I’ve failed at all my past NaNoWriMo attempts. Imagine my surprise this year when I managed to pump out my word counts daily. On day 27, I had more than 47,000 words—meaning there’s only winning up ahead. I see, you, 50K. We will meet soon!
What made this year different? I already wrote a blog answering that question on Day 13. That was when I realized I was ahead and on track to win.
For this post, I’ll tell you what I loved about NaNoWriMo 2021 and why I think it’s a valuable process for every writer. Yes, this means I’ll have to do it again next year. That’s OK. I have come up with an idea for a full-on series from this year’s NaNoWriMo!
What I thought would be only one book turned into THREE. I can’t tell this story in one, 50K-word novel! So here comes a series…
- I became more creative
- My writing benefitted from parameters and routine
- This re-acquainted me with literary writing
- NaNoWriMo Made Me Put Writing First
- The value NaNoWriMo brings to writers
1. I Became More Creative
Forcing myself to get 1,666 a day for 30 days straight gave me a very interesting result. I found myself focused on getting the writing done each day, even if I fell short of that number. Forcing myself to push through and meet a daily goal surprised me. I found myself writing things spontaneously that I hadn’t planned mentally ahead of time.
This led to creativity I didn’t know I had! I was writing scenes I hadn’t imagined I would create. Instead of driving myself to create, the creativity began to flow. It took on a life of its own as I transformed into a channel or a witness. This is the most in the flow I’ve been in ages!
2. My Writing Benefitted From Parameters And Routine
I’ve always been a fan of parameters and routines when it comes to creative writing. I know many creatives fight this. But NaNoWriMo ’21 proved to me that these two ideas are valuable. Having the simple parameter of having a daily word count was a motivating factor.
If I didn’t write, I’d fall behind. If I were to engage in too many missed days, winning NaNoWriMo would be impossible. Having the parameters led to the daily routine of getting up and getting the words in before my coffee got cold. It was simple.
3. NaNoWriMo ‘21 Reacquainted Me With Literary Writing
I hadn’t attempted NaNoWriMo since 2014 or 2015. Most of my writing since my last attempt had been in blogging, marketing, radio, and TV. There were also random writing gigs sprinkled in here and there. I had been writing for commercial, rather than literary, purposes.
NaNoWriMo ’21 brought me back to writing for my enjoyment. I’d never gotten far in my previous NaNoWriMo attempts. I don’t think I’d ever gotten past a few thousand words. NaNoWriMo doesn’t dictate any parameters for creativity. You can go wild. No one is reading it. There’s a special kind of freedom that comes from writing hard and fast with a deadline looming.
I found that I was taking more chances in my writing. I wrote when I didn’t want to write, even on Thanksgiving. I began to look at my WIP as a living thing that would die if I didn’t open Scrivener and add to it daily. These changes in perspective are valuable.
4. NaNoWriMo Forced Me to Put Writing First
I knew the only way I’d write daily was to write first thing in the morning. Sometimes, I chose to blow that off and write in the evening. In those instances, my word count was lower. So my initial thought was correct in that I need to get up and write first thing. That’s when I do my best writing.
I’m pretty sure I have written almost daily for years. There have rarely been days when I hadn’t opened up my laptop to get some done. I’ve either written for a job or my blogs for years now. But it’s different to work towards writing for the same project on every day of November. This forced me to pursue the idea, even in moments where it felt hard and I thought I had gotten lost. I decided to push through and rewrite later.
Putting the writing first completely overhauled my morning routine. The only thing about my mornings that stayed the same was that I’d get up, feed my cats, and make a cup of coffee. There were mornings I was so on fire about writing the novel that I skipped breakfast!
I was a woman on a mission. I’d sit down and write. It was that simple. All the other silly things I may do to “wake up” fell by the wayside. No morning putzing, no fussing with the dishwasher. Nothing. I just wrote.
5. The Value Nanowrimo Brings To Writers
First, it forces you off your ass. Second, NaNoWriMo forces you to be consistent. These are two major problems for writers.
Writers tend to get attached to unhelpful ideas that prevent writing. Chief among those are procrastination and “writer’s block.” You control your procrastination. But you also control the story about “writer’s block.” Since I choose not to believe in it, I don’t have it. “Writer’s block” is like religion in that way.
We writers also hold ourselves up in limiting beliefs about our work. We let doubts and fears not only rob us of the enjoyment of writing, but we also let them block us from even trying at all. Writers tend to be masterful at talking ourselves out of writing. We hedge when it comes to our greatness. We tend to allow our confidence to erode as we allow the work to never get done.
Or, we can use NaNoWriMo to help us push past this phase. It can become a tool. We can say, “Oh, isn’t that awesome that my friend write 3,000 words today?” This is much more helpful than the other internal dialogue so common in writers. That one goes, “Oh, she write so many thousands and I only wrote one thousand words, she must be better than me. Yes, she’s doing better. I suck. I should give up.” It sounds insane, doesn’t it? But I guarantee there’s someone out there who wrote 4,000 words by November 5 and gave up.
NaNoWriMo tests your commitment to your craft and temps you to give up daily. You have to look inside for some conviction to push through it. If you gain nothing else from NaNoWriMo, let it sharpen you in this way.