My original plan for today’s post was to continue with my website redesign series. But I’ve decided to push that off until later in the week. Instead, I’m going to continue writing about NaNoWriMo.

And so it begins

As many of you know, National Novel Writing Month is officially upon us. In celebration, I took the day off from work. In my humble opinion, it really should be a national holiday, but so far I have been unable to convince any of the higher ups.

I’ve got to say, taking the day off was a great idea. And no, it wasn’t great because I didn’t have to go to work or because I was able to stay in my PJs all day and sleep in until 8 (I’m usually up at 6, so 8 is a big deal). Naturally those things contributed to the greatness of today, but the true greatness stems from what NaNoWriMo taught me about myself.

Failures of Years Past

This is my 4th year participating. The first year I jumped into a brilliant story idea only to change my mind 50 pages in. I then threw myself into the next brilliant idea, writing an additional 50 pages. Only to realize that the execution was far from brilliant. In short, I failed.

Year 2 I decided to use NaNo to push myself to finish my book, which was my story from year 1 fully resuscitated and fixed up through the help of tons of plastic surgery and duct tape. Again, I failed.

Year 3 I may as well not have participated. Not only was I extremely ill, but I attended a wedding in Thailand halfway through November. Needless to say I didn’t even come close to completing the challenge.

NaNoWriMo – Finding Your Zen

This year, my 4th year, is the first year I have gone into NaNo with a solid plan. And today I saw the benefit of this. Because I was not distracted trying to think up a plan on the fly, I was able to really focus on the writing. I also learned some things about myself.

1. NaNoWriMo teaches discipline

Ok, in a perfect world we could teach ourselves discipline. But NaNoWriMo gives that finally push to those of us struggling with the whole discipline thing. Through the act of participating in NaNo, I am able to see that I can be a disciplined writer. I can sit at my computer and write on command. I can reach daily word goals. Today, I saw that discipline in action and it was the most productive I’ve felt in a long time.

2. NaNoWriMo reinforces a schedule

Since finishing school, I’ve found it difficult to properly organize my personal life. I spend all day at work organizing my time. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted. I don’t want to think about the order. NaNo reminds us that order is not so hard to achieve, if you are willing to let it happen.

Today, I was willing to let it happen. Before getting out of bed, I had a plan. I decided I would reach 5,000 words by lunchtime. Then I would do the many other things on my list, like going to the gym, updating my blog, cleaning the house, etc. Once those things were done, I could sit down and write some more.

Because I had a set plan, I was not trying to do a million things at once. I knew I had to reach my word count for the day or I would not do the other things I needed to do. And you know what? Not only did I accomplish everything on my list, but I finished ahead of schedule.

3. NaNoWriMo stretches my limits and shows me what’s possible

Following along the same lines as the previous point, by focusing, I was able to get a really good sense of how much content I can produce in a set amount of time, and I don’t think the quality suffered more than it suffers in any first draft. Seeing how easy it is to write 5,000 words in 1 day gives me renewed hope in my ability to actually complete a project. The massive rewrite I’m undertaking with my original WIP (yes, I am currently working on 2 projects) has been disheartening to say the least. Now that I see how much I can produce in a day, I feel like it is possible to finish project 1 and all future projects. I stretched my limits today, at it feels great.

And the Conclusion is…

So what is the point of this extremely long post? I’m not saying every writer should participate in NaNo. But if you are like me and having problems figuring out the time management, discipline, reaching your full potential etc. craziness that is all part of being a successful writer, especially one working a full-time job on top of writing, maybe you should think about participating. It’s not too late to sign up.