring us down. To make sure that we don’t dare to feel proud of ourselves for even a minute, because we are no better at this contest than anyone else.
And this is the sentiment that seems to be most prevalent everywhere: we don’t want anyone to feel proud of their achievements – unless it’s sports-related.
No one complains when Michael Jordan is called an athlete and the guy who plays ball in his driveway and misses all of his shots is not.
No one complains that Michael Phelps can swim faster than they can.
No one complains when the top basketball player at their school gets a press conference when she chooses a college but those who get scholarships because of their grades have to keep silent lest they make other students feel bad.
It’s okay to have Varsity and Junior Varsity and intramural levels of sports, for those who are really good, those who are pretty good, and those who are just doing it for fun and don’t really care about it. No one says that the Varsity players’ existence somehow makes their own existence less meaningful.
We tell kids that we want them to do their best, but we only mean it if their best isn’t better than anyone else’s best.
My whole life, I’ve been made to feel like I have to hide my grades and apologize for them if anyone finds out. It doesn’t matter that I did the homework while they went out any partied. My college professor went out of his way to make sure that I knew that I wasn’t smarter than anyone else even though my GPA and SAT scores say otherwise. I’m not a better student just because I actually do the work.
We played Apples to Apples at my boyfriend’s house last night, and his parents were getting annoyed that I was doing so well. Apples to freaking Apples, and I felt like I had to apologize because I was winning. I win at Monopoly twice, and suddenly no one wants to play with me. His mother cheats to win, and suddenly I’m okay to play with again, since my streak is broken. So now if I want to play a game with them, I have to do worse than I really can if I don’t want them to get annoyed with me.
In my grad school classes, we’re reading about how more and more people are trying to get rid of gifted classes and have the special ed kids and the gifted kids in the same classrooms with everyone else, even though the gifted kids are bound to get bored and be held back if that happens. We spend ten times more in this country for special education than we do gifted education. The people who like school and do well at it always get the short stick. Those who do well in school are looked down on by their peers as freaks or teachers’ pets. People get mad at the kid who jumps up first to answer all of the questions – but why? Because we don’t like people who are smarter than we are, and we certainly don’t like people who aren’t quiet about it.
Whenever we talk about group assignments in my classes, I say that I’m worried that one person is going to end up doing all the work, and I’m always looked down on for saying that because I’m implying that I’m smarter than others because I say I always end up doing all the work. Even though it’s true. Even in my classes now. I’m in grad school, and I’m still surrounded by morons who can’t do anything. And yet I’m reminded on a daily basis that I’m not allowed to think I’m smarter or better as a student or anything.
My whole life, I’ve had to be quiet about anything that I’m proud of, lest I hurt someone else’s feelings.
And I’ve done it, because I don’t want to hurt other people. I try to be nice to people. I try to encourage them. I try not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Because I’ve been uncomfortable my whole life. I’ve always been the odd one out. I’m a Democrat in a Republican state. I’m an atheist in the Bible Belt. I’m transitioning into the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle in a country that scorns anyone who doesn’t eat meat. I keep my opinions to myself unless asked, and even then I sometimes skirt the truth because I don’t want to offend or upset people.
The same is true with NaNo. I have a high word count, much higher than those around me. I feel awkward at write-ins because I feel like I have to lie when people ask me my word count (either that or evade the question, which is what I did last week). When we have word wars, I’m only allowed to share my word count if it’s around the same level as other people’s. Hell, I almost didn’t share my word count or goals on my own blog because I was worried about offending people.
The only place I feel like I’m allowed to be myself is the OA thread and the OA chat room. It’s the only place I’m allowed to proud of what I’ve done, where I can share my word count without having to add on “well I’m not working and I can only write like this in November” and all sorts of other apologetic statements.
And now people are suggesting that we change that, too.
It might not sound like a big request, but it is to me. Because it’s suggesting taking away the one thing I’m proud of. It’s suggesting that we have nothing to be proud of. That our feelings don’t matter as much as other people’s.
My feelings have never mattered as much as other people’s. I learned that when I was a small child. I thought I had finally found somewhere where I was allowed to have feelings. I guess I should have known better.
If you’re interested in reading the other blogs on this topic, check them our here:
In Which Ranty McRantyPants Complains Not polite in the least but the best blog post I’ve read on this topic.
On Overachievers A polite but to the point look at why the term “overachiever” isn’t the problem.
On the word ‘Overachiever’ A look at both sides of the issue.
Thoughts on the Overachiever term A history of the usage of “Overachiever” and the problems at hand.
Of overachieving and self-confidence. The other side of the argument, from one of the people who started this debate. I disagree with her about the term, but she still has my complete and total respect, and I hope she knows that.
As most people who are reading this know, November is National Novel Writing Month. This is the time of year when novelists all over the world get together and try to write 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th. What everyone might not know is that there is also a smaller subset of people on the NaNo forums who call themselves overachievers. For these people, hitting 50k is no longer a challenge. They set their own personal goals at more than 50k. I’ve been a part of this group of people for the last two years, and in that time I’ve seen goals ranging from 50,001 all the way up 1 million, and I’ve seen people reach those goals (yes, including the million).
Sadly, over the past two years I’ve also seen several posts, both on the forums and other places online, where people accuse overachievers of cheating. I saw one Reddit post today where someone flat-out said that they just assume that anyone who says they wrote 50k in 24 hours was lying.
I know many people who succeeded in writing 50k the first day, and I was really offended for them and for myself. I didn’t write 50k, but I attempted, and I will be attempting it again next year, and I know the same haters will be around then. These are the same people who complain that overachievers exist. They say that overachievers don’t get the point of NaNo, that we ruin it for the rest of them, that there’s no way we can really write what we say we can do. These arguments hurt and annoy me for several reasons. I’ve been thinking about them all day, and I’ve finally decided to write about it.
The naysayers claim that no one can write 50k in a day, or in a week.
They claim that no one can write that many words in such a short amount of time.
They claim that even if you can write that much, there’s no possible way it could be any good.
Well, I have some news for those folks: THOSE ARE THE EXACT SAME ARGUMENTS PEOPLE USE AGAINST NANOWRIMO IN GENERAL.
Every year around this time, people get online and start bashing NaNo. They say that writing 50,000 words in a month is stupid. They say that you can just write “the” 50,000 times and be done, so what’s the point? They say that you can’t possibly write anything of any quality by writing so quickly so fast.
So why is it that writing 50,000 words in a month is a reasonable goal but writing 50,000 words in a week is so absurd? Why is it okay to write 50,000 words of crap but not 500,000?
And why on earth does it matter to anyone else what my word count is? Why can’t we all just accept that people write at different speeds and have different writing processes and different responsibilities?
Some people have different amounts of time they can dedicate to writing. Some have jobs and/or school and/or kids and/or other social responsibilities. They may have a very limited time to write.
Some people have different writing speeds. Someone who can write 100 wpm is probably going to hit 50k before someone who can only type 20 wpm.
Some people have different levels of dedication to NaNo. I spend most of my free time writing. Others hang out with friends or watch TV or read or go online or hang out in the forums. A friend of mine doing NaNo said to me yesterday that she could probably be an overachiever but that she would miss hanging out in the chat room. Does that mean she’s a worse writer? Of course not! It just means that she gets more joy from the chat than I do, so her priorities are slightly different than mine.
Some people have different writing goals/processes. Some people want to get published and are going to spend a long time writing a decent first draft that won’t take ages to edit. Some people (like me) want to get published but don’t bother trying to write a good first draft. They just try to get something down on paper because they know that the second draft will be a lot easier to write. Still other people have no intention of ever being published and are writing just for themselves or friends or people online.
My point is that everyone is different. We all have different goals and backgrounds and abilities. My writing 50k in four days should by no means make anyone else feel bad about their goals and achievements. No one should be discouraged by my word count, just like I’m not discouraged by the people who are going for a million. I just acknowledge that I can’t type that fast and then sit back and watch them race each other for the million. I find others who are going for the same word count I am (or just those who are really supportive), and I write like hell.
It’s just hard when you wake up at seven, happy and excited to write, and then you see a post calling you and your friends cheaters and liars, just because you can type faster than they can. I know it’s my own fault for looking at those forums, but it still hurts, especially when I try so hard not to offend other people. I don’t post about my word count in other forums. I posted once in the shoutout thread, yes, but that’s what it’s there for. Other than that, I only post in the Overachiever’s Thread.
Because, yes, we give ourselves on thread to comment in. People going for 50k get the entire rest of the forums to write whatever they want. We give ourselves one thread where we can go and talk and encourage each other without offending/discouraging anyone else. Last year we also had a single thread in the NaNo Ate My Soul thread where we could complain about not meeting our goals. One thread. And people were complaining about how we shouldn’t be allowed to have that because we were ahead of them and it wasn’t fair and whine, whine, whine.
I understand what it’s like to struggle to write 50k in a month. I failed two of my first three years. I failed both Camp NaNos this year. But you know what? Not once have I ever blamed my failure on someone with a higher word count. And not once did I try to make someone else feel bad because of their word count.
Am I saying that no one on the NaNo site is lying about his/her word count? No. I’m just saying that I know a lot of overachievers, and I believe every single one of them. And, believe it or not, these people do not get to a million by introducing characters who stutter or by repeating the same sentences several times. All of those “dirty tricks” to reaching 50k? Those are usually used by people who have trouble hitting 50k, at least in my experience. We might not fix all the typos as we go, but we don’t intentionally write words that we know we’re going to delete later. At least I don’t, and I know a lot of other people don’t either.
If anyone is reading this and is still unconvinced, let me leave you with one last thought: I can’t run a mile in less than ten minutes. I never have been, not even when I was younger and in slightly better shape. I tried as hard as I could, and I could still never do it. And running a mile in less than seven minutes? Forget about it. That was crazy talk.
So I guess this means that no one can run a mile in less than ten minutes. Right?
This year is different. I knew that I couldn’t finish a novel at 50k, and I knew that if I focused and wrote, I could write more than 50k in a month. So I set my goal to 75k or a finished novel, whichever I would be able to do in a month.
Then on the first day of NaNo I participated in a challenge set forth by another overachiever, and I set a Day One Ridiculous Goal (DORG) for myself of 15k. I thought I was crazy, but I also figured that it wouldn’t hurt to try. I thought I would get as close as I could and then just be proud of that. Instead, I wrote 19k. I could have written more if I hadn’t been at a write-in and needed to drive home before midnight. Next year I am definitely aiming for 20k on the first day.
I hit 50k a little bit after noon on day 6. I hit 100k on day 14. I finished my first novel (Tilt Your Head and Smile) at 103k exactly. I am currently working on a fan fiction piece I just started and my NaNo from last year, which still needs to be finished. I am also participating in 50k weekend, during which time I will be starting a new story, whose plot I have only started to sketch out. I might be pantsing that more than I usually like, but that’s okay. It’ll be part of the challenge.
I’m sitting at 143k right now. I’m hoping to hit 150k tonight, but I will definitely do it by tomorrow at the latest. If I succeed in the 50k weekend challenge (the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving), I will have a total word count of over 200k for this month. That is more than I ever thought I could possibly do. I am so proud of myself, and that is a feeling I have not felt in a really long time.
Thank you, National Novel Writing Month, for giving me a little bit of confidence back, even if it’s for something that most people don’t really understand.