On Writing: Why NaNoWriMo Is NOT About Writing 50,000 Words

Why NaNoWriMo Is NOT About 50,000 Words

I'm about to start my eighth NaNoWriMo adventure in nine years (I took November 2018 off as my second baby was born that month). I'm deep in Preptober and other NaNoWriMo preparation (like fulling my freezer with ready meals and warning all my loved ones I'm going to be hiding away writing whenever I can!), sharing NaNoWriMo tips on Instagram, and I am getting very, very, very excited.

As with every year, it's going to be a challenge, a revelation, a blessing and a curse. I intentionally try to get ahead early because I know that my energy will flag around the middle and definitely in week three. I expect some days will be harder than others and I know that some of these hard days will make me want to give up or take a break.

Usually I say taking a break from writing is the best thing you can do, but the whole point of NaNoWriMo is that you don't take a break. It's the one  time you push through and you make writing a big, big priority in your life. But even so, it's so very hard to push through when you have low energy, you're stuck in a mile-deep plot hole and you have run out of chocolate...

It's usually on those days that my previous experience helps me out a lot. I remind myself that I've had hard days before during other NaNoWriMo experiences, and I remind myself that I got through them then.

I've only "lost" one out of all my NaNo experiences but even losing with just under 36,000 words was still a huge win. When I remember that I also start to remember what NaNoWriMo is really all about and let me tell you, 50,000 words is literally bottom of the list.

What is NaNoWriMo REALLY About?

Yes, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Yes, the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month (which breaks down to 1667 words every day for the 30 days of November). But once you start and you find yourself deep in the challenge - for better or for worse - NaNoWriMo is actually about so much more.

And before we dip into all the things NaNoWriMo are really about - and you absolutely should consider these all reasons to keep going on those hard days - I want to remind you that you don't need to write fiction or even a novel for NaNoWriMo. This year, yes, I will be working on a novel, but most years I'm a proud NaNoRebel.

With just over a week to go before this year's NaNo starts, now is the perfect time to remind yourself of all the below things. And yes, you will probably need to come back to this list again and again and again once the writing challenge actually starts.

Because these are fifty things that NaNoWriMo is really about, NOT 50,000 words.

  1. It's about giving yourself grace
  2. It's about giving yourself time
  3. It's about being creative
  4. It's about exploring
  5. It's about challenging yourself
  6. It's about digging deep.
  7. It's about focusing only on you.
  8. It's about feeling good about yourself
  9. It's about being kind to yourself.
  10. It's about showing yourself what you're capable of
  11. It's about finding your people.
  12. It's about encouraging and inspiring others.
  13. It's about testing something.
  14. It's about feeling new things.
  15. It's about finding new ways to reward your hard work.
  16. It's about being alone and seeing how that makes you feel.
  17. It's about having imaginary friends.
  18. It's about being you.
  19. It's about ridding yourself of bad habits.
  20. It's about starting new, better habits.
  21. It's about thinking positive.
  22. It's about defining your own success.
  23. It's about breathing deeply when you panic.
  24. It's about finding your way out or around plot holes.
  25. It's about learning to type quicker.
  26. It's about seeing just how much you can write in one hour, every day, for a month
  27. IT's about seeing just how much you can write in four hours, every weekend for a month.
  28. It's about creating a space that you can go to that is only yours.
  29. It's about putting into words something that has only existed as thoughts.
  30. It's about surprsing yourself.
  31. It's about discovering where your limits are and respecting them
  32. It's about writing under pressure.
  33. It's about writing when you don't want to.
  34. It's about writing when you don't know how.
  35. It's about surrendering to the unknown.
  36. It's about planting a seed.
  37. It's about getting excited about what is happening.
  38. It's about getting excited about what will happen next.
  39. It's about learning which words you use too much.
  40. It's about learning which words you can't spell.
  41. It's about learning to look forward, not back.
  42. It's about learning to embrace the necessary crappiness of a first draft.
  43. It's about learning to overcome "comparisonitis" and only focus on your own work.
  44. It's about finding music or noises or silence that helps you write
  45. It's about experiencing flow, possibly for the first time in your life.
  46. It's about being proud of yourself.
  47. It's about falling in love with writing again and again and again.
  48. It's about finding it hard, lonely and scary, but doing it anyway.
  49. It's about not panicking but writing instead.
  50. It's about treasuring 100 words just as much as you treasure 1000 or 10000. You do what you can do. And you deserve to feel proud of that.

If you'd like to save and share this post for those days when NaNoWriMo gets hard, here are some pin images.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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