Nine NaNoWriMo Pep Talks for Your Brand of Writing Despair

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

About ten days into 2020’s NaNoWriMo, I got so discouraged with my work that I almost walked away from it entirely. My very supportive partner was asleep in the other room. I didn’t want to wake him and demand a half-coherent pep talk, especially when I knew everything he’d probably say (and I’d agree with all of it too): You’ve done this before, you can do it again, NaNoWriMo isn’t about the quality of what you’re writing, you can’t edit an empty page, etc. etc. etc. 

Instead, I went to NaNoWriMo’s pep talks, and they were…actually pretty helpful. 

I mean, when you’re writing productively, you’re letting your imagination run wild. But when you have writer’s block, all that imagination turns away from envisioning a hot orc’s independent bookstore (just as an example) and towards visualizing all the ways in which you are Just The Worst, Worse Than Literally Everyone Else. You get isolated inside your own head, and NaNoWriMo pep talks are about reminding you that everybody gets stuck in their head. Everyone has been where you are, you wonderful novelist. 

So. Here are some NaNoWriMo pep talks, conveniently organized so you can find someone with a similar brand of writing despair to your own. Enjoy(?)!

Bitch, it’s 2020 Despair

This year sucks. This year sucks so hard, and that makes it almost impossible on some days to remember why we write in the first place. If you’re having trouble with facing 2020, check out Alexis Daria’s pep talk.

Internal Critic Despair

Your internal critic is a sneaky little loser who masquerades as the smartest person in the room. For help with naming and dismissing your critic, check out these talks from Karen Russell and Kami Garcia

I Kept Listening to the Internal Critic and Now I Want to Burn My Laptop Despair

It’s the dark night of the soul for your writer’s block. The abyss is swallowing every good idea that you ever had and ever will have. You’re wishing you never learned to read. Before you drag your files over to the recycle bin, read what N. K. Jemisin has to say about this kind of despair. 

40k Words and Crying Despair

Technically speaking, you’re really close to being done. But you’re close to being done in the way that someone who is 80% up Mt. Everest is close to being done, meaning you’re…not done. Regain some motivation with Jason Reynold’s pep talk. 

I Thought Writing was Supposed to be Fun Despair (Optimist Edition)

When you started writing, you felt like sweet Bilbo Baggins running out of Bag End and into an adventure. But now you’ve endured threats from a weird nerd obsessed with riddles, faced giant spiders while wrapped up like a burrito, and sent your friends downriver in barrels. It’s not a good time anymore. It just feels like gross, messy work. For help reclaiming the magic, read this talk from Charlie Jane Anders

I Thought Writing was Supposed to be Fun Despair (Pessimist Edition)

Guess what: It feels like gross, messy work because it is gross, messy work. Get back to it after reading what Justina Ireland has to say. 

I Just Need Hot Cocoa and Practical Advice Despair

At this point, you might be thinking, “all of these ways of thinking about writing are really nice, but how do I actually, you know, buckle down and do it? How do I write when I have writer’s block? How do I write when I have a bajillion other obligations? Why won’t someone just give me some advice?” Don’t worry, reader. Jeff VanderMeer and Deb Olin Unferth have that covered. 


Happy/productive writing, everyone! No matter what your word count is, writing something is better than writing nothing.

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