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NaNoWriMo Lessons: Time

National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner! For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge in November to write 50,000 words of a novel. It’s an event that brings together thousands of writers from around the world to practice their craft and talk about writing for a month.

I first participated in NaNo in 2005, and then took a break for several years because I was too busy to write. You know what month is incredibly busy every year? November. You know what excuse is a terrible one for not participating in NaNoWriMo? Being busy! Here’s the deal, writers: you will always be busy. Life will always get in the way of your writing. There will always be a responsibility you think you should be doing instead of writing. You may even feel guilt because you are writing instead of doing something else!

Stop it.

One of the great gifts NaNoWriMo has given me is the perspective that I can make writing a priority. That was a lesson I re-learned every year for the first few years in which I participated. I wasn’t prioritizing my writing life at any other time of the year, but during NaNo, I set aside 30–60 minutes every day to write. (Okay, maybe not every day because there was a year when I wrote 8,000 words one day because I had written 0 words for a whole week.) The only thing standing in my way was myself.

I had responsibilities chomping away at every hour of my day, but with a little extra planning I found the time to write for NaNoWriMo. One of my most productive times to write was on my lunch break. Instead of going out to eat every day, as was my usual routine, I brought lunch at least two days a week and got 30–45 minutes of writing time. I also made use of my weekly writing group (1–2 hours per week). And, sacrifice of sacrifices, I woke up 15 minutes earlier during the month of November. Some days I used that time to make lunch, but other days I got started with writing for the day. Starting my day by writing 15 minutes made me feel ahead all day. Since I was looking for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, I was halfway there!

At the end of the month I was less surprised that I had achieved the 50,000-word goal, and more surprised by how easy it was. I had never before consciously thought about prioritizing writing. I had prioritized projects in order to meet a deadline, but I had never tried to make time to write daily (or semi-daily) for a month. I had thought it would be an impossible task, or that I’d be either exhausted or behind by the end. But when it came down to it, finding the time was much easier than I thought it would be. It took a few years before those lessons really stuck and I stopped being so surprised, but now I never question when I’ll find the time to write, I just find it.

NaNoWriMo is on my mind this month as I’m preparing for this year’s challenge. Stick with me to check out a series of posts on the writing lessons you can learn by participating in NaNo. If you’re a writer, you should really consider signing up.

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