November has become one of my favorite months of the year.
No, it’s not because I get to consume an inordinate amount of mashed potatoes during Thanksgiving (though I do have a deep-rooted passion for mashed potatoes). November is when NaNoWriMo occurs, or National Novel Writing Month.
For those of you who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo (or NaNo for short) is a challenge in which you aim to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s craziness, but the awesome kind of craziness, and tens of thousands of people have participated in the challenge since its inception over a decade ago.
If 50,000 words seems a bit daunting to you, don’t worry, because that’s how everyone feels. Even with such a formidable challenge, I always end up having an amazing time during NaNo (I’ve participated for the past 3 years).
So, to convince you wary writers (or get those of you who have signed up even more pumped!) I’m sharing a list of reasons as to why you should participate in NaNoWriMo this year.
Why You Absolutely Must Participate in NaNoWriMo
1.) It forces you to make time.
The number one excuse I hear from people who don’t participate in NaNo even though they ‘want’ to is that they don’t have time. They’re too busy with school, or a job, or family, or a combination of other factors.
They’re absolutely right: nobody has time. You have to create time.
That’s not to say the above excuses aren’t legitimate. Sometimes you really do have to buckle down and focus on school or work. But every single person has a little bit of extra time that goes unused. Everyone. Nobody works 100% of the time- or we would be robots. It’s just that this time is often dispersed throughout our day.
But here’s the thing: you don’t need a solid block of free time. So many people look at their schedules and can’t find an extra hour or two of free time, which is logical, because most of us are busy people trying to manage multiple responsibilities. However, you would be surprised by how much you can write during a ten minute break, or on a 20 minute bus ride. Since you know you won’t have a lot of time to write, you’re forced to maximize the time you do have.
We typically fill the pockets of our free time with something random- Twitter, scrolling through old text messages, or just staring at the wall. Instead, by participating in NaNoWriMo, you’ll learn how to maximize that time and really utilize it well. That is a habit you’ll want to keep even after November.
2.) It helps you learn to prioritize.
Pretty much everyone these days has an endless to-do list. My Wunderlist app is overflowing with tasks and the things I need to accomplish some day. It can be hard to decide what thing should get done first, and when.
Here’s the thing about NaNoWriMo: it forces you to prioritize what’s most important. Writing 1,667 words a day is no easy feat, and it requires anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on various factors. Therefore, you’re really going to have to be picky about what you choose to do. Instead of procrastinating and watching some Netflix at work for example, you’ll want to finish up and try to get some extra time to write. That’s going to help you be efficient in all parts of your life, and you’ll really start to learn what’s important and what’s not.
3.) The community is extremely supporting & motivating.
It’s so, so important to have a good group of people around you. The community you surround yourself with determines your attitude a lot of the time. If you’re with a group of people who are just going for their goals without any reservations, you’re going to want to do that too. But if you’re with a group of people who don’t believe in themselves, you’re going to begin to feel that doubt as well.
That’s why a good community is so important: you begin to adopt the community’s mindset. The NaNoWriMo forums are filled with people who are trying to accomplish the same crazy goal as you. Everyone is facing challenges, and they’re working together to overcome them. Being around those kinds of people- even if you don’t interact at all- is incredibly motivating.
And if you do find yourself at a roadblock, like if you have a thorny plot issue or you have fallen behind, you can simply post on the forums and get immediate responses. Since everyone is in the challenge together, pretty much everyone on the forums is supportive. It’s a win-win either way.
4.) You’re going to challenge yourself.
We can fall into the same monotonous routine so easily. Wake up, go to work or school, come home, do housework/spend time with the family/homework, and go to sleep. What’s the challenge in that? Where’s the excitement?
Life isn’t meant to be spent doing things the easy way. If you want to grow as a writer, or even as a human being in general, then you’re going to have to challenge yourself. Breaking out of your typical routine is not only going to make life more interesting for you, but you’re going to be stretching yourself past what you thought were your limits. You will surprise yourself by just how much you can write, and how productive you can be just by pushing yourself.
5.) It gives you a hard deadline.
Typically, writers don’t have a firm deadline for their writing in place. So much of writing is about self-accountability, yet that’s what most people lack.
NaNoWriMo provides the perfect combination of public and personal accountability. By having a firm deadline- November 30th- with a firm goal- 50,000+ words- you’re forced to be accountable to the world. That little word count tracker on the NaNo website is shockingly motivating, especially when you’re far behind everyone else. Additionally, when you accomplish such a large goal, you’ll be motivated to continue in the future, and you can hold yourself accountable without the public support of NaNo (although it’s always a good idea to find support elsewhere).
Along with the idea of accountability, hard deadlines force you to be more creative. It’s no secret that when more constraints are put on a person, the more creative they’re forced to be. When you know you have to finish today’s word count in the next 10 minutes, you can so much more easily untangle a tricky plot hole than if you had all the time in the world. A deadline may make you feel like you have less options, but that’s exactly why you will be forced to innovate.
6.) You end up with 50,000 words you didn’t have before.
At the end of the day, NaNoWriMo forces you to write. So many writers forget the one thing that makes them writers: the physical act of writing. We can get caught up far too easily in planning or social media or thinking about the movie cast for our currently unwritten novel. It’s hard to just sit down and write.
Even if those words aren’t beautiful, lyrical prose, they give you something. You can fix something. You can make something better. You can’t do that with nothing.
Take the leap. It may seem daunting, it may seem impossible, but you are going to have an incredible experience if you decide to participate in NaNoWriMo. There will be challenges, but you will only grow as you learn to accomplish them, and that kind of personal growth is priceless.
So tell me: are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you excited? Make sure to add me (I’m hianeeqah) if you are. If you’re still worried about participating, shoot me an email or send me a Tweet and we can talk through it!