NaNoWriMo Prelude: Be Creative

October 9, 2015

It’s October! And in addition to the traditional ghosts and goblins that month is known for, it also heralds the run up to NaNoWriMo, the (inter)National Novel Writing Month in November. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you sit down and write a novel in the course of a month. Yet it’s so much more than that. It’s an opportunity. An opportunity to develop your creative talents and gain confidence in those talents and in yourself as a person.

NaNoWriMo is an annual event run by the Office of Letters and Light. You can get the full details on the official NaNoWriMo website, but the gist of it is that starting on November first and working up to and including November thirtieth you are challenged to write a novel of fifty thousand words. To put that in perspective, a typical adult novel is one hundred to one hundred fifty thousand words.

This is a personal challenge strictly for yourself. There’s no prize money or publishing contract or anything like that up for grabs. Although you get a pretty nifty downloadable certificate and badges that can be used on a website or a social networking profile if you hit the fifty thousand word target.

At the end of the month, if you want you can paste your story into the official NaNoWriMo word counter. Nothing further happens with your story and no one is going to read it. If you are worried about that possibility, there are ways to still get an accurate, official word count without submitting your actual manuscript. Yep, you’re going to have a manuscript. Cool, huh? Stay tuned to my blog throughout November to learn how to “obfuscate” your manuscript before submitting it for the official word count.

But enough of the basics. Onto the benefits of participating in this fantastic challenge!

Benefit 1: A Fixed Deadline

NaNoWriMo gives you a very specific time frame in which to work. You can start planning for it ahead of time but you’re not supposed to start writing until the first. And then you’re supposed to be done by the thirtieth.

Often when tackling a project of your own you may put that project off as other seemingly more important things come up. Or you may start the project but lose focus over time and not complete it. Here you have that period of a month to be focused on your project. And really, a month isn’t that much time to turn the TV off for.

Benefit 2: Constant Progress

I’ve written previously about getting into the habit of creating a little bit each day. That’s exactly what NaNoWriMo does for you. Fifty thousand words sounds like a lot, and it is if you try to do it all in one big chunk. But remember, you have thirty days for this. That works out to about 1,667 words a day. Depending on how fast you write, that should work out to about an hour and half to three hours a day, which is not that big of a time commitment.

If you write a bit of your story every day, after the first week you’ll find it habit forming. At that point, getting to the end of the month will become easier with each passing day.

Benefit 3: Permission to be Imperfect

So much of peoples’ lives is focused on being perfect. Whether that’s getting a good score on a school test or conducting a flawless client presentation in business or getting a fantabulous golf score. There’s a lot of pressure in the world to always do a good job.

I’m going to tell it to you straight. In NaNoWriMo you will have enough time to write your novel. You won’t have enough time to edit it. You need to keep marching towards that November thirtieth deadline. That means telling your internal editor/critic/nay-sayer to take a holiday. You know, that little voice that tells you something is no good, that you can’t possibly accomplish this, that you should give up now. Yep, say good-bye to that little voice for a month.

NaNoWriMo is about challenging yourself and rising to that challenge. It’s not about writing perfectly. Every time I’ve taken the challenge I’ve hit a point where the story isn’t flowing as well as I think it should. There’s no time to go back and change things. Instead I just push straight through and get on to the next good part of the story. Yes, this means that even as I’m writing the words I know they’re crap. But in NaNoWriMo there is no back there is only forward.

The beauty of this is that once you accept that there will be parts that you will write terribly you stop self-censoring. At that point, the ideas will really start to flow. Some will be terrible. Some will be average at best. And some, some will be pure gold.

Benefit 4: You Are Not Alone

NaNoWriMo is an event participated in by thousands of people all over the world. The NaNoWriMo website has not just a general forum for everyone, but city specific forums. And the WriMos in a particular city usually organize several in person write-ins where people can come out and work together in a community space. Even if you don’t drop into those, you can still communicate with people online for help and motivation. Think you’re stuck on your story? You won’t be after visiting the forums. People will give you crazy ideas to help get you moving again.

Benefit 5: Something from Nothing

At the start of the month you are going to have nothing. Sure, you may have some rough notes or an idea for a story but you won’t have anything written. Thirty days later, boom, a story will exist where none did before. And not just any story, your story.

NaNoWriMo isn’t easy, but worthwhile things seldom are. It takes discipline. It takes the personal decision not to give up. And at the end of the month you’ll be able to look back and see how much you were able to create with just a couple of hours a day.

NaNoWriMo is a personal challenge for you. It’s to show you how much you can create by yourself. It’s to show you that you’re capable of creating something by yourself. That translates into confidence that you can use elsewhere in your life, whether it be another creative project, something for school, or even something for work. Believe me, it’s worth it taking one month to find out what you’re capable of.

After all, aren’t you worth it?