Monday, November 29, 2010

Seven gifts from Nanowrimo

1. I can write even when I don't feel like writing (which is most of the time)

The truth is, for most of Nanowrimo, I didn't feel like writing my Nanonovel quota of words each day. Even though I normally write every day, whether it's on articles for, curriculum for church, picture books, or novels, focusing my attention on one project and keeping up with it for an entire month containing a major holiday was hard. Most days I just didn't feel like doing it. Had I the choice, I would have bopped between projects like I usually do, and I wouldn't have completed my rough draft in a month.

2. Small snippets of time are valuable

I did better on the days where I took advantage of small pieces of time early in the day so I didn't have much to do at the end of the day rather than the days where I wrote late and fell into bed exhausted.

3. It's better for me to write early in the day rather than wait until the end of the day

The days it was easiest to write were the ones where I put in a few hundred words earlier in the day. I think this was partially because it got my mind turned in the direction of the novel, so my mind could work on it while I was doing other things, and also because it made me feel like I had gotten ahead. I felt motivated and rather than overwhelmed. Normally I'm a late night writer, because that's when our house is quiet and I can work uninterrupted. I'm hoping to revise this.

4. It's easier to write when I'm not tired

This was a grueling month. Not only did we have Thanksgiving, but we had a conference at church for which I was responsible to find staffing for my department. I was away more in the evenings than I normally would be, and trying to achieve my word quota on days that were literally jammed with necessary activities from beginning to end made it almost impossible to find enough time to write unless I took it out of sleep time, and you always pay for that the following day.

But even on those late nights with early mornings the next day, it was easier to write if I did it early, because I knew by afternoon and evening I'd be running on fumes and walking around in a fog.

5. Support groups are very helpful

I'm not quite done with my Nanonovel, but I'm getting close to the finish line, and I'm only behind by 632 words right now. Last year I had completed it by this time, so even though I'm not way behind, I didn't get it done as quickly. I had virtually no support group at all, and only did one writing contest with a friend instead of several through the month. Friday night I wanted to give the whole thing up in the worst way, but instead I sat down and knocked out 2000 words, chipping away at the loss I took during the conference last week. Why was it easier last year? I had more external support.

6. You can always do more than you think you can

I am reminded of Bree in C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy. In case you haven't read the book, Bree was one of the two talking horses escaping with two children to Narnia. He had lived in slavery so long he had lost the ability to force himself to tap into his inner strength, but he wasn't aware of it. He needed external motivation to truly do his best, and he wasn't able to do that until he had a lion on his tail. Then he turned on speed that he didn't know he possessed and made it to safety. Nanowrimo will be the lion on your tail if you'll let it. If it wasn't for Nano this year, I'd have given up on this book long ago.

7. Being overwhelmed is a state of mind rather than a state of being

Occasionally I run into people who tell me they can't fulfill their obligations because they are so overwhelmed by life in general or a specific problem. They are sure that letting one thing go will make them feel less overwhelmed, and then life will be good again. I'm sure when they do this, they probably do feel a measure of relief for a time, but only for a time.

Yes, be careful about becoming overcommitted. You have to consider your family and your self when you get involved in anything. But once you've given your word, see it through. You can do more than you think you can, and it's usually not the way of integrity to try to get out of what you said you would do. Why can you compare two people with similar schedules and find one is overwhelmed and the other is not? It is not because of the schedule. It is because of the state of mind of the person.

That's it for now. In advance I'm going to ask you to forgive the typos in this post. One of the gifts of Nanowrimo is not careful proofreading! (Later on Monday: I can't believe I used "tale" instead of "tail." I have corrected the mistake.)


  1. Great post, Beth.

    I love NaNoWriMo for how much it teaches you about your own writing habits. Even if you are rushing like crazy, you find out you do have the dedication and motivation it takes to get to the 50,000. It's that push which every writer needs; there's nothing like a deadline to make you write.

    The only downside I find to NaNo is the extended editing. I find it's much harder to edit a first draft of a NaNo than anything else I write, simply because I'm trying to put the words down and not really focusing on the substance of what I'm writing. It can also lead to major plot holes (which I recently blogged about).

    So while NaNo is a great oppurtunity to get that project which you've wanted to do for so long finished, it does come with it's downfalls. Luckily, we have Christmas and next year to edit. Only eleven more months until next year's NaNo!

  2. That is so true, Kiara. You are absolutely right about the extended editing. What I end up with is very redundant and messy. But still, I like the idea that when it's over, I actually have an entire rough draft. : ) Like they say, everything can be fixed! (And boy, does it need it!)