Lessons from NaNoWriMo — When Author defies Life

Winner-2014-Facebook-ProfileLooking back, my last post on NaNoWriMo (from the 7th of November) mirrored the chaotic mess of priorities I was faced with when health issues/family needs got in the way of my writing schedule (read it here).

As NaNo works, it is not a complicated schedule, you just have to reach 50,000 words by the end of the 30-day journey, which equals a “Target Average Words per Day” of 1667. Of course you can just write 1667 words per day, every day, and easily finish on the 30th. Or you can write 3334 words every second day. However you do it, NaNoWriMo statistics is THE perfect tool to keep track of your progress, and what’s more, to motivate you!

I was thinking about quitting NaNoWriMo. Seriously was. This was not due to my stagnating word count during the above mentioned period of chaos, but due to my emotional low. I had no motivation left, or no idea where to gather the strength I needed on top of what the chaos drained out of me. I had no fire left in me at the time to keep the flame going and continue writing. I know it would have been crap anyway — and later be deleted. So I left it at that. And tended to my other priorities (family). Which was the right thing to do.

And just when I thought it was too late to pick up the pen (or laptop) in a race to catch up and manage 50,000 words on time, several things proved — yet again — to be life-saving (for the story, and my goal to win NaNoWriMo). You can check out their meaning for me here and they were:

First and foremost, and just like last year: the loving support and motivation of my writing buddy, Elaine, and some other authors like Tony Riches and Paul F. Golden, I got to know via social networks. I did not expect so much support and understanding, so much “I’ve been there, too, and you can do it, too!” It was fascinating and so MOTIVATING!

Second: calm of mind. There is no creativity for me with a troubled, worried mind. So once family life was back on track and I had time to myself again, the muse showed up to say ‘hi’ once again! I sat down with new energy and got a boost out of exceeding my target word count as often as I could. I am ambitious, always have been, and when I smell the faint possibility to STILL reach a target despite all odds against me … I race to sink my teeth into its neck and wrestle it down!

So, my writing buddy was right. We simply sat down each day and wrote. Word sprints was the answer, as she had offered and predicted. We wrote for at least 30 minutes, but usually more. 45 – 60 minutes proved perfect. After that, the rush of pouring ideas onto the page/screen drained me. Sometimes, we took a break and continued with fresh fingers and mind. Sometimes we locked ourselves in and wrote for almost a whole day. Those were the BEST days! And we slowly saw my bar creep back up and streeeetch to touch that damn line in the NaNo statistics that meant I was back on track to finish on time!

Which gave me even more motivation to do it again and again.

Then, on Day 24, so just a week before the deadline, my word count hit and even broke through the line that was the par of 40,000 words! I was at 40,409 words.

This is what my Stats looked like on November 30. Note the setback from the 7th, then the catch-up race to get back to where I wanted to be:


That feeling of having crawled my way back to where I planned to be, despite an unplanned delay and huge setback, was even better than the feeling I got out of winning NaNoWriMo once again — and TWO DAYS EARLY!

This is not because I satisfied my ambitious self. The priceless LESSONS from NaNoWriMo that I learned from that joint effort (credits, again, go to my writing buddy and online support) were that I can always pull myself up by my own bootstraps!

And: I learned that in word sprints, I can write 700-800 words in half an hour! I didn’t know that before. Last year, I wrote my target word count of 1667 in 2 or 3 hours. This year I managed it in one hour, if necessary. As long as I had a rough idea of where to take the story.

But one hour is doable! It can be squeezed out of a hectic day, if necessary. It is valuable knowledge for me and a confirmation of what I’m able to achieve if I push hard enough.

I have safely tucked away (for future reference to my doubtful or desperate self) the knowledge that I can do it! That by working hard, I can reach a goal I set myself with hard work and support of others! Hard as it was, I learned a vital lesson: it is ME who does the work and reaches the goals, and it is a choice to work hard that gets me there. And if not: then I can safely say that I tried everything I could.

And: every word we write is a piece of our story that wasn’t there before! We ALWAYS WIN!

And so can you!

How did November’s NaNoWriMo go for you? Did you struggle, daily, for a few days, a week? Did you make it and won or missed it and why? How are you feeling about it? What did you learn from it all? Please use the comments below to let us all know!

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