Learning to Say No: NaNoWriMo 2014

NaNoWriMo is coming up and I’m feeling complex feelings about it. I am so super busy—do I really have time to commit to 50,000 words? On the other hand, I have participated in it the last 4 years, and won the last 3, so I really want to. A lot of my friends are doing it this year, and I want to support them as well…

It seems that I have so much to do, and not nearly enough time to do it in. Recently, dips in my health and energy levels have left me too fatigued to get things done. I’m juggling:

  • a full-time course load—I’m taking 12 credits, the school recommends 3 hours of study per in class hour: 48 hours per week
  • my job as the Queeries Program Coordinator at our QRC: 20 hours per week
  • writing, editing, and meeting for the Black Girl Dangerous EIT Program: 5 hours per week, minimum
  • writing for TheProspect.net—interview prep time, interviews, transcription, writing, formatting, editing: about 5 per week
  • volunteering with the Vanport Multimedia Project—interview prep, filming, interviewing, transcribing, editing, meeting: about 5 per week
  • work around ongoing protests in Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Justice. That’s All, and Ferguson October—photography, editing, blogging, social media, organising, conference calls: 12 hours per week for the last 10 weeks
  • one-off events: Intersections event (about 3 hours per week for 5 weeks), OSP Poetry Slam (averages to about 1 hour per week for 3 weeks)…
  • sleep—I really do try for 8 hours a night, with greater or lesser degrees of success: 56 hours per week

That adds up to about 155 hours per week. There are 168 hours in a week.

Does anyone have a timeturner I can borrow?

I jest, but it’s true that there’s something wrong here. Eating, showering, other household stuff takes up that remaining 13 hours or so per week, leaving no self-care time. I’ve been struggling with my health a lot this past couple of weeks, and this much work is far too heavy a load.

NaNoWriMo is kind of a big deal: writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days requires writing about 1,667 words per day. I’ve done it for the last four years, and even “won” the last three while handling school and my other responsibilities, and I’m so tempted to try again this year. But even at my fastest, that’s a solid two hours of typing, assuming I don’t take any breaks, and I know that I’ve never had such a heavy load before. With so much on my plate, can I really commit to something like this?

The answer is no.

Yet, I find myself so ready to be convinced to say yes. As my friends gear up, start finding writing buddies and planning write-ins, I find it harder to hold myself back from volunteering, from signing up and committing to this feat. Truthfully, my health is nowhere near good enough, and my housing is up in the air—meeting my current commitments is proving too much. My heart says yes, but I’ve got to buckle down and say no.

All of the work I’m doing, everything I say “yes” to is fantastic; I’ve gotten so many great opportunities and met so many amazing people. It’s really hard to say no to things you want, but sometimes it’s necessary, so that you can say yes down the road.


Do you have any tips you’d like to share about practising self-care and setting boundaries? I’d love to have them; you can comment on this post or send me a message through the contact form.


Poem: Movement Mothers

I mentioned in my newsletter that I’ll be at the Oregon State Penitentiary tomorrow for the Uhuru Sa Sa Poetry Slam. Here’s one of the pieces I’ll be sharing.

Movement Mothers
Not so long ago they lit us on fire for who we loved, visibility and invisibility doing damage differently: hateful looks end with murdered teens tied to fence-posts, sweet bois and grrls beaten, children taken from us too soon, the bully’s hand manifest in the making of nooses, the loading of guns. We lose and are lost.

These days when the struggle is too much and holding my head up is too hard I think of Assata and Angela, Marsha and Carlett, Stormé, Audre, Alice, Octavia, and Laverne, sisters in struggle, sisters in strength, sisters looking out for sisters. Our vulnerability is just one more source of beauty—though the world does not see it, speaking our truth is an act of radical self-love in a world that tries to burn us down.