The summer before I started college, I started writing a silly little story, simply motivated by the need for more diversity in the books I loved to read. I’ve lived with this story for more than 4 years now. I wrote on trains, in the middle of the night, in class. I wrote when I was sad and I wanted to live in another world. The story changed while I did, but through it all, it was something I could rely on. Every time I read a new book, I felt empowered to work toward my goal. “I can do that,” I would always think. And now, after the most difficult journey of my life, I did. I did it. I wrote a book.
The concept of National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo – has also terrified me. Every November, writers embark on the task of writing a 50,000 novel in the span of 30 days…like I said, terrifying. But over the years, as I watched others take on this incredible project, I realized the true goal of NaNoWriMo was never to finish writing a book in a month and then immediately submit it to get published. Because that is quite impossible. However, there are a lot of great skills writers work on during NaNoWriMo, one of the main practices being discipline. That’s what I decided to focus on.
Some of you may not know this, but I have been working on a novel for a few years now. Between being a busy college student and not having any sort of deadline, it has been difficult to find the time and motivation to finish. However, after graduating and developing a more reliable schedule, I wanted to making writing a priority again; specifically, getting this novel done.
At the end of October, my friend Katie – professional journalist, nbd – asked if I would join her in doing NaNoWriMo this year. I was hesitant at first for a lot of reasons, but mainly I was worried about failing. I didn’t know if this goal was something that I was ready for, mentally and practically. My worried thoughts included What if I miss a day and fall behind? and I’ll be so disappointed in myself if I don’t finish. So rather than completely dismissing the opportunity because of the fear of failure, I decided I’d make NaNoWriMo my own. I told myself that, if nothing else, I would use the month of November to focus on getting back into the habit of writing. This meant writing every single day, setting a timer or word count, and keeping myself on track to figuring out an ending for this story I’d been working on for so long. I knew I didn’t need to “win”, I just needed to try.
So for the month of November, I wrote a lot. I wrote stuff that was completely irrelevant to my story and I wrote horrible scenes and basically typed out any nonsense floating around in my mind, hoping that somewhere in the mess I would find some progress. Thankfully, I did.
I didn’t track my daily word count to reach 50,000, as most NaNoWriMo participants do. I simply promised myself that I would write for at least one hour every day. While some days were more and some days were less, I finished up the month much closer to finishing than I had ever been before. I fixed a lot of errors I’d been frustrated about and I cleared up some questions and I was finally able to conceptualize an ending.
So even though my NaNoWriMo experience wasn’t as traditional as most, I’m so happy I did it. Maybe one year I’ll attempt the word count and start from scratch, but this experience was exactly what I needed as a final push toward the finish line. I have had the same New Year’s resolution for almost two years now: to finish this book. And while I didn’t finish within the month of November, there’s still a few weeks left of 2016. And I gotta say, I’m feeling pretty good about it…