This week sees the beggining of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo,) where thousands of people (including Lifehacker’s Australian editor)challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word, 175-page novel before the end of November. It’s a huge task for even seasoned writers, but writing that much does more than just hone your writing skills. Sitting down to write every day can also serve to clear your mind, get the creative juices flowing, and add a little meditative respite to your day that may otherwise be missing.
Photo by Erin Kohlenberg.
According to NaNoWriMo.org, over 200,000 people signed up to participate in the challenge last year, and more than 30,000 of them hit the 50,000 word goal by the end of the month. The vast majority of them aren’t professional writers. That’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo: You don’t have to be a writer to participate, all you have to do is be willing to sit down every day and put your thoughts on paper. Once you get started, the rewards of writing on a regular basis will come to you quickly.
How Can Writing Regularly Help Me?
Photo by Pete O’Shea.
Since writing also makes you take those ideas out of your head and put them into real words, it also challenges you to think about how you can communicate those ideas to others in a way that makes sense. You’ll have to turn your abstract ideas into something that’s concrete and understandable by others, and it’ll challenge you to grow and develop the language and communications skills required to get those ideas across. Even if you deal in facts and figures, creative writing can help you learn to communicate complex ideas more effectively.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right: it won’t happen overnight. The other great thing about NaNoWriMo is that it forces you to tolerate yourself and make mistakes. All of your misfired ideas, horrible typos, and other mistakes will be right there on paper for you to review and scrutinize later, and that’s okay: part of tackling a challenge like this is that you have to learn to forgive yourself and keep plugging away until you’re finished. You’ll learn to edit your work, refine your thoughts after you’ve gotten them out of your head, and fine tune your language skills.
Don’t worry if you don’t make the deadline either. What’s important it that you give it a try. You never know, you might get to the finish line sooner than you think. You may give up halfway through, or something may come up that distracts you from the challenge. That’s okay: the deadline isn’t quite as important as the fact that you gave it a good try, or that you kept working until you were finished. Keep writing, and you’ll keep reaping the benefits. Photo by Eduardo.
We’ve discussed how keeping a personal journal also supports personal development, and keeping a work diary encourages professional growth. Expressive writing has been proven therapeutic benefits. Even blogging can be good for you. It’s more important that you write, and that you keep writing, than that you hit a specific word count in the allotted time. Still, strive for that goal and work hard to get there–you never know what you might accomplish.
How Will I Find the Time?
If you’re going to get started with NaNoWriMo, setting aside the time to participate is important, and you’ll definitely need dedicated time get it done. Everyone approaches NaNoWriMo differently. Some people look at the 50,000 word goal and break it into 30 equal daily portions. That would mean you’d have to pen close to 1700 words every day for the month of November to get to your goal. Others break it into week-sized chunks and approach it that way. If those methods help you get started, run with them. What’s important is that you find a method that works for you.
How Do I Get Started?
If you want to use NaNoWriMo to get started writing regularly, the NaNoWriMo site also has a number of tools and tips to help you outline your ideas and get started. Register an account and poke around the forums. All of the writers participating in NaNoWriMo want each other to succeed, so you’ll find great tips and encouragement there.
You can also check out the previously mentioned Penzu as another private journaling service, or our five best distraction-free writing tools to help you get in the zone and focus. Pick something that works for you — even if it’s old fashioned pen and paper — and just start writing. It’ll do you a world of good.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it in the past? What are some of your tips for new writers, and how has writing regularly helped you grow as a person? Share your experiences in the comments below.