5 Reasons to Do NaNoWriMo (or Something Else That’s Really Hard)

5 Reasons to Do NaNoWriMo (or Something Else That’s Really Hard)

posted in: Creativity, Learning, Writing | 2


It’s October! Also known as NaNo Prep Month!! This will be the first year in a long time I won’t be joining the wordy hordes in “Thirty Days of Literary Abandon”. I’m sad, but also super excited. The reason I won’t be a participant is because I’m nearly ready to launch my novel! And, for me, NaNoWriMo was always a means to that end.


If you’ve never heard of it, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Millions of creatives all over the world participate in this free, interactive race to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. Yes, fifty thousand. Yes, November. Thanksgiving may or may not find me hiding in a relative’s coat closet with a wireless keyboard and my phone. Two Novembers ago, I broke my hand and was a little glad I had an excuse not to reach 50,000 words. Is that weird?


Basically, it’s fun and scary and miserable. It’s the stuff of dreams and migraines crammed into four weeks of plot problems, dull dialogue, and my husband’s long-suffering patience.


If you think you’d like to go for it this year, but are wondering if it’s worth the holiday hassle, here are five reasons I can recommend doing NaNoWriMo — or some other crazy-hard creative challenge:




It will make you more grateful.


Just in time for Thanksgiving! Suddenly, all your “have-to’s” become “get-to’s”. I used to have to wash the dishes; now I get to on my break. Imagine! All the non-writing tasks I loathe (the ones that usually make me feel like I’m wasting my time) are little miracles of productivity during November!


You’ll find yourself measuring your day in word-count increments. A trip to the grocery store? 1,500 words. An episode of Stranger Things? Over 2,000 words!? All the little slices of time I used to take for granted are transformed into golden moments with a costly price tag. This is also a great way to underscore priorities. You’ll be able to effortlessly decide between alternatives because your time is even more limited. Recreational shopping? No! Social media? Absolutely not! Sunday lunch with friends? Yes! What’s worth a few thousand words to you?



It will leave you with more than you had when you started.


Let’s be realistic. You won’t always win. I sure haven’t! But, on December 1st, I always have more than I could have accomplished on my own. The old saying about shooting for the moon and landing among the stars is right; even if you don’t finish your thirty-day boot camp with a 50,000-word manuscript, you’ll likely have a small mountain of words to propel you toward the end of the year. And a 35,000-word novel-in-progress goes a long way toward soothing the inevitable New Years’ Day regret: “Where did the year go?”




It will teach you about yourself.


The first time I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I was a nervous wad of stress on Halloween. What had I gotten myself into? Who was I to dare start and finish a book? And the stuff! Think of all the stuff I was going to have to neglect for thirty days!


Turns out, all it takes to be a writer is to write. So, whoa. Write every day for a month, and by the end you’re an honest-to-goodness writer. And you pick up momentum. And you will find out things you never knew. For example, I learned potato chips and coffee can be a tasty weeknight dinner. I learned that the family will eat store-bought pie crusts for Thanksgiving and won’t care that I didn’t hand craft every dessert. I learned I can fall far, far behind but catch up with one insane, 12,000-word Saturday.


Last year, I learned I can type in my sleep. I took my wireless keyboard to bed with me like a security blanket. The next morning, I read the hilarious string of words I’d typed as I drifted off. I guess it was a stream of un-consciousness exercise…




It will amaze you.


Just when you think you can’t. type. another. word…. You’ll crank out 3,000 words in two-and-a-half hours, and it will be a scene that your subconscious gifts you like a blessing. You’ll wonder where it came from. You. It came from your wrung-out, exhausted, word-weary mind — a diamond created under extreme pressure. Sure, the rest of the chapter may make zero sense, but that scene? That one scene may be worth the whole month!




It will change your perspective.


When you reach the promised land — December — an entire, unspoiled month of holiday festivities, evenings of binge-watching your shows, and catching up on social media beckons to you. But you will miss the writing. You may even continue working on your book rather than letting it cool off before the editing phase. Because, once you realize what’s possible, it’s not so easy to return to your pre-NaNoWriMo set point. In fact, now you know what you can do. When you look back at all the obstacles you obliterated during the last thirty days, the next month looks pretty darn promising, too. Momentum changes everything.




If you’re uncertain about signing up for NaNoWriMo, do it scared. I’ll be posting more fun tips and survival strategies later this month. What’s the most challenging contest you’ve entered?







2 Responses

  1. I did NANO once. Sort of. I did the “NANO Camp” event in July a few years back. I macro-failed–did not write 50,000 words, but I micro-succeeded, got a heck of a lot of writing done. It was fun. I signed up for a “cabin” where I knew a couple gals. One was our “counselor” and she would give us Ra-Ra pep talks every day. Until she didn’t. That was Day 6, I think.

    This may be my favorite line in this post: “Turns out, all it takes to be a writer is to write.” Preach, Sister Cole!

    • Cole Smith

      It’s really useful, for me, because it obliterates a lot of my favorite excuses. But the folks at NaNo headquarters take such a light-hearted look at procrastination, commitment (the lack of), and passive-aggressive time-sucks, it still manages to be super fun. I just love it. I’m going to have to make a similar bar graph for my WIP for November so I won’t feel distraught, haha!

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