Ready, Get Set, WRITE!

November 1st is the 12th year of National Novel Writing Month.  It is a worldwide whirlwind contest that challenges you to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Oh, and for the challenge, those silly things like plot, spelling and grammar are unimportant. It’s purely a word count challenge.

For new or non-writers, it’s akin to volunteering for literary bootcamp. You throw yourself into the deep end of the pool, tell your friends and family what you are planning, and write like crazy for 30 days.

I first participated in 2001, thrilled with the idea that I could have a hot off the keyboard book in my hands at the end of the month. I didn’t even make it halfway. My failure did nothing to end my enthusiasm for the challenge, and for the next few Novembers, you could find me in any number of coffee shops writing like a madwoman.

Not only was I on fire for writing, for the idea that anyone could participate, I wanted to inspire and encourage other people on their creative path! I told everyone I could about the challenge, set up meetings for novel month writers to meet and write in the same place. (Misery loves company!)

At the end of my run with NaNoWriMo in 2005, I had started 4 novels, and finished 2, and met a whole company of fantastic local writers.

A writing project, started on a whim, totally changed my life!

Here’s what NaNoWrimo taught me:

  1. Anyone can write!
  2. A couple hours a day can help you complete even the largest of projects, bit by bit.
  3. Inspiring others inspires me, and I love to be passionate about things.
  4. Novels written in a month are first drafts that are really rough and hard to read.

What I didn’t understand at first about the challenge was… it was teaching me more about dedication than about writing in general. My writing improved through the simple act of repetition, but what I really learned was this: The hardest part of being creative is simply making the time to be creative, and sticking to it.

What a revelation!

I found, on average, that it takes about 60 hours in one month for me to write 50,000 words. I then began to apply those 60 hours each month to another project dear to me, writing and illustrating my graphic novel (incidentally based on a completed NaNoWrimo draft novel). Surprisingly, just 60 hours of creative work each month helps propel me forward in my creative goals. I’ve gotten more done in the last year, comics wise, than I did the 5 years before!

So, you ask, how can NaNoWrimo change your life?

Here are a few tips to try.

  • Even if you are not a writer, sign up at least once and try the challenge.
  • Set aside 2 hours a day for writing your novel. It helps if it’s the same 2 hours each day, but squeeze it in when you can if your schedule is packed.
  • Gather a few friends or colleagues to participate with in friendly competition.
  • Quiet your inner critic, and just place one word on the page after another. This contest is the lowest bar you will ever need to vault. You don’t have to share your manuscript with anyone, if you don’t wish to.
  • Above all, remind yourself that the challenge is more than just ‘Writing a Book,’ it is your pathway to understanding true dedication to any project, craft or career you desire.
  • After November ends, win or lose, apply what you learned about dedication to what you are passionate about!

NaNoWriMo changed my life, it reacquainted and rekindled my love of the written word. It led me to meet some of the best people still in my life, and helped me to understand what the writer’s adage of “Write Every Day” really meant. Above all, the challenge laid out a path for my creative expression that will lead me to wild and wondrous places, simply by placing one foot in front of the other, 2 hours a day.