Yeah that’s me. I’m an official NaNoWriMo Winner. What is NaNoWriMo you ask? It’s short for National Novel Writing Month—since that’s a big mouthful, it gets shortened to NaNoWriMo. It’s a worldwide challenge to write a novel in one month. In other words, crank out 50,000 words in the month of November and you’re a winner. Technically speaking 50,000 words is a little shy of most novels today, but hey Catcher in the Rye was right around 50K and it did pretty well.
This event has been around for ten years, though I only heard about it last year. Last year more than 300,000 people completed the challenge. Stats aren’t out yet on the 2014 winners. Along this insane initiative, I learned some things that I’m now applying to my everyday marketing life and I think they are worth sharing.
1. Discipline – 50,000 words in 30 days means writing approximately 1,667 words per day. On a good day I can do this in an hour. On a bad day, well, it can take four. The key though is to sit your butt in a seat and do it every day. If there is something you’re trying to get done and it’s just not happening, there is no substitute for tying yourself to your chair and just working on it every day. It’ll happen, I promise.
2. The more you do it the easier it gets – It’s true for writing especially, but also true for most things. Keep at it, it gets easier so those four-hour writing sessions become two hours most of the time.
3. Words with friends helps – There will be dark days when you think “what the hell am I doing this for?” This is when having a community of other people doing whatever hard thing it is you’re trying to do—blogging, Crossfit, lead generation—is beyond helpful and nourishing. I’m not much of a group joiner (there are lots of group writing sessions during Nano) so I followed the #nanowrimo Twitter hashtag and was often inspired by the struggle, anguish and triumphs of other writers going through exactly what I was going through. Find your community and get involved!
4. Procrastination has many flavors – It’s amazing how appealing cleaning, flossing and don’t get me started on online shopping seem when you’re trying to do something hard. Pinterest is a deep dark hole that should be avoided at all costs when you have a real job to do. Some nano writers use the app Freedom, which calls itself a “productivity app.” I call it the anti-procrastination app. Its main function is to lock you out of the internet so you get your work done. Genius.
5. Everyone writes differently – There is a lot of advice out there as to how you have to write. Some say that if you don’t outline first, you just aren’t a good writer. That’s total B.S. One thing I have learned from this is that everyone has their own process. If it works for you and you get words on the paper, then do it that way. Nano has a term for the non-outliners—”pantsers,” short for seat-of-your-pants writers. More than half the nano writers I talked to are pantsers. So don’t worry if you don’t conform to the rigid outline first, first draft second sect, getting it done is what matters.
6. It’s freeing to turn your editor off – You know that annoying voice in your head that sounds a lot like you, that tells you that what you just wrote is crap? When you have to pound out a lot of words, there’s no time to worry about making it perfect, or even good. So you can send that annoying voice packing. This is enormously freeing. When you’re not worried about making it good—and sometimes I even try to make it bad, just to fully banish the editor in my head—you’re just putting words on paper, which is a lot better than no words on paper. Give yourself the freedom to be bad in your first draft, no matter what you’re tackling.
One of my favorite features of the NaNoWriMo.org website is the pep talks from famous authors encouraging all the Nano writers to keep going and get it done. I’ll leave you with my favorite advice written by Chuck Wendig, the author of the Heartland Trilogy, the Miriam Black series and The Kick-Ass Writer.
Here’s an excerpt of his pep talk. I love it. I think it applies to all aspects of life.
The blank page is yours. Cast aside worries over art and criticism. Imagine a land without rules. Imagine that nobody has ever told you that you cannot or should not do this thing. Those people were wrong. Forget those voices. Because, for real?
It’s an empty field and you’ve got the keys to a freaking Ferrari.
It’s a white tablecloth and you’ve got ketchup, mustard, and relish.
It’s a blank page and you’ve got all the letters and words you need.
Rev the engine and take the ride. Paint with all the colors the condiments at your table allow. Create whatever robot-human monstrosities your mind cares to conjure. Crack open your chest and plop your heart onto the page.
Right now: just write. Donuts in an empty field.
That’s your mission now. Go out and do some donuts in whatever field makes you the happiest.