So… the holidays are coming up, it’s 17 full days into December, and yet NaNoWriMo is still on my mind. Is that the case for anyone else? Don’t get me wrong–I’m taking a well-deserved break from writing and have only penned a 3,500 word short story since crossing 50k on November 30th–but I can’t help but think about last month and all it’s taught me about this crazy, frazzling, beautiful craft we’ve all chosen.
This November was the first I’ve won in five years. I’ve only ever won NaNoWriMo once before, in 2008, when I was still figuring out what it was I wanted to write and if I even still wanted to write at all (spoiler alert: a very enthusiastic “YES!”). So that means this was my first NaNo win as a dedicated writer who has officially set publication as a serious goal.
That 2008 endeavor was a true struggle. This one was tough, too, but not nearly as much. And, thanks to the awesome community on Twitter, I enjoyed it much more. So, as I was tapping away to my 50k, I had a lot of time to think about what this month-long challenge is all about. And for those of you who crossed the finish line with me, or are still working on your projects, or who haven’t even tried NaNoWriMo once–I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. Because I think many WriMos have had a similar experience.
1) The more you write, the easier it is. I feel like this is no big secret anymore, but it’s one of those things that I didn’t fully get until it dawned on me. One of those things I disregard as a common cliché that everyone knows and isn’t worth much more thinking about, until it slaps me in the face and demands my attention. Well, my attention and curiosity are both piqued.
Like I said in my post on writing spaces, your brain forms habits when you repeat an action over and over. So while I was writing in November, my brain got used to writing. And guess what? Even though there are plenty of little red boxes on my NaNoWriMo word count calendar, that habit I started to form often became harder to ignore than to put to action.
2) Inspiration isn’t a dormant thing waiting to be awoken. Rather, it’s something that comes with practice and strict perseverance. Countless times during NaNoWriMo, I had to stop whatever it was I was doing and jot down a totally new idea for a story or a blog or some other project that popped up that just had to wait until after November. Those ideas, including my new short story, are all products of my creative bursts during the month I was writing so consistently BECAUSE I was writing so consistently.
And that’s why word sprinting is so helpful. It keeps you writing, sometimes blindly, until you accidentally stumble upon something brilliant.
3) You have to mine though a lot of rock to get to the diamonds. If I had to pick only one lesson to take away from NaNoWriMo, this would be it. And that’s the point of NaNoWriMo anyway, isn’t it? To write quickly and get down all the crap so you can find the gold within it later. A non-writer friend of mine who was curious about NaNo broached the quantity vs. quality debate with me just before November and I told him that, yes, it’s all about quantity. Because in a lot of cases, you have to write 5k to get just one spectacular line down–but once you finish writing that line, it’s all worth it. And it motivates you all over again.
This is all what I take away from NaNo, anyway. What about you guys? Have you had any epiphanies this November?