Ahhh, Autumn! Don’t you just love the fall season? The air is crisp, the leaves begin to change, apples and pumpkins abound…and you’re reminded that NaNoWriMo is just around the corner.
What’s that? You don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? NaNoWriMo (or NaNo, for short) is an acronym that stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an international event where thousands of people commit to the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. For those of you doing the math, that’s 1667 words per day.
Pretty awesome, right?
I first heard about NaNoWriMo back in 2011, but I didn’t actually attempt to participate until 2013. That was the year I was preparing to make the jump from being a stockbroker to becoming an author. I saw this challenge as the perfect way to get my feet wet. It was also an opportunity to see if I was able to write and work on a consistent basis, sort of like a litmus test.
I’m happy to say I made my goal that year, as well as the following two years. 2016 will be my fourth year participating, and every year I take something new from the experience. In my opinion, it’s one of the best things any writer can do, whether you have dreams of being published or not.
So, without further ado, here is my list of reasons why YOU should participate in NaNoWriMo 2016.
- Prioritize Your Writing – That book idea that you’ve always wished you could write has been knocking around in the back of your head for ages, but who has the time? Well now, for one month out of the year, YOU DO! NaNo gives you a reason to carve out some time and feed your soul. To create! Talk to the people closest in your life. Tell them you want to do this. Come up with a plan to make it happen. Maybe that means you spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon at your local library. Maybe that means you record your ideas during the commute from work and transcribe them when you get home. Perhaps you jot a few sentences down while you’re standing in line for your coffee. However you manage to find time, you’ll know you’re progressing towards your goal and creating something new and wonderful in the world.
- Catch Momentum – I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time completing things. I’m great at getting an idea and starting something. Sticking to it? Seeing it through to the finish line? Man, that’s tough. Usually I get about three-quarters of the way through and start to fizzle. Luckily, when you participate in NaNoWriMo, there is a slew of people, resources, and encouragement to keep you progressing. You realize that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s an event. It’s a movement. We’re not just talking about your immediate community either. This is happening around the world! And, you know what? They’re struggling, too. There’s something empowering about giving out and seeking support. You’re more likely to succeed by banding together.
- Foster Discipline – Let’s face it, your life may be busy, but you still manage to find time to check Facebook, watch that crazy cat video on YouTube, or zone out for an hour in front of the television. If you’re like me, there are probably a few hours every day that you could be more productive. Heck, even with writing as my day job I struggle with this! Sometimes, it’s so much easier to procrastinate than to write. I sit down at my computer and next thing I know I’ve spent a couple of hours reading my Twitter feed, or blog posts, or any number of things. By committing to the NaNoWriMo goal, I’m forcing myself to write every day. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. The thirty days in November could be your way of doing that.
- Silence The Critic – Maybe finding the time to write isn’t your problem. Maybe you’re the kind of writer who can sit down and write pages and pages, no problem. Then, when you go back and read it, you’re just as quick to hit the delete button. Stop doing that! Think about it. Do you think potters throw their clay on a wheel and instantly have a beautiful pot? No! That vase or bowl first started out as a large lump of clay. They had to throw it onto the pottery wheel first. With NaNoWriMo the emphasis is on producing a first draft. In fact, you’re actively encouraged not to erase anything. You have to allow yourself the opportunity to grow your idea and shape it into a finished product. That means you have to actually have something to work with first. 50,000 words is a LOT to work with.
- Find Your Community – When you go to the NaNoWriMo site and first set up your profile, you have the opportunity to designate your home region. Back in 2013, when I was first going through this process, I didn’t know anybody. I had moved to Massachusetts from Seattle a few years before, but I worked in an office with one other person. (Who was nice, but we didn’t have a lot in common.) All of a sudden, here was this group of people who shared a similar interest. These were readers, and writers, and do-ers, and thinkers…in other words, my kind of peeps. I’ve recently written about how important it is as a writer to foster a community of peers. NaNoWriMo gives you the opportunity to do just that. And between the kick-off party, the write-ins, and the online commiserating, you may find at the end of your 30 days that you have a new group of friends to write with year-round. (That’s what happened for me.)
- Accomplish Something – This last point is a little harder to explain. Sometimes, it can be hard to be a creator. Many of us will never publish a book. Fewer will become best-selling authors. Heck, I know a lot of writers who struggle with even claiming that they ARE writers. Too often in our society, if you’re not getting paid then it doesn’t count. But, is that really fair? I write first and foremost because I LOVE writing. I love the way language can perfectly capture an emotion or convey an idea. I love the act of communicating and connecting with other people. I love the process of creating something out of nothing. People play sports for the love of sport all the time. Nobody stops and asks them why, since they’ll never go pro. Musicians regularly meet in basements and garages to play music together. Nobody asks why they bother since they’ll never win a Grammy. NaNoWriMo gives you a chance to create, participate, and at the end of the month, point to your 50,000 words and say, “I did that.” It’s a great achievement that you can take pride in. That sense of accomplishment has the power to encourage you to keep doing what you love.
If you’ve been on the fence about participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I hope these points have encouraged you to go for it. Starting a profile is FREE! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even if you only write 20,000 words, it will be more than you had before. So what’s stopping you?
I’d love to hear from you. Are you a writer who does NaNo? If so, what are YOUR reasons for doing it?