NaNoWriMo and Newborns: They’re Exactly the Same

Okay, not exactly. Alright, not even remotely. Having a newborn is way harder. But I’m writing this at 4:30 a.m., it’s midway through Week 2, and so I’ll milk this tortured analogy if you please.

It’s November 1, and you’ve given birth. You said you were gonna make this thing, and you did, and you can hardly believe it, and you’d rather go back to sleep, and no, no, don’t leave me alone with this thing! This tiny, needy, utterly dependent thing that is hardly more than a name right now. Did you give it the right name? It’s it too weird? Or worse, did everyone else just give theirs the same name? You will google this.

It will start out an unscheduled mess. No matter how much you planned for it. No matter how many books you read to prepare yourself. No matter even how many times you’ve done this before. You will be knocked to your knees with fatigue and shock at how relentless this thing is. It won’t matter if you’re a morning person or a night owl, it will demand you become both.

Your standards on everything will slip. Perfectionist much? Hah! Home-made sit down meals? Just don’t. Step away from the cutting board. Take-out is your friend this month. You will learn to type and eat one-handed as you negotiate the unending, mixed-up demands of your unscheduled infant novel and life. Clean is a relative concept, man.

No matter how much you nurse your greedy little bloodsucker newborn/wordcount, it will demand more. It will eat and burp and fall asleep in your arms and then wake up immediately after midnight, screaming as if you’ve been deliberately starving it. You will drain yourself dry, write yourself out, but somehow just by the very act of feeding this thing, you will create more food.

You will feel all the feels. Terror, elation, anger, depression, regret. Sometimes you will want to throw it out the window. But you won’t because that would be illegal you kind of sort of like it even if it has made you so sleep deprived you should be dead or at least have your driver’s license temporarily revoked. That tiny perfect curve of eyelash.That perfect little metaphor (that, ssh, I won’t tell you now, but you will kill dead in a later draft).

There will be poo. Shocking and appalling quantities of poo. But that’s a good thing. Poo equals growth.

You will have to take it with you everywhere. You will feed and change this little demon in every imaginable location: Airports, restaurants, grocery stores, bus stops, and park benches. The amount of equipment required to haul your infant idea along with you will stun you. And that one thing you didn’t bring (a fourth diaper/the entire box of wipes/your elementary school yearbook) will be the thing you need. So that dentist appointment you scheduled for November 20 back in September when you didn’t have a clue? Do yourself a favor: Reschedule it for February.

Google is your friend. No matter what time you’re up with this squalling, shitting little idea, no matter how strung out you are, someone else somewhere is living the same nightmare. Misery loves company. Except when that company becomes misery. You might find yourself on a thread filled with self-satisfied smuggles. You know the type. Them with their hyper-inflated word counts, placid babies born sleeping through the night. They’re only up this late/early to make you feel bad as they knit Christmas ornaments as thank-yous for their shower gifts while simultaneously handcrafting place cards for everyone on their Thanksgiving guest list. They’re already in talks with some Hollywood bigwig, and they just signed a baby modeling contract. Just block those smug buggers. They’re lying, okay? They’re just as strung-out as you are, and they have some sick need to pretend otherwise. But even if they’re not, fight the comparison monster. It wants to eat your baby.

It’s November 30. You’ve reached 50K words. You’re overjoyed. And then it shits right through its diaper all up its back, down its leg and onto your lap you start to read. And you realize something horrible. You’re not done. This is only the beginning. In fact, you will never be done (insert evil laugh here). You need to write more words, better words, and then you have to revise and revise some more and more and more and more and more, and oh my God, if you think it’s a bloodsucker now, just wait ’til it starts writing Christmas lists (Dear Santa, bring me all the Lego). You may never sleep again.

This thing you started will grow and take shape in ways that surprise even you, its creator, its first love. It will become something separate from you, something you can look at with a bemused, wondering pride. Did I really make that? Yeah, you did. But at some point it took off and kind of made itself, too.

And then it’s next year, and somehow you’ve forgotten just how hard it was, and you begin all over again.