The Most Important Thing You Could Hear before Starting NaNoWriMo

PantherI first heard about NaNoWriMo in 2009, and at that time, I didn’t know what to think about it. It seemed like a crazy thing to do. As I talked to more writers about their feelings on NaNo I realized how many loved it…and how many hated it. I couldn’t say that I felt either, but I was suspicious. Did it work? Was it worth it? And maybe most importantly, were the results any good?

Five years later I get it.

NaNoWriMo does work, on many different levels. But it also depends on what you’re looking to accomplish. There are a lot of writers out there who think that nothing Nobel Prize-winning could possibly be produced by racing through a 50k word manuscript in one month. But so what? The truth is that NaNo writers are not setting out to win the Nobel Prize. Instead, we’re setting the intention to prove something to ourselves.

That we can do it.

That we have it in us to write a novel.

This is probably the biggest, nastiest, unspoken fear every aspiring writer battles in their own head every day. Deep down, we’re terrified that we don’t have it in us to actually write a novel. And if we really don’t, then our life is at risk of becoming a tragedy, and our hearts feel like they might very well break.

Because it’s the thing we want to do most in this world.

Countless writers struggle with this all the time. We want to write but we’re stuck. We want to write but we can’t. We want to write but we don’t know what’s wrong with us, why is it so hard? We usually tell no one about this inner turmoil, except maybe for a spouse or a very close friend.

But then NaNoWriMo comes along and changes everything.

Suddenly, we don’t have time to fight about it with ourselves anymore. It’s November 1st and we have to get started. We don’t have the space to pick our story apart and tear it to pieces. We only have 30 days and now it’s Nov 7th and, for better or worse, we’ve got to follow these characters. Then the halfway mark of Nov 15th rolls around and we’ve got to push through to get this thing on the runway to launch.

By the time that last week of November hits we’ve invested too much of our heart, soul, sweat and tears to abandon this project.

There’s no turning back now.

That’s the secret of NaNo. It hits so hard and fast that we do not have the time to talk ourselves out of it. The pressure is so intense that we do not have the luxury of giving into fear and doubt. Cutting away the fat of time and luxury pushes us into something like survival mode. All of a sudden, our priorities get very, very clear. Our vision is unclouded and true. We see now that the only thing that matters is getting words down on the page, one after the other.

If you’re jumping onboard the NaNo train this year, you’ve already taken the first incredibly courageous step of the writing warrior. You’ve set the intention to make it happen. You’ve told the universe exactly how you see yourself, what you want, and how you’re going to do it. You’re a writer, damn it. You want to write.

You are going to write.

And, most importantly, you will not be stopped.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out:

How NaNoWriMo Can Change Your Writing Life

Overcoming 3 Big Sources of Writer’s Block

How to Stop Living in Fear

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  • Reply Lisen Minetti 29 October, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Lauren – that is what I love about NaNoWriMo. Last year was my first year and I was coming off a very shameful attempt at a first novel. I was terrified on many levels to even attempt NaNoWriMo, but I did – and won. And what came out of it, while nowhere near perfect was salvageable. I am still working on it, but I have something that I didn’t have on October 31, 2013 – a rough draft.

    This year I did a whole lot more plotting than ever before and am PSYCHED for Saturday. Because in addition to pushing me past those moments of self doubt, NaNoWriMo has also afforded me the ability to try new things with my writing and explore new avenues to get to the end result. Even if what I write during November isn’t great, the experience made me a better writer.

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 30 October, 2014 at 4:15 am

    Excellent points, Lauren! My first NaNo was 2007 and I “won.” More importantly than writing 50K words, I wrote my first novel, a story with a beginning, middle, and end in 30 days. Of course, the novel needed (and still needs) a ton of editing, but the act of writing, just writing and letting the ideas flow, was exhilarating. Life got in my way and I didn’t enter again until 2012. Because of 2012 & 2013 NaNo and two 2013 NaNo camps, I now have 4 roughly-hewn novels. I’m planning to participate again this year, and I am looking forward to it. NaNo has become my “excuse” for retiring to my room after dinner and writing, or for ignoring my email in the morning and writing. I’ve learned that people are more accepting of my absence if I say I’m participating in a writing challenge, than if I just say I want to write. I’m even that way about myself right now 😉

  • Reply Jon Simmonds 30 October, 2014 at 7:22 am

    You know Lauren, those last two paragraphs almost convinced me to do NaNo! Almost… 😉

    Well said, I love the sentiment to this – strip away the luxury of prevarication and what’s left is a writer. Beautifully put as always.

    Good luck with your NaNo this year and keep us all updated on progress (if you have the time).


    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 October, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Haha, glad I almost tempted you Jon 😉

      However, I’m actually not participating either this year. I have way too much on my plate with clients and coaching. But I am getting into the frenzy of it all the same!

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 31 October, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I think I’ll wrap up my current projects first (my novel Border Line is published on Dec 5 and a non-fiction book on Far East POWs is at the rewriting stage). As they sing in Send In The Clowns… maybe next year.

  • Reply Why NaNoWriMo? | Facets of a Muse 7 November, 2014 at 5:25 am

    […] The Most Important Thing You Could Hear before Starting NaNoWriMo. […]

  • Reply Judith Post 10 November, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Good luck with pounding out a book! Hope the words bend to your will.

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