So…NaNoWriMo will be upon us in a little over a week. *wailing and gnashing of teeth* And I’m feeling a bit of shock/denial/what-the-even-WUT because this will be my NINTH year participating. NINE YEARS??? Do I value my sanity at all? (Not really no…) Why on earth have a brought this torture upon myself for 8 years and am about to do it again??? WELL. That’s what I want to talk about today!
Because that’s the thing. NaNo is such a stressful time. I mean, who chooses to write 50k or more words in 30 days during one of the busiest months of the year? WHY??? What is this ridiculousness? And for me, it’s really bad, because I, erm, have a rather obsessive personality. I don’t stop at 50k, I write until the book is DONE. Even when the book ends up being 150k words (lololol I whish that was an over dramatization). Quite a few NaNos ended with me continuing to write through the first week or two of December to get the book done. Because I get obsessed with writing it all to completion. (NOTE: I do not recommend being like me. I need to tone it down like 30 notches…)
Between NaNo Prep in October (my outlines take ages and often end up being around 20k words o.o) and then NaNo in November, it really consumes all of fall, one of my most favorite times of the year! Not to mention ends in soooo many late nights and a ridiculous amount of being overwhelmed as all my other responsibilities fall to the wayside and pile up into a ginormous monster that may or may not eat me come December.
So I ask again, WHY? Why do I do this year after year? Why would anyone? Is it really worth it?
My answer: YES!!!
I have never regretted a single one of those 8 NaNos I’ve participated in. Each one was worth it to me for so many reasons. And that’s what I want to share today: The reasons why I keep doing this insane thing. And why you should too!
And stick around, because at the end I have a special invitation for all you NaNo participants!
5 REASONS WHY
I STILL DO NANO
IT CHALLENGES ME TO TRY NEW THINGS AND HELPS ME GROW AS A WRITER
For my very first NaNoWriMo, I tried something I had never, ever done before: I plotted my novel. Before then, I was a hardcore pantser. And never physically plotted any bit of a story a day in my life. I thought pantsing would forever be The Way for me.
But then I decided to attempt NaNo, and as I was trying to think of ways to make the process quicker and easier I thought, “What if I outlined the book?” Because, as fun as pantsing was, it was slooow going as I’d constantly have to pause, often days, even weeks, at a time to mull over what happened next. But if I knew everything that happened, then I could just write nonstop. So I did. And now? I’m a hardcore planner. My young self would have never thought, yet here we are. Because NaNo pushed me to try something new.
From them on out, each NaNo novel (really each novel, a NaNo one or not), has been plotted a little differently. A lot of things I still do that I adapted that very first NaNo, a lot of it I’ve taken my methods and adjusted them to suit my needs. But there’s always something a little different, a little new, with each novel, and as the years have passed, I’ve refined my methods more and more.
NaNo challenged me to look at creating a novel differently. It made this girl who is really set in her ways and not wild about trying new things to, well, try new things. To step out of my comfort zone and find the best possible way to produce a novel.
But going from pantser to planner is just one example. There are so many other ways NaNo challenges me to keep pushing the barrier with my writing. To be wild and free with it, and not stuck in the same ol’, same ol’ I tend to fall into when writing. It taught me that I can write in short bursts in between life, instead of setting out a very specific set of time to write like I used to do. It gave me permission to try crazy things with my stories, because, hey, why not? I’m only writing the thing for a month. Why can’t I experiment a little? It helped me see what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what types of scenes and plots in general I enjoy and dislike. And because of this, it’s helped me GROW as a writer.
Because NaNo gives me permission to experiment and make a mess with my stories, I’ve very much found the best methods that work for me, what types of stories I like to tell, and the best way to tell them. Such as some of my NaNo stories had way too slow pacing, a couple sped by far too quickly. And I learned all this because I wasn’t bogged down by perfecting my story, or taking my time writing it. NaNo gives me permission to focus solely on the story and truly, deeply refine my craft.
Which happens to be to my next point…
IT FORCES ME TO FOCUS ON STORY FOR A WHILE
I of course do a lot of writing during non-NaNo months. But during those crazy November days, there’s something different about the writing process.
During all the other times of the year, I get distracted. Oh goodness, the distractions! I always refer to myself as a “productive procrastinator”, because I do productive tasks while procrastinating to make myself feel better about procrastinating. And, unfortunately, usually what I’m procrastinating is writing. Instead of taking time out each day to write or edit, I think, “Oh, well I need to go write a blog post.” or “I better spend some time this afternoon taking pictures for my Instagram account.” or “Wow, I’m behind on my friends’ social media, I should catch up!” See? Productive procrastinator. This is my life. *shakes head* Unfortunately, it puts working on my actual BOOK at the bottom of the priority list, when, really, it should be the top. But NaNo changes all of that.
There’s fewer things in this world that kicks me into gear more than goals needing to be met within a time limit. Something about that ever moving clock pulls out my ultra focused, obsessive side like no other. So you can only imagine how on hyper drive it is during NaNo. Suddenly all those things I worry about for 11 months of the year? They’re insignificant. During November, it’s all about STORY. And I love it.
Yes, we shouldn’t be that hyper-focused 24/7 for all of the year. There are other priorities in life and to-do lists that need to be checked off. But as writers, it’s also so important that we sometimes allow our novels to consume our thoughts. To give ourselves permission to fall so deeply into our stories that it’s more real to us than reality.
NaNo always does that for me. For those 30 days I’m living my story. It suddenly feels so real and so important, and it’s such a thrilling feeling. It’s like a 30 day retreat with my characters (a 30 day retreat of torture and pain and feels but ya know). And it’s so nice to not be worrying so much about all those many other things on my to-do list, and have my novel be at the top of the priority list for a time.
(Sidenote: I’m talking about physical tasks that need to be accomplished. God, our loved ones, and our health should be permanently at the top of our life priority list, and I do actually fall short on those things during NaNo so much. So of course there is a balance, as with everything.)
It’s a funny thing. Because during NaNo, I often get so flustered and tired and stressed and want to do anything in the world but write. But then afterwards, when it’s all said and done, I never really remember those moments. Whenever I think back to any NaNo, I smile, because what I remember is the magical feeling of being utterly immersed in my story. That’s always the lasting impact of NaNo for me. And it is for that feeling alone that I find NaNo is always worth doing.
IT PUSHES ME TO GO BEYOND WHAT I NORMALLY WOULD
A huge thing that NaNo helps with is pushing us to go beyond what we think we can do. So, so many times during non-NaNo I’ll consider writing, but then decide I’m too tired or that I need to do something else. Or write a just a few words and then call that “good enough” and go do something lazy. But with NaNo, I don’t really have that option. Again, there’s that goal that needs to be met and a time limit ever pushing me forward. So instead of turning on the TV, I take up the laptop and write. Instead of claiming I’m too tired to write, I just write anyway. Instead of considering 1k words enough for the day, I write 1 or 2 more thousand. Instead of scrolling on Pinterest while waiting at the dentist office, I pop out a few words on my phone.
But more than that, it reminds me that I can finish a story, and within a short amount of time. Before I did NaNo, I would take over a year to write a book. And some I never even finished. But then I did NaNo, and I realized, as long as I put my mind to it, my novel can get DONE.
If I remember right, it was Lisa Mangum at Realm Makers who said that we can always stretch a little farther than we think we can. And NaNo taught me that more than anything. Every single year it helps me get these novels done, and reminds me that I just have to put my mind to it, not get distracted, and do it.
IT REMINDS ME THAT WRITING IS FUN AND WORTH MY TIME
I think all writers have those occasional existential crises where we wonder why on this green earth are we writers? Writing is hard. Shouldn’t we be doing something else with our time?
I definitely have those moments, more frequently than I’d like. There are even some scandalous moments where I’ve considered not doing NaNo for a year. I KNOW. It’s true! But I always force myself to do it. Why? Because, every single time, it shoves away those writer doubts.
Like I said earlier, whenever I think back on past NaNos, all I can ever seem to dwell on is how utterly fun I had writing my novel. Not on those nights I stayed up until 2 in the morning feverishly trying to get a blog post ready for the next day because I had used up my day writing. Not on the moments where I’d assume move to Antarctica rather than have to write a single more word. Not when I wanted to sit and cry at how behind I was getting on other things because writing was taking up all my time. Those moments happen every November, but I so rarely remember them. Instead, what is always at the forefront of my mind is how fun it was writing my novel.
Because writing is fun. We’re literally creating entire worlds and characters and have the liberty to make anything at all happen that we want to. It is magic. And being so consumed in our magical stories is something utterly special.
So I do NaNo every single year, even during those times when I’d really rather just skip it and take it easy during these amazing fall days, because I need to do it. Sometimes I forget just how amazing storytelling can be. I need that reminder that creating stories is FUN. And that it’s something worth doing.
I have learned so much about writing and the world and life in general through writing. The amount of lessons I’ve gleaned through those stories I’ve written during NaNo are innumerable. Stories have power. They’re truly one of the most powerful weapons we have on this earth. And I firmly believe writing them is always worth your time. Even when it’s tiring and hard and doesn’t seem it.
IT PROVIDES COMMUNITY
Lastly, one of my top, top, top favorite things about NaNoWriMo is the community it provides.
Back in the dark ages before I did NaNo, I had zero writing friends. I was the only writer I knew, and it was lonely. Because, well, we writers are weird. And sometimes you just can’t understand a writer unless you are one. Every writer needs some fellow writers friends so we can feel understood. And what better way to find writing friends than NaNoWriMo, where literally thousands are participating all over the world!
During my very first NaNo, I poked around the NaNo forums and stumbled into a group that called themselves the Purple Elephants, full of fellow writing teenagers (ya know, back when I was a teenager, good times, good times). And, oh my goodness, the fun we had! The amount of random nonsense we’d talk about and stories we shared and inside jokes we made. It was hilarious. A lot of us got older and I think most of the core group faded away, sadly. (Though I think it may still live on a bit. I haven’t checked the NaNo forums this year to see.) But it was within that group that I learned what it felt like to have fellow writer friends. And it was in that group where I made one of my closest writing buddies who, to this day, I consider one of my bestest friends in the world. Through her, I met other writing friends, then I started blogging and met more. And it grew and grew, and here I now have a whole community of fellow writers all of whom I love and adore. (Seriously, you guys make my world. <3) And it even went farther than that. Through blogging I learned about Realm Maker, where I met some of you, and made more friends. The connections just continuously grow. But all of that was because of NaNo. I never would have met any of you, and probably wouldn’t even be blogging, if not for NaNo. It was the starting point to this writing life I now lead.
It is seriously a wonderful place to meet writers. But not only that. There is something utterly motivating knowing that you’re writing your novel along with thousands of others. Suddenly writing isn’t lonely. It’s one, ginormous, epic group activity! And there are always people to cheer you on every day.
So that’s why, here 9 years later, I’m still doing NaNoWriMo. It’s not just a fun, crazy challenge to accomplish. It’s so much bigger and important and more magical than that.
Now, of course I 100% understand it’s not for everyone. For some people, NaNo has the opposite effects and makes writing a negative thing. Or maybe life is just way too busy right now to take on something like NaNo. I absolutely get that, and I suspect one day I’ll decide life is just too hectic to participate myself. But if you’ve been considering it, and think you can find the time, I cannot recommend it enough!
A SPECIAL INVITATION
I know this post is already long enough to cover like the first week of NaNo words, buuuut I promised you I had something special to share! I left my point of the community and having writing friends for last, because that leads me right to it.
I’ve decided to create a NaNo Google Hangouts Chat.
Sadly, these days I never find the time or make the effort to poke around the NaNo forums like I did in my earlier NaNo days. I’m just a lot busier. But I really miss the tight-knit group I had with the Purple Elephants. Then it occurred to me. I already have a group of NaNo participants, right here! We just don’t have a specific place to chat. Which is where Google Hangouts comes in! It’s such a great place for instant messaging and popping in now and again for quick chats. The one problem is that I thiiink you have to have a Google account to join in on Hangout conversations. *sniff, sniff*
But if you do like using Hangouts and are participating in NaNoWriMo and want a place to chat with other fellow Wrimos where we can talk about our stories, do word wars/sprints together, share snippets, encourage one another, and just have FUN, then send me your email address at Lauriloth@gmail.com, and I’ll make this happen! It’ll basically be like the cabins that Camp NaNoWriMo has. I think it’s going to be a blast and I’M SO EXCITED!
(NOTE: I will make sure this is a very safe environment and will remove anyone who uses crude language or tries to bully or anything like that. But I feel SO blessed with the readers I have on my blog and am like 99.999% sure none of you would ever do that! Just figured I’d better assure you that it will be safe.)
THIS NANO IS GOING TO BE SO FUN, GUYS!!!
Other posts you might like:
TALK WITH ME!
. I’d love to buddy you all over there!) Don’t forget to email me if you want to join my Hangouts! (Also, I apologize to all my non-NaNo participant readers. I know I probably drive you guys craaazy this time of year. Thank you so much for sticking by me and my NaNo obsessed self and always being an encouragement. I love you ALL!)
The obvious question is, WHO’S DOING NANO??? (Pst. My NaNo account is HERE