Lessons From NaNoWriMo Week One

Well, it’s official. Today marks the 7th day of National Novel Writing Month, and I am pleased to report that I have been diligently sitting down every day and writing my 1,667 words. Currently I have:

  • 20 pages
  • 10, 219 words
Ooh, it makes me giddy just to see those numbers! It’s true that it’s daunting to have over 39K words left to be written, but I plan to just keep on truckin’ and meet my daily quota. If I do that, I’ll be proud of myself. Today I wanted to share some of the lessons NaNo’s been teaching me over the past week. Hopefully even those who aren’t participating/aren’t planning on it will still find something of value here!

1. It feels good to do something every day.

Lately, I’ve been learning this lesson with respect to my “morning pages” on 750words.com. But adding this crazy project of writing a novel to the mix really hits the lesson right on home. There’s something inexplicably satisfying in doing something, consistently, every day. Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project highly recommends doing something every day, saying that it teaches us to find pleasure in our routine.

The things you do every day take on a certain beauty, and provide a kind of invisible architecture to daily life. – Gretchen Rubin

I would also venture to say that doing something every day is a boost to our self-esteem. I know that every time I hit my word quota, my chest practically puffs up with pride. It’s rewarding to see the number creep up, and to have the satisfaction of a job well done.

2. Lack of self-judgment = lack of pressure.

When I started this month off, I made a pact with myself. I promised that there would be no judgment, no self-doubt, second-guessing or comparisons. I was doing this project for fun, and most of all for myself. I wasn’t planning to show it to anyone, I wasn’t planning to use it for anything, it was purely a tool to get myself back in the creative-writing saddle. I wanted to experience the excitement of NaNo that I’d heard others talk so much about, and I wanted the accomplishment of having written a novel. Perhaps it would be the worst novel ever written, but I’d have it.

As a result of this promise, in writing this book I’ve felt completely liberated from many of my normal insecurities. I’m impressed if I see someone with 20,000 words already, but I’m not depressed. Since there’s no pressure, there’s no comparison. I’m perfectly happy with my personal achievements, and I’m right on target with where I personally want to be. I’m proud of myself for even having made it this far!

It makes me wonder if I could apply this “no-judgement” principle to the rest of my life. Just think how beneficial that could be! To accept that it’s okay to do things at my own pace, that everyone is different, and I’m just along for the exciting ride. No pressure.

3. The “impossible” isn’t all that impossible.

Before I committed to writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I thought that idea was impossible. I’ve encountered this lesson several other times in my life, namely converting to vegetarianism. Before I went veggie, I was uber-concerned by how I would manage to eat, how much time it would take, if I would be healthy or not, and a plethora of other things. Once I committed, it was a breeze. I find that when you change your mind, things change. Suddenly it wasn’t very hard at all to get my nutrients, eat yummy food, and still be happy with my choices.

The same applies to NaNo. Before committing: a novel in a month is completely absurd. After committing: writing creatively for about an hour a day is totally manageable. Usually if you’re thinking something is impossible to fit into your schedule or lifestyle, you’re wrong. There’s always a way, if it’s something you truly want. Stop watching your favourite sitcom every night, and presto: you have an hour of writing time. Stay up half an hour later, or write first thing in the morning. Go on a media fast. Make big pots of food so you have leftovers (and less cooking time) for a few days. Stop checking Facebook every five minutes! I’ve done all of these, and I’m finding it a little easier every day to get my words in.


Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo? What do you think of the idea? What’s been motivating you to keep writing? What lessons have you learned from doing your daily writing?

UPDATE: I just realized that this post may make it seem like NaNo has been totally happy-go-lucky for me. No way. I’ve have days already this week where it was near impossible to meet my quota, due to lack of brain power. I’m struggling to see where my novel is going, and I’m not sure how I’m going to write some of the things I want to write. It’s no cake walk! Just wanted to make that clear in case this post made it seem like it’s been easy for me. :)