On Writing and NaNoWriMo

It’s November, and that means it’s once again time for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a challenge to writers of all kinds to sit down and type out a 50,000-word first draft of a novel-length work of fiction. The concept was started to try to encourage people to listen more to the little creative voice in their head than to the little critical voice in their head for just a month. Just long enough to get that first draft down on paper. Or pixels.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few times over the years. I’ve finished my 50,000 words three times and failed twice. I’ve even edited and polished one of the manuscripts and tried sending it to an agent (no dice). And now I’ve decided to try again this year. I have a story idea that’s rattled about in the back of my head for years now and that I’ve started and let lapse enough times that I think it will take the focused motivation of NaNoWriMo to get me through it.

And that’s the real beauty of NaNoWriMo: the motivation. I can write. I can write quickly. I can come up with ideas. I can come up with lots of ideas. But when I try to force myself to sit down every day and type out 1,500-2,000 words to keep a story moving along, eventually I just… stop. I just skip a day. Or a couple days. And then it’s a week. And then I’ve forgotten about the story and if I try to come back to it, I don’t really remember what I was going for. I’ve found it’s important to keep a story in your head pretty much constantly until you’ve gotten it all out. At least for me.

With NaNoWriMo, you get constant reminders. There are emails. There is a website with statistics and a forum full of like-minded individuals to keep your mind on your writing. And that’s the other benefit I’ve found in participating in NaNoWriMo.

When my mind is entirely immersed in my writing, I find very little time to worry about other things that aren’t completely vital to my daily life. Sure, I get my work done and I cook food and take care of life things. But I don’t have time for anxiety. I find that instead of sitting in bed unable to sleep because of my anxious internal monologue, I’m thinking about future chapters. I’m drafting conversations between characters. Or I’m just mentally exhausted from a day of writing. And I drift off to sleep in blissful peace.

It’s like a kind of meditation. My mind is so focused on one goal that it empties of extraneous thought. Part of me wishes I could find a way to keep this focus the rest of the year but most of me is just happy that I have it for the month of November.

Happy writing, WriMos!