IWSG: Running On Empty

“Please don’t run out, please don’t run out,” I prayed silently as my old Plymouth Neon sputtered down the dark road.

I was on my way to pick up Dan from work at Blockbuster (yeah, this is back when he was my boyfriend. Holy crap–we’ve been married 15 years now!) I’d seen a movie with my girlfriends and unexpectedly had to take someone home. As usual, I was running on empty. Even though money was tight on waitressing tips from Perkins, it wasn’t that I didn’t have cash. I simply never left myself enough time to stop for gas while rushing around town. And I’d gotten cocky. I’d seen the needle just past empty and made it enough times not to be.

But not on this night. I pulled into the church parking lot off the side of the road, cursing my lack of faith. And because this was before the age of cellulars, I ran to the nearest gas station . . . about two miles away. The nice man inside let me use the phone to call Blockbuster, but it was past midnight on Friday. They’d already locked up, not answering any more calls, and Dan stood in the parking lot waiting for me, assuring his coworkers I’d arrive any minute now as they left one by one.

Old habits die hard. I sometimes do the same thing with my writing. In November, I participated in NaNo for the first time ever.


And boy, did I start out running at top speed, barely slowing down enough to say more than a few words to my family. I’d get up late each morning, exhausted from my 2a.m. sprint from the night before, rush headlong into the day teaching middle school, write all evening, and repeat the cycle . . .  for ten days. Yeah, ten. Perhaps you recall this Twitter update from me:

Jamie M Ayres     ‏@jamiemayres                10 Nov

Haven’t done a #NaNoWriMo update in a while b/c I’ve been, ya know, writing, hahaha! Up to 27,960 words total. How’s everyone else doing?!

Yeah, you read that right. 27, 960 words in just 10 days? You were all thinking I was some rock star, thinking, “She’s got this, right?”


Want to know my final word count for the month?

30, 968

I left no time for other things, putting myself at risk of running on empty again, being stranded in the dark, far away from my husband.

So, what’s the answer? National Novel Writing Month isn’t for me. I need balance. And in the end, even though I didn’t finish the race before they took the clock down, I still count myself a winner. I still have 30,000+ words I wouldn’t have had before. That’s 30,968 words to the last novel in my trilogy, 18 Thoughts. And with 18 Truths being released next month, I’m confident I won’t have to wait a freakin’ year in-between book releases next time. Go me!

I’d love to know your thoughts! What do you do to keep your tanks full? Are you running on empty? Is it time for a fill-up? The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is the perfect pit stop!

Buccaneer Blogfest and IWSG


15 comments on “IWSG: Running On Empty

  1. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be doing NaNo again. It was great the first 2 times (the 2nd time I actually finished), but it’s not for me. I’m up until 2 am most of the time anyway, but I’m working on my own novels at my own pace. Hopefully, I’ll be starting a new job soon and I’ll have to hit the bed a little earlier. It’s all in the balance. And when you see yourself getting a little empty in the family department, that’s when you have to park the writing in the garage and get rejuvenated by what really matters. The writing will wait. Family won’t. great post.

  2. Hi Jamie!

    Well at least you know it’s not a good system for you. Power writes dont work for everyone. I did nano one time and haven’t done it since. Mainly cuz it’s like the worst month ever for a power write. Lol

    My hubby teases me all the time cuz I’m always “on E”. I know the exact place below the line to where I can push it. And I do. Luckily no stories like yours yet. *fingerscrossed*

    Btw saw your note you were in O-town but I had to work. If you’re ever in Tampa let me know! We should totally meet up!

  3. Life is about balance. We can step it up, but if we go full out, something will be thrown out of whack.
    Be happy with the word count though. That’s still a lot in one month!
    How did the Blockbuster story end?

  4. LOL, even without reminding us that your story took place years ago when you were dating your husband, we know it’s an old memory solely from his place of employment. Interesting how some basic facts speak volumes. I’m definitely a person who needs balance. Have never tried NaNo because I’ve never been in the right spot to sprint for a month. I’m sure I’ll try it one day. But I think I work better when I mix the research with the writing with the submitting and the living the rest of my life. Hey, part of this crazy journey is figuring out what works for us specifically, right?
    –December IWSG co-host

  5. Hey, you had to try it to find out whether it worked for you or not, right? NaNo is definitely not for everyone. I can tell you its not for me. Funny though, I didn’t join it because I didn’t think I could handle the pressure, yet I wrote well over 50 last month. Does that mean I will join next time? Nope. Still know it isn’t for me. On that note, you still did a wonderful job with your word count. I hope you get that balance going and don’t run out of gas anymore 😛

  6. The thought of NaNo leaves me running on empty without even trying it. It’s simply not the way I write or ever will, but I love that each writer is different and that NaNo works for some.

  7. I never let the tank get below half … I convince myself that only the top half counts so the bottom half is always there as a reserve. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, when I’ve planned to do stuff on a particular day, and suddenly my body says something like, “Um, we hurt so we’re going to make you stay in bed all day!”

    I got through NaNo this year, just, and I’m undecided about next year, because quantity isn’t the way I write. (which I learned by doing NaNo for the first time this year) I like to edit as I go. … however, perhaps this year wasn’t typical as I lost two weeks writing time because of ‘stuff’ getting in the way.

    Congrats on getting your 30,000! That’s over a third of a novel!

  8. I love your story about running on empty!
    NaNoWriMo is great for testing new limits and finding out what keeps the words flowing. I think you did that, so don’t be afraid to call yourself a winner. Thirty thousand words is definitely nothing to sneeze at. 🙂
    I can’t wait to read 18 Truths! You’ll let us know when we can get our hands on a copy, won’t you? 😉

  9. Way to go on those 30,000+! I have never signed up for NaNo, but I do love the energy and buzz on social media that happens during that hectic month. 🙂

  10. Nanowrimo isn’t for me either! Two years I attempted it and instead only wrote (and fixed up) outlines. It worked out because I eventually turned both outlines into books. But placing strict rules on myself, always peeking over one shoulder to see how everyone else is doing… that’s not the creative freedom I need.
    Congrats on your 30k words, though! That’s definitely an accomplishment

  11. I’m still working on the book I started last November (not as a NaNo participant), so there was no way I could’ve finished it in time to start anything new. It’s one thing to have deadlines for school papers, but feeling compelled to create a certain length by a certain date for your fiction seems to stifle creativity. When I wrote 397K in three months and 406K in five months, there was no pressure or deadline. I just happened to be extremely inspired, with no blocks or interruptions.

  12. hey jamie!
    sounds like something out of a horror novel! lol
    power writes have never worked for me
    besides, i figure even if u can do 500 words a day, u still finish a novel in 6 months! that sounds pretty damn good to me lol

  13. That’s why I don’t do Nano either. I have a very stringent writing schedule that I already adhere to. The pressure of 50,000 in one month is just too much… especially since I do not write on weekends, in general. I’d rather take a month and a half, or maybe even two months, and have a legible first draft that does not make me want to scream.

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