Why I Didn’t Finish NANOWRIMO (And Why That’s Okay!)

National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) has been happening every November since 1999.  It’s meant to be a fun, inspiration-fueling event in which writers of all sorts work to reach the goal of 50,000 words in one month.  However, sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of the fun and other benefits that the program offers.  Sometimes the haze of abject failure looms large when you ultimately aren’t capable of cranking out multiple thousands of words in 30 days.

To be completely fair, NANO knows that this is an intimidating goal.  They offer plenty of resources to expedite the process, tons of articles and discussion boards for inspiration, and even state on their website that they believe in doing their best to “provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds.”  In short, their primary goal is to get writers writing.

I’ve participated in NANO a couple of times (this year is the third, I think) and have “won” exactly zero of those years.  I was pretty darn disappointed in myself the first year I didn’t make it to 50,000.  Especially because my friends did make it.  I seriously felt like a failure—like I had no business writing.

That is not—I repeat, not—how you are meant to be using NANO.

Think of it this way.  Starting November 1st, you have access to a vast community of writers, many of whom live in your own backyard (not literally, because that would be creepy).  You have an entire month in which to plan, share ideas, jot down some scenes, and maybe even get some proper writing done.  Don’t sweat the deadline.  Don’t beat yourself up when you see your writing buddies reaching milestones you can’t manage.  You’ll find that using the process as inspiration is a much more effective choice.

For my own part, I managed a whopping 4,000-ish words this year.  But that’s exactly 4,000-ish words I wouldn’t have written at all.  I made an entire document outlining my project, which was an idea I’ve had sitting in the back of my mind for way too long.  I even got a working cover image and did plenty of doodles and mental planning.  In my chaotic world that consists of work, homework (yay, grad school), grading papers, and occasionally food, I think that that is some pretty good progress.

NANO is drawing to a close this year, but their boards and forums are open year round.  If you’re in need of some inspiration, motivation, or maybe just a virtual shoulder to cry on concerning #writerproblems, I’d recommend typing in their address (http://nanowrimo.org/about ). Just remember to be kind to yourself and keep plugging ahead!

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