Writing through the struggles: Camp NaNoWrimo Wrap Up

Writing through the struggles Camp NaNoWrimo Wrap Up

Camp NaNoWriMo ran for all of April and for those that follow me they know that I’m an avid NaNoWriMo fan. I have done it for the last 6 years and have 6 drafts of novels that I’ve got raided around the place (maybe I have more, I should count) and when I found out about Camp NaNoWriMo and actually remembered when it happened, I decided that I’d tackle it. Two years ago at the start of April I was excited, I was rewriting my novel. The one that I’m looking at that’s a completed draft (world building none withstanding) and I was getting a jump on it after I finished it in full for the first time the year before.

Little did I know that it would be one of the hardest months of my life, and it had started out like another normal month for me. I was eating well, going to the gym, working through my notes for my novel not to mention there was a total lunar eclipse, which made it hilarious that I had been writing a scene about it, it was utterly breathtaking and I can remember the number of times that I’d seen it.

Seventeen days in and I was struggling with my story. It always happens, most of the time I get past it or find new music to help. Music is my first go to – any time I’m struggling, I search for new music – and I was on a real Florence and The Machine kick at them. There were remixes made by amazing bands like Dead Letter Circus and Periphery to name a few that I was totally rocking into, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why I wasn’t writing. Why it just wasn’t flowing. It wasn’t like I didn’t know the story. I knew it well. I’d finally finished it and sat with it for so long, so what was going on?

On the eighteenth day it was Good Friday so I was stuck at home (not a bad thing) but I’d made the raw dessert for Easter at my cousins house, it was one of those years where Greek Easter fell on the same day as regular Easter and I was alone thanks to my housemate having gone to her parents house for the weekend. So when music wasn’t working and journaling out what I was feeling didn’t help, I went for a walk. I had a chat to a family friend, I searched for more music, I thought I was getting somewhere.

I wasn’t.

I tried my best and went to bed knowing I’d wake up the next day and try again before work.

But that wasn’t the case. I woke up at a weird time, way ahead of my alarm, got my period and felt off. I had phone calls from my auntie and my Godmother in succession, one call weirder than the other but I thought nothing of it. I hopped onto the bus and tried to shake the weird feeling. Surely it was to do with my novel, what was blocking me? Why was it blocking me?

When my auntie came to collect me from work, I thought my worse scenario. I thought I’d lost Yiayia, it was the only reason I could think about. I braced myself for it. I was ready for that.

Little did I know that my dad would be one who was dead.

The weird feeling and the stalling was telling me something, I ignored it because I thought it was something to do with my novel; something that I was missing between the lines of the prose that I knew so well. I didn’t think anything personally would happen.

It was the first time since I started that I didn’t win a NaNoWriMo event. It would have devastated me more if I had been thinking clearly, but it seemed like I was a definitely cursed when it came to Camp NaNo and I was pretty sure that I would be following the same path for this year.

Two years on, I was back to fighting with a narrator who I disliked, a story that wasn’t working and issues I thought I’d conquered.

Dad’s two year death anniversary was hard.

Harder than the funeral.

Harder than forgetting details of that day that I knew I was slowly forgetting to protect my own psyche.

I sat by his tombstone and cried, for the first time I sat there longer than a few minutes and just leaned against him.

I let myself be weak. I let myself feel what it was like to have this gaping hole inside me instead of pushing on and after that day, while I smiled and spoke to family, friends and everyone in between I learned how uncomfortable I am with being vulnerable.

I also learned that while I disliked my character, it wasn’t because he was unlikeable (he has his moments), it was because he hated his father. And during my teen years, where I despised that I had a strict father and despised that I wasn’t allowed out, I knew that I hated my dad.

I took him for granted as a teenager and broke his trust; I pushed boundaries and probably broke his heart, but what I did was tame in comparison to what I could have done if I didn’t have that firm hand guiding me.

The story I was focusing on for April was one that I had words on from another NaNoWriMo. Travis is the werewolf of my series and he’s hard-headed, stubborn, cocky, and all wolf. He hates his father because he left him and his mother when he was young for another family.

I resisted so much of the story because I flat out didn’t like that he hated his father, but I couldn’t change that, no matter how much I wanted to, but the more I wrote, the more I realised that something else had changed.

The story was originally very young, with flashbacks of Travis learning all about things in his life but while I was stuck (and binging on BVB and all things Andy Biersack) I realised that the real reason I was stuck was that I was so resistant to the change that needed to happen within the story.

It needed to be aged forward in time. A lot of what I had written would need to be scrapped (I threatened to delete the words often enough) and I needed to work on working with dual narrators. It also would change a lot of the plot. I’m okay with change, alright that’s a lie, change initially scares me, and knowing that I needed to change such a hugs part of my story was terrifying to me.

Writing has always been somewhat cathartic for me.

I retreat inwards when I write and deal with a lot of my issues on the page. It’s why I get so angry when I get told to get my head out my words and into the real world. I’m an introvert, a shy one at that, and I need that time to retreat inwards and just deal with my shit, but sometimes these things sneak up on me.

With the change in the pacing and timing of the story, it eased up a few things and I could get out of my head and into the story but then I hit a dead end again.

A. Fucking. Dead. End.

Do not pass go and collect $200 kind of dead end.

And I couldn’t figure out why. I was having a rough time with the emotions, I was getting sick and I was struggling to find the strength to do every day things that I needed to do because all I wanted to do was sit around and read. Escaping from reality is one of my coping mechanisms, but it’s also a way to recharge for me.

I’d unconsciously also realised that my reading had become swayed by beautiful books written by every day women that I admired, or wanted to support. They were non-fiction and I could feel my writing slipping from the prose that I enjoyed to something that was a chore to do.

There’s a reason why my reading is normally 95% fiction, and it’s because my writing, and everyone’s writing, tends to mimic what we read. It’s an unconscious thing, but it happens, it’s nothing to be ashamed of either. I hadn’t read any fiction in a long time and it was mostly because I kept telling myself that I didn’t have the time and that I had to do this and do that.


I picked up a book that had been sitting around my apartment for months and read it. I’m pretty sure I finished it in like 6 days between everything I was doing and found that I could do this. I was excited to sit down and write.

But there was still nothing coming through. It was like my well of inspiration had dried up, and while I don’t believe in the muse, I’d almost thought that invoking one of them would help.

It’d tried everything, going for a walk, moving from my desk, to my bed, to my couch, to my tablet or phone while going elsewhere. Menial tasks also normally help, washing my clothes, having a shower…all on the list of things that helped get my out of my writing head and letting the ideas come, but nothing.

I was driving to work when I pulled up in the slip lane to turn onto the drive that a resounds “Oh Fuck” left my lips and I realised what scene I was missing to bridge the gap. One that would stretch me and pull me back into the world of what it felt like to lose my dad and the memories that blended together, it would challenge me because I never had a chance to be catatonic and mourn him in my own way. But I remembered the empty feeling that sometimes caused me to feel like I was doing nothing right or that my day was weird because I was missing something that I couldn’t put into words or even understand.

Writing is the best tool we have at our fingertips to heal ourselves. I don’t journal, because I hate it, I meditate sketchily because my brain is active and I can never get anywhere, but I know it’s because my meditation is different.

My writing is my meditation.

The instant I put on some music and put my fingers to the keyboard, the world fades away, whether it’s day or night is irrelevant to me, people can walk past and I’ll completely ignore them (my housemate said good morning to me on a post it note and slipped it onto my desk), nothing else matters but what’s going on on screen for me and my characters.

Writing heals and when people say otherwise, they are lying and denying what writing can do for them. It’s just like the way lyrics can heal a broken heart or help a person drop a blade and stop self harming or even makes you dance around the place because of the silly lyrics, they’re done on purpose. Words have power, words can heal, so why don’t we use them more? Why do we let others try and tear us down with the words they say?

Writing should be something that is Holy. It should be revered and worshipped because of the joy it brings and the healing it does in the world. Why are people out there breaking and bringing people down with their trash talk because they don’t like the way they’ve written something or the writer killed off a character they loved?

Mandi is a writer, reader, dreamer and is breaking procrastinating inner editors, one at a time.

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