Reflections on NaNoWriMo 2019

On November 29, 2019 I “won” National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) by writing 50,000 words of a novel during the month. I set a goal for another 50,000 in December, and hope with that I’ll have enough to call my first draft done. It will be done when it’s done though, so I plan to just keep writing until the story ends. I’ll know it when I see it, I think.

Since the end of NaNoWriMo, I’ve been trying to make it back here for a recap, but oof, that’s been tough! The whole writing-with-a-pen-on-a-whim thing turned out awesome. I love it. I love my teal Leuchtturm1917 again, which was a saga in itself. I love my fountain pens. I love writing stories this way. What I do not love is typing on a keyboard and staring at a back lit screen, which is sort of necessary for blogging. I’m working on a way to overcome that resistance though, because I do find a lot of value in keeping up with the blog.

So, with that, the first lesson I learned during NaNoWriMo is that I very strongly prefer paper for writing. I’ve even switched to paper for some work-related writing. I’ve been dreading the thought of writing my second draft of the novel on a computer. It sounds awful and makes my face scrunchy. Writing on a computer feels like work and writing on paper feels like art. I want to make art. I do enough work. Writing on paper forces me to slow down and think which has allowed me to slow down and think. This is a gift.

I also learned that I don’t have to be so damn precious about everything. I have been paralyzed by perfectionism in the past. I have embraced Anne Lamott’s concept of the “shitty first draft.” My story and my notebook are messy. I wrote lots of bits that aren’t going to end up in the final draft, or even the next draft. I already plan to toss the first 8,500 words. Good riddance. I wrote another 6,500 in the middle that consists of backstory for a supporting character and encyclopedic explanation about the world I’m building. These were things I needed to know, but I’m not sure yet that the reader will.

My beautiful teal Leuchtturm1917 is full of cross-outs and misspellings, though less of both than I would have expected. The thanks on that goes to the whole slow-down-and-think phenomenon of writing on paper. The mistakes and messiness don’t bother me at all now. They’re beautiful pieces of the process of creativity.

I learned that I am a finisher. I set a big goal that required diligent effort. I could have just not done it. There would have been no external consequences. But I didn’t quit. I finished. And that feels SO good. I also finished a crochet project I’d been toting around for two years. I finished reading/listening to multiple books. Finishing is a thing I do now.

I also learned that there are many more hours in the day than I previously thought. I wrote 50,000 words during the month by writing around 1,750 each day (less than five 500-word-plus outliers, no days under 500 words). This takes me around two hours per day. I also worked full time. I read books. I crafted. I cooked. I made kombucha. I spent a weekend in Portland. I walked my dogs and rode my horses, though not as much as I would have liked. I spent Thanksgiving with my family. I didn’t miss a single weekly date night.

I’ve learned the magic (MAGIC, I say!) of daily creative practice. Writing every day for a month has unlocked something for me that I have difficulty putting into words. November 2019 has been, hands down no contest, the most creative month of my life. I can’t wait to see what next month holds.