I was really sad to miss on out NaNoWriMo this year, because I really love it.

I love the write-ins, the socials, the overall energy, and even the popping, fizzing excitement on the website itself. It’s like a separate, festive season just for writers. In fact, someone a few weeks ago in late October was remarking on how November is just so bleak and blah, and I had to jump in and say, “No way–it’s one of my favourite months!”

She seemed startled by my enthusiasm and asked whether it was my birthday month or something. When I explained about NaNo, truth to tell, she seemed even more nonplussed, but never mind. I imagine you get the point–I luurrve NaNoWriMo.

And alas… this year, I was the gloomy little Edward Gorey child, standing outside the candyshop window, watching all the excitement going on within.

But for all those of you like me, who just didn’t have the time, and/or the wherewithal to participate this year, things are not all bad. There are still lessons to be learned. I highlight five, in descending order.

5. You can participate, even without participating. I set up a daily digest from paper.li of NaNoWriMo tweets, articles, and features. It was a great way to check in, and enjoy a bit of the energy and excitement of it all, even if I couldn’t be a part of it more directly. If I had more time, I would have gone to the events as well, but alas, that will have to wait until (I hope!!) next year.

And, Edward Gorey-referencing hyperbole aside, I actually love the energy of NaNo. Seeing people being creative, enthusiastic, and supportive of each other is inspiring, and that bouyed me along in the work that I was doing too. It might not have been fiction, but there’s scope for creative thinking in many things, and the backdrop of NaNo added fuel to my fire as well.

4. NaNo may come but once a year, but the ideas stay the whole year through. I had brainstormed a few ideas for NaNo. I even wrote all of 1200 or so words on the story I ended up deciding on, before realizing that NaNo-ing amid all my other obligations was simply not on (well, I actually kind of knew all along). But I still have those ideas, which arose out of my initial urgency, and my need to come up with something for Nov. 1st–stuff that I may not have come up with if I hadn’t decided to take a crack (no matter how halfhearted) at NaNo. I’m looking forward to developing one–or several–of them, once things slow down and I have a bit more time.

3. You can create your own mini-NaNo any time of the year. NaNo itself started as a crazy idea that people didn’t think could be done. Its small beginnings and spectacular growth has been all grassroots-y and supercool–and indeed, that’s an integral part of its magical goodness.

So, if November doesn’t work for you, then cook up some grassroots goodness of your own. Find a small group of friends, or put out the call on writing forums, and do a NaNo of your own. I’ve done write-ins throughout the year–this is just the next step up from there. Or, if you’re more a life of the party than a host of the party type–then there’s always Camp NaNo during the 30-day summer months!

2. Sanity is important. NaNo-ing can lead to nuttiness, particularly at all-nighter sessions and other such wacky events that are part of the festivities. This is all good, fun, creative nuttiness. But if you have pressing, outside obligations, then you’re doing no-one–least of all yourself–any favours by stretching your inner resources into the finest of threads, on the verge of fraying. There’s no shame in making the choice to let go of one thing–no matter how compelling and fun–in order to be sane, rather than madly stressed, sleep-deprived, and frantic over trying to be TWO superheroes, rather than just the one superhero that you usually are, in your daily life.

1. There’s always next year. This may seem like a meagre consolation–but to me at least, it’s far from it. It’s actually rather exciting. It’s a whole new set of ideas, inspirations, and potentialities that I can look forward to seeking out and encountering (and if next year isn’t soon enough, see point 3., above) during the fun and festive NaNo season, sandwiched as it is between my favourite “holiday” (Samhain, obviously :-P) and the bright lights, the glitter, the good cheer, and the sparkle of Christmas Town (I am a total sucker for Christmas lights, cheer, and festivity to brighten up the short days and the long, sparkling nights).

So yes, while it’s too bad I wasn’t able to be part of the fun this year (except for that one, glorious day at the beginning, and the magnificently mediocre 1200 words or so that I managed to squeeze out), I have to say, I’m ultimately glad. I’ve made good progress on the two major research papers I have to write (60 pages total, right there, and if you’ve had to write such things, then you know that the research needed to fill those pages can be pretty extensive), as well as shorter papers and exams, including one for a course that I’d fallen dreadfully behind on. November has been well spent, finding topics, researching, making notes, speaking with profs and prepping for exams. I have no regrets. And I’m really looking forward to my next NaNo–whether that be in eleven months, or perhaps just a little bit sooner…