Well, I officially completed NaNoWriMo 2015! I wrote 50,000 words for my novel in just 28 days, and it was so much fun. A lot of work, but I can’t deny how much fun I had with the challenge. When I began the month, I was 10,000 words into my novel and now I have nearly 67,000 words written. Since I want this book to be around 90,000-100,000 words, I still have a ton of writing to do, but I’m hoping to maintain my daily writing habit to finish the novel before the year is over.
I learned a lot in November, about writing and about maintaining the motivation to complete a long challenge, and I thought I would use today to talk about some of those lessons learned. These lessons will be broad enough to hopefully be helpful for anyone embarking on any kind of journey, not just writing.
Accountability is key.
Most times when I attempt NaNoWriMo (I’ve tried it five times, won it twice), I give up quickly because I don’t talk about it much. I may mention it on the blog, but not anywhere else. This year, I told my writing partner what I was attempting and would check in with her frequently about how the challenge was going. We also met once a week to write. Knowing I had to check in with her and having her cheer me on this whole month was such an important part of maintaining my focus.
So, whether you’re writing a novel or training for a marathon or searching for a new job, enlist a buddy. They can give you motivation. They can help you out by going on a training run with you or reading over your resume. Basically, an accountability partner is external support to keep you going.
It’s okay to get behind
I got behind on the second day of NaNoWriMo. I had had a bad day and when I came home from work, the last thing I wanted to do was write. So, instead, I laid on the couch and watched TV. My manuscript sat untouched. It was only day two and I was already behind… yikes. Instead of letting that get me down, I told myself I could easily make up the words throughout the week. And it took me a while to get on pace, but I did. Normally, a setback like that, especially so quickly into the challenge, would have demotivated me so much, I would have quit. But this time, I didn’t allow something so small to defeat me. It taught me that it’s okay to get behind, to falter a bit, to lose focus. No matter if that comes in the beginning, the middle, or the end, it’s all okay.
Miss a training run? Fall off your eating plan for a day? Take a few days off from working on your side hustle? It’s all okay. It’s not the end of the world. You can get back on track. Just remember why you are doing what you are doing and you’ll find your motivation once again.
Shitty days will happen
Some days, the writing felt so effortless and everything I wrote felt good and moved the story along. Then, there were other days where the writing felt difficult and I would look back on what I wrote with my nose wrinkled in disgust. The sentences felt cheesy, the plot off balance. That? Is called writing a novel. No writer, no matter how experienced, has a super successful day every single day. Some days are just shitty, plain and simple. That’s just part of the process of writing a novel.
You won’t be excited about your goal every single day. That’s just the way it is. The journey of achieving a goal features many, many boring, unsexy steps. These are the steps nobody sees, where everything is a slog and you may start thinking that you’re not cut out for whatever you’re trying to achieve. You are. You are more than capable. Shitty days happen, and you just have to be prepared to break through it.
I think one of the lessons I learned most during NaNoWriMo, though, is how much I love writing fiction. Each day was such an adventure and even when it was difficult, it was still so interesting and fun to work through the hard parts. I’m so excited to finish my novel and spend all of 2016 editing it. And then? I aim to get this one published. Oh yeah.