What I Learned Doing NaNo 2018

So another year has passed, another NaNo completed. I’m really happy with my progress this year – so far, I’ve managed to input my word count into NaNo every day, and with only two days left I have absolute faith in my ability to get it updated those last two days. I actually hit the 50k word count a few days ago, but I really want to get the “update every day” badge because I never earned it in previous years.

So close I can almost taste it.

Every year, it’s an incredible journey, and this year was no exception. Every year during NaNo I learn something different. In 2016, I learned that I am still a writer. In 2017, I learned that I can actually finish a project. This year, I expected to not come away with much in the way of lessons learned. I’ve published now, I write weekly, I’ve got this, right?

Nope. Writing is like anything else in life – you never stop learning.

Here’s the three things I’ve learned over the course of NaNoWriMo 2018.

1) I can keep an everyday writing schedule

“Write every day” is advice that’s often given to new writers. At some point, it’s advice that I’m going to have to do a whole post about. It’s not always the best idea, and there’s a lot that goes into determining if it’s right for you. Personally, I’m finally at a point where I was comfortable setting that goal for myself. It was a goal I’d set in June, July, August…basically it’s something I’ve been trying to do every month leading up to NaNo. It wasn’t until NaNo I managed to reach it, because I figured out one key thing:

Any amount of writing is still writing every day.

There were days during NaNo this year where my writing of the day consisted of a couple sentences. There were days when I wrote 5k in a single day. I used to consider the first days to be failures, where I didn’t meet some imaginary metric I’d imposed on myself. NaNo taught me that on some days, I won’t do much. I’ll be tired, I’ll be stressed, I’ll be busy at work, I’ll just be having a bad day. On those days, anything still counts. Only wrote fifty words? That’s still progress. As long as I’m doing something, I’m still writing daily.

Some days, fifty words is all I can manage before I turn into this.

Of course, this was all helped by…

2) Planning to take breaks really helps

Are you tired of me trumpeting the Pomodoro Technique and Writing Sprints? Then you might want to skip to the next section here, because I’m going to bang on about it again. It’s really revolutionized writing for me, completely changing my mindset to one that’s been much healthier for me. This year during NaNo, I started taking that to the next level and pre-scheduling my intervals.

It’s been amazing.

I’ve always struggled with adhering to schedules, but this month I found it flowed much more naturally than in the past. I think it was in part because I was doing daily writing, and it was in part because I was just in the right headspace for most of the month. Whatever it was, my stress levels dropped dramatically since I had everything pre-scheduled. I was never sitting around thinking “I should be writing right now,” when I took free time because I had been scheduled to sit around and relax, and when I was writing I was more productive because I had the good pressure of a set stop time.

That helped me remember something I’d been struggling with…

3) Writing is still fun

I think we writers lose sight of this fairly often. Yes, writing is something you can do for a career. Yes, it is hard, and you will pour blood, sweat, and tears into your book. Yes, sometimes it absolutely can be a chore, something you do because you have to keep it going.

But it’s also fun.

You’re sitting at a keyboard or with a notebook and, using nothing but your words, you’re painting scenes. You’re building worlds. You’re breathing life into characters. You’re imagining things no one else has imagined, not the way you do. It’s the closest a human being can get to feeling omnipotent. It’s a cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words, and while that’s true, don’t forget that with a thousand words you can create a moment that lives and breathes.

This world is yours to shape

Don’t forget to embrace it and enjoy yourself. Even on the days it’s hard, even on the days the words don’t want to come, you’re still creating. Have fun with it!

How’d NaNo go for you? Learn anything interesting? Let me know in the comments below!


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