Why I quit NaNo … at 39018 words


Today I quit NaNoWriMo. I’ve written 39018 words. I’ve still got three days. I’m only about 5000 words behind target to finish on time. But I quit. I’m giving up. As painful as it is, I am quitting.

Why?Because today I went to the dentist. In a panic. With the cold dread fear, not of the dentist, but that there was something wrong with my very expensive crown. That I’d done something terrible by not meticulously flossing and brushing and that by occasionally going to bed without brushing my teeth, I’d compromised the very beautiful and expensive piece of porcelain holding my left lower 6th and the whole of my jaw in place.

I’m not an anxious person. I have had only one full blown panic attack in my whole life. Last night I was so convinced that I’d fucked it, I couldn’t sleep. I berated myself for not taking care of myself. All night I was awake and when I wasn’t awake I dreamed of a jaw with a giant space where my tooth was supposed to be. I was in such a panic by the time I arrived, I cried at the dentist. I opened with my concerns and then cried.

He’s lovely and reassuringly x-rayed my jaw. Then took more x-rays. Then examined my teeth. Testing them. My crown is totally fine. Totally sound, no problem. My gums are fine. My bones are fine. There are no problems that a scale and clean and a bit more flossing won’t fix.

My stress on the other hand is another matter. Bluntly, but gently the dentist told me I could either de-stress and stop grinding my teeth out of my head every night or he could fit me with a $600 mouth guard to wear every night for the rest of my life.

Then there is the ulcer on my wrist. From a rose thorn scratch. It is now infected. Could be an ulcer not sure, but definitely red, angry and weeping. And the fact that any time anyone asks me how I am, I can’t even fake it convincingly anymore. They just don’t believe me. One colleague asked me if I was sick. I’m hardly ever sick. I must look like shit.

I could try to finish. I could try right now to sit down and write more than 2000 words which is what is required to keep me in the game to finish on time. It would be crap, I’m tired and it would use up more of the reserve that’s keeping me going. This story is complex. It’s full of flashbacks. It’s beautiful in parts and is worth telling well. I love it and it is a lot better than my other story. It is hard to write, because it is worth writing. I cannot work full-time with all the extraordinary goings on there, and come home, ignore my family totally and then write for hours for one more day. I just cannot do one more day.

I might have made it had it not been the estimates hearing, had I not had staff away, had there not been children’s parties, had the Cecile Brunner rose, that was already damaged by the removal of a tree next to it, not been destroyed by possums, had the carefully nurtured sunflower seeds brought home from pre-school not been eaten by snails and had it not been 39 degrees last Sunday, I might have made it.

I didn’t. Instead the added weight of writing a novel while doing all these things was too much. Most people would have recognised this straight off. Not me. Until today. After all, a fabulously, ridiculous timeline to finish a novel isn’t worth a tooth.