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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Utecht

A Very Pregnant NaNoWriMo

I have participated in National Novel Writing Month for years. My first was in high school, which I'm only now realizing was 15 years ago. Some years I have completed the 50,000 words, others I have fallen disparagingly short.

In recent years, I've had far more failures than successes, maintaining a very binary approach to success (50k or more? Success. Anything short of that? Failure). This year was a year of a failure, with fewer than 20,000 words. It was painful, having started with high hopes for this novel I'd have largely drafted by the time December rolled around. Not only was I racing the end of the month but also to my due date.

I could explain this with any number of cruel reasons. Perhaps I've gotten lazier. Perhaps I'm not as dedicated to writing. Perhaps I'm just not that good at it. All those have crossed my mind as I failed to reach that NaNoWriMo goal, try that writing technique, or maintain that daily habit. I think though that, like many other writers around my age, I'm unfairly comparing myself to a past version of me. As we age, responsibilities mount. For me, I think about a solo version of myself that could lock herself up for a month and do very little else, leaving school work to turn in later, ignoring friends for a while, rushing through daily chores. But I'm not that solo version anymore.

When I met my husband, that solo became a duo. And then in just a single breath it seems, we are preparing to become four, two pregnancies, a newborn stage, and the hurricane of toddlerhood that seemed so long in the moment suddenly rushing past. With each new addition, the predictability of one’s routine diminishes. I didn’t expect my toddler to bring a cold (or seven) home this season. I didn’t expect this pregnancy to wipe me out so entirely in its final weeks. I didn’t expect the necessity of so many vet trips, or the piling work obligations, or the addition of an overnight field trip my husband needed to chaperone, and on and on. 

I think all of us with our adult obligations need to be a bit more flexible with ourselves, but I think this is especially true for parents of young children. We need to redefine success because we can’t expect to do what we had when we were so untethered. We need to create flexibility in this definition because we never know what a morning will look like. Will the car not start? Will the kiddo wake up with a fever? Will our power go out again (or our water or our gas or, god forbid, all three). 

While I don’t yet know how to define success and therefore failure, I know that I need to. There is so much advice for writers and so much advice for parents. What I need (do you as well?) is the advice, the new rules, in that place where those two things overlap.

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