Should You Participate In Nano? What I Learned

Never heard of Nano? It’s technically NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Nano is a non-profit organization that provides community, tools, and structure to all those looking to take on a massive creative undertaking: writing a f*cking book.

I’ve been a participant in Nano for the last eight years. Now, I write throughout the entire year (thanks, in large, to the lessons that Nano has taught me), but I still faithfully block off the entirety of November for this challenge. 

In the past, I’ve been asked by my other writing friends (published and non) if Nano is “worth it.” Those who haven’t participated generally have a fair amount of trepidation. Which is fair! It seems insane to commit to writing a book in a month (or, at least, 50,000 words of it). But let me tell you about what I’ve learned participating in Nano.

Just Write.

I know I’ve talked extensively about this in other blogs – like my writer’s block blog, for example – but I’ve found that there’s no better cure to getting out of a slump than simply writing. Because of the time crunch, I learned very quickly that what I needed was words on the page. They weren’t going to be perfect (trust me, I learned that very quickly while going through the editing process), but the story was there. From my fingers, to the computer. 

Habit is the Key

The objective of Nano is to sit down and write 1,667 words a day. That, at the end of the month, will get you to 50k. Some days you’ll write less. Some days, you’ll write more (sometimes even a lot more). It is the consistent effort that takes you from a blank document to a fully-fleshed-out-novel. So long as you show up and do the work, it’ll get done. I’ve talked about how important a writing schedule before, and, really, I learned that from participating in Nano. 

Do I think everyone should shit down and write every day? No, I don’t think it’s practical for most people. But three days a week? Four days? Five days? Most certainly. Creating the habit is really just building up the writing muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Having a Community Helps. So Much. 

I can only speak for my own personal experience, but I don’t have very many readers/writers in my close personal circle. Mentioning that I was writing a book yielded little more than: “Oh, how good for you!” “That sounds fun!” I knew going into publishing books that there would be limited support from my family and friends. I knew I couldn’t talk ad nauseam about my ideas – let alone expect them to read, or get super excited for/with me. 

Now, now, don’t feel sorry for me, or think they’re being dicks. The reality is that unless you’re already in love with books/writing, you’re probably not going to understand what a massive undertaking it is. And they’re certainly not going to understand how desperately their writer friends are going to need support. 

I had made my peace with it as I started writing. But then, I met other people who were writing, too. Other people who were just as excited about seeing other people succeed as they were in seeing themselves. That sort of positivity is outright contagious. It made me fall in love with the writing community. 

I Learned What I Was Capable Of

Which, honestly, was so much more than I thought I was. My first Nano, I wrote all the way into December, continuing with daily writing until my first ever manuscript was over 160k words long (it got whittled down to 120k during editing, but, hey, I at least got it out there). 

Above All Else

I was so proud of myself. I had finally, at long last, sat down and accomplished a dream I’ve had since childhood. The immense sense of pride I had was overwhelming, astounding. Funnily enough, it’s a feeling I have every year. It’s almost like running a marathon. 

And I guess, in a way, that’s what Nano is. 

If you’re on the fence about it, just give it a try. It could very well end up being worth it!


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