Rob here. I wanted to share something I’ve just done that may truly have been insane – well certainly borderline crazy. I officially participated in November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a fascinating, seat-of-your-pants approach to writing — specifically to writing a novel.
Now I am primarily a poet, and I have investigated and observed the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo), which occurs each April (National Poetry Month) – but I’ve never participated in that event, for one reason. The goal of NaPoWriMo is to write a poem a day for the entire month, an output that I already exceed – so there was no real challenge there.
However, participants in NaNoWriMo begin writing on November 1, with the goal to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, November 30. That averages to 1,666 words per day, every day. Now that is a challenge for me.
Authoring four (4) blogs, and writing poetry everyday, on top of the professional design, copy writing, and content development contracts in which I’m engaged; writing an additional sixteen hundred words a day, every day for a month, is ‘over the top’! I wanted ‘over the top’.
Understand, I had a rational reason, to which I clung (desperately at times), why I entered NaNoWriMo; and it wasn’t because I have a particular burning desire to write a novel — although I do admit to harboring a strong curiosity for years. I entered because I wanted to experience the creative catharsis of “writing”, truly for the sake of writing – to focus on output, enthusiasm, and dogged perseverance, over painstaking craft.
In writing poetry, I have a tendency toward ‘constant editing’ – too often writing and rewriting line after line, sometimes even every phrase, as I go. I diligently practice ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, in order to better free my flow — my muse. However, the compactness of poetry makes it far too easy for me to fall into my obsessive-compulsive practice of real time micro-editing my work.
I thought investing myself in NaNoWriMo would force me to write so intensely, that it would be essential to give myself permission to make mistakes, forgoing the endless tweaking and editing — and just create. To learn what it feels like to build without incessively tearing down. It worked!
At just over 30,000 words, I fell short of the 50K target. That said, it was an amazingly liberating experience – once I broke through my initial fear and reluctance. It does feel daunting at first.
As a bonus for my tenacity (pain and suffering), I now have a significant foundation draft for a possible novel. I am giving myself the additional permission to pursue that possibility to a resolution, no matter what that might prove to be.
If the thought of becoming a more liberated writer appeals to you, I highly recommend immersing yourself in next year’s NaNoWriMo – even if, like me, your primary goal is not to write a novel. The event inspires freedom in writing, and provides a great network of encouragement to help you stay on focus.
Before you set off on this particular journey, should you be so inclined, here are four things you should know.
1) It’s okay to be uncertain what you’re doing. If you stick to it and write every day, you will improve as a writer.
2) Do not edit as you go. Your ‘inner-editor’ may be frustrated, as mine was — but your inner editor foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft… if you edit constantly. It isn’t, and you probably already know that. Embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.
3) Tell everyone you know that you’re committed to writing 50,000 words in November, and plan to succeed. This will motivate you to achieve a job well done. Personal humiliation is a very powerful muse.
4) There will be times you’ll want to quit during November. This is normal. Stick it out. See it through. You will be the better writer for having done so.
If you’re curious, I encourage you to try it! I firmly believe it will set you free as a writer, no matter what type of writing you pursue.
NOTE: For the fun of it, I have posted an excerpt from my endeavor in this week’s Writer’s Island Journals. I invite you to take a look, and let me know what you think. I can take it… 🙂