Lessons From My First Week of NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel Month)

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This week I learned a few things. Some I suspected and some I did not.

1. It helps to have many people out there trying to do the same thing.

Writers have probably always formed groups and I suppose this is because writing is so lonely that we all want to know someone else is out there flailing around, too. I’m not sure why it helps but it sure does.

2. I can write reams more than I ever thought I could.

Before NaNo I was writing 250 words a day. Now I am writing 1200 (Thursdays have been lower due to the 11 hour teaching day on Wednesday).  I know I won’t reach the goals of the group at this pace but with a toddler and a day job, I’m giving myself the grace not to. Still. I’m writing almost five times as much as before NaNo. It shocks me and, what surprises me even more is this: it’s not much harder than it was to squeeze out those 250 words. It takes a little more time. And sometimes I write at night instead of all in the early morning. But I can do it. I can.

3. Using pep talks and other people’s blogs is a good way to reward myself instead of getting myself going.

In order to punch out those words, I need to hold off on my Internet cravings  but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. I’ve always thought we writers get lost in social media and surfing because it’s a part of our love of words. I decided to flip that around and use it as a reward instead of trying to beat myself out of clicking around.

4. It helps to think  about what will come next before I have to sit at the keyboard.

I know this is obvious but the higher word count forces me to think about it a lot. And, I am happy to say, I like this part of writing. The thinking and dreaming about it happen everywhere and it’s fun.

5. The idea of a day off works for me. And that day doesn’t have to be on the weekend.

I’ve driven myself into the ground before and flamed out like a candle with no wick left. Tracy Barrett blogged that she takes Tuesdays off. I had always felt I needed a weekend day off to fit with the work week tradition, I guess. But I never could take those off. Some of my best writing happened then. So now I’m taking Friday off and it feels lovely. I let myself write today – just not on the novel. I’ll see how tomorrow goes but I’m hopeful.

I’m into the second week now and am contemplating squeezing out a few words after a bout of sickness that would have given me a lovely excuse not to write without NaNo waiting for me over there. I’ve been trying to figure out how much to donate. Whatever I choose, I doubt it will be enough. Thanks, NaNo.

About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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