November. Poets test themselves by writing a poem each day. Novelists attempt to write 50,000 words of a book. Pumpkin-spice everything still saturates the atmosphere like cinnamon smog. And I get an unhealthy dose of inadequacy coated in guilt.
"All the real writers are doing interesting projects this month", my mind hisses as I skim past blog posts and articles about maximizing efficiency during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
I try to ignore tweets about who is doing what challenge. I push down hollowness when people say they find the most support during November's marathons of words; I struggle a lot with finding anything resembling a writer's group, so it's difficult to swallow... just a bit.
But, when I express how I feel to some of my able-bodied writing acquaintances, they don't understand. I can join in whenever I want, in their point of view. Some imply I'm lazy without saying it outright... which does nothing beneficial.
I've completed the Poem-a-Day challenge a few times. It's a cool feeling, all the progress I can make in thirty days. The ghost of pride sinks into my soul for a small rest.
It's also nerve-racking. Exhausting (at points). Something that interrupts my Thanksgiving visit to my family's place. There are even flickers of self-hatred, when midnight nears and words are far. Damn it all, though! I'm a REAL WRITER when I do the challenge...
Oh... there's the word "real" again. Real still. Is this the fire I must roll through, to be real? Who came up with this concept? I'm leveling it against myself, but... is it "mine"? Have I swallowed ableist junk just to regurgitate it? Do I compare myself too readily to those without my... intricacies?
Maybe, this November, the challenge shouldn't be a specific word count or a mountain of new poems. Maybe it should be a month of self-kindness.
I'm a writer no matter how many words get written by 11:59 PM on November 30th. I was a poet before it, and I'll be one after. Now, if I can just remember that in November...
Do you have complicated feelings about November writing challenges? How do you reassure yourself when you're feeling like a phony or lazy?