November marks the Internet-famous month of attempting to write a whole novel in four weeks and two days! It’s a challenge that’s been around for a while—since 1999, according to their website. The point of it is to encourage people who’ve always wondered if they had a book in them to see if it’s there. They encourage creativity, literacy, and hope that the momentum of people working together toward similar, yet personal goals, will help everyone get across the finish line. It really is similar to running a marathon. Everybody’s racing the clock, but the energy of people working in tandem helps everyone’s individual efforts.
What’s the Point?
The point is to create accountability and community to help you write. Nobody (or hardly anybody) will have a great, fully-crafted novel completed in one month. However, there’s a good chance that you’ll make a lot of progress, make friends, and get more done than you otherwise would on your own. Any organization that encourages writing and literacy is okay by me! They even have a non-profit arm that supports young writers and educators.
Habit tracking and accountability groups are time-tested methods of helping people take on new habits. Often we focus on the outcome of a big goal: thirty pounds lost or a whole book written. These goals are big and take time, and it’s hard to feel like we’re making any progress on a day-to-day basis. That makes it easier to give up or just say “screw it” on any given day. One individual 24 hour period doesn’t matter. But all the days added up equal a habit. Do you want to be in the habit of writing? If so, NaNoWriMo can help you make it a habit, at least for thirty days.
The original concept of NaNoWriMo was to write 50,000 words in thirty days. If you sign up, the website automatically puts that number in as your goal. Right now, you can’t change it. So what if you want to edit your draft this month? Or have a smaller goal? What if you prefer to keep track of time writing instead of word count? Here’s what I did. I told myself my goal was to write one hour per day. I found out that a person has to write 1,667 words/day to hit the 50,000-word goal. Therefore, after I wrote for an hour this morning, I tracked 1,667 words because that’s the equivalent of me hitting my mark. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good way to track what you’re doing.
Personal trainers, coaches, bosses, and many others work on the tried-and-true rule that measuring equals success. When someone holds us to account and measures our progress, we’re more likely to meet our goals. If those goals are public (and there’s a timeline!), it’s even more probable that we’ll achieve them. Think about how much easier it is to drop five pounds before your sister’s wedding next month or improve your running time after you sign up for a 5k. NaNoWriMo works on the same idea. By declaring (if only to yourself) that you’re going to make a goal and meet it, you’ll do it. I must say that typing in my goal and tracking my progress today did make me feel proud and more desirous of doing it again tomorrow.
I’ve actually never done NaNoWriMo before because the idea of trying to write 50,000 words in a month that includes Thanksgiving always seemed daunting! I signed up today, even though I’m a day “late” (it starts 11/1, but I’ve learned to not let perfection be the enemy of good), and it made me feel excited. This week is going to be crazy for the whole country since Election Day is tomorrow (!). My son’s second grade is now home quarantining (and I’ve been promoted to homeschool teacher!!!!) because a classmate tested positive for COVID. I, like many others, have no idea if I’ll see my family during the holidays, and yeah: it’s a trying time. I woke up stressed at 4:30 this morning and thought: NaNoWriMo. That’s something I can do instead of worrying about things I can’t change. I got up, focused on my fictional world for an hour, and I’m happy I did it! Here’s to 28 more.