Thursday, December 5, 2019

Choose Wisely

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I didn’t win NaNo. I could have won, but I didn’t, and I’m not sorry.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, NaNo is short for NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal of NaNo is to write 50K in one month. I have no idea what a typical writing month looks like for writers who write full time, but for this writer, 50K is a lot. By a lot, we’re talking double what I would normally consider a very good month.

I got close. I could have done it.

But I chose not to, and I think the choosing is why I don’t feel bad about it. 

I had friends and family in my house all Thanksgiving weekend and it was awesome. We ate yummy food and kids played outside and we talked and laughed and cheered for our team. I spent most of Thanksgiving weekend prioritizing my real life over my fictional world, but before even one person was invited over, I seriously considered spending the entire weekend writing. In the end I chose to let the word count slide. 

Please understand, this is not a criticism of anyone who came out of their writing cave long enough to fuel up with the kind of carbs marathoners need and then went back to a world that is only real inside their heads. Sometimes, that’s what is required—I’ve been there—and if that was you this Thanksgiving, I hope the words flowed like gravy poured over mashed potatoes! 

This is to encourage those of you for whom the word count slipped a bit. And maybe it will continue to slip for the next few weeks as we race like stampeding reindeer move through Advent and into Christmas. 

If you’re worried about how the holidays will impact your writing, let me make two suggestions:

1. Write every day. Even if it’s just for five minutes. 

I’m not a fan of the “you have to write every day to be a real writer” philosophy, but when life is bonkers and you can barely keep up, taking that five, ten, fifteen minutes may not make much of a dent in your word count, but it does keep the story fresh in your mind and it keeps the story important in your list of priorities. That few minutes a day will pay off huge when you do sit down to write for a longer stretch, whether that’s next week or in January.

I wrote every single day in November. Even after I had a houseful of people, I didn’t stop writing, but I did stop stressing about the word count and the progress for a few days, and for me, for this year, it was the right choice. I took two days off, and got back at it in December. I’ll write every day in December, but I’ll also go to Christmas parties and plays, the ACC Championship, and I’ll even squeeze in a few Hallmark movies. :) 

2. Prayerfully ask yourself why you’re so focused on writing during this season.

Is it a deadline? Then prayerfully beg ask beg God to give you words and time, and eyes to see when He gives you pockets of peace to create. He does that, and I’m always staggered by the way He gives me time I didn’t think I would have. 

If you aren’t on a deadline, then look hard at your motives. Sometime we secretly enjoy our martyr status. There’s a sneaky vein of pride in that, y’all. Sometimes we use our writing to help us avoid less pleasant things or as a convenient excuse to help us get out of things we should do but don’t want to do. There’s a twisty river of dishonesty there. 

But what if it’s really about fear? Fear that if you take any kind of break from the push toward publication, then it won’t happen. If it’s fear, and y’all, I’ve been there, then it’s time to release your grip on that story, that poem, that study, that essay, and remember that you serve a God who writes amazing stories and He’s writing yours. He can’t be thwarted by a disappointing December word count. You serve a much bigger God than that!

This season, choose trust. Trust that God, the same God who loved you so much He sent His Son to live and die for you, will give you the time to create. And whether He chooses to give you five minutes or five hours, whatever He gives will be enough. 


Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy—but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations—while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Her Dive Team Investigations series kicked off in 2018 with Beneath the Surface and In Too Deep (A SIBA Okra pick and Selah Award Finalist). The 3rd book in the series, One Final Breath, releases in September 2019. She is also the author of Hidden Legacyand Covert Justice,which won the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel and the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after at and on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.


  1. Wise words, Lynn. And just maybe, your story will be better for the slowdown. I know mine will be.

  2. I'm one who did not finish NaNo. At 20K, my computer completely failed. It took an entire week to purchase a new one, have all my stuff put on it, and learn the new operating system. Then we traveled to another state for Thanksgiving. But that 20K gave me a good start and a new perspective.
    Maybe next NaNo I will do more pre planning. Meanwhile, I'll do what you suggest in this holiday month - write 5, 10, 15 minutes per day. Thanks for the encouragement.