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Should You Do NaNoWriMo This Year?

It’s finally October. The air is getting colder, leaves are changing color, and stores are stocking pumpkin spice everything. This can only mean one thing: NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us.

Okay, there are other reasons for writers to love this time of year. Halloween is an excellent excuse to try your hand at horror writing. Plus, you can shamelessly dress up like your favorite characters without getting judgmental looks from your neighbors.

But this is only the calm, candy-corn-scented lull before the storm.

In case you don’t already know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. To celebrate, every year, thousands of aspiring authors attempt to write an entire novel—fifty thousand words—before 11:59 on November 30th. The event encourages casual, hobbyist writers to get serious and write at a pace similar to a professional author’s.

Already, my writer friends have asked me—in whispers, as if afraid of waking the beast a few weeks early—if I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. My response is the same as most years: “I don’t know. November is kind of a busy month for me. I’m not sure I have the time.”

My friends confess the same thing. They sigh in relief to know they aren’t the only ones scared to commit to such an intense event. Fifty thousand words in a month? Seriously, who has time for that? Maybe next year.

When I was in college, my own excuses felt more legitimate to me. After cranking out yet another paper, I didn’t want to sit back down at my desk and write yet another twelve-hundred words to meet my daily quota.

Now that I’ve graduated and become a Productive Member of Society (something like that—it’s still a work in progress), I’ve learned the bitter truth: I’m always going to be “busy.” There’s never going to be a “good time” to write.

Plenty of people struggle with this. Countless blog posts with titles like “5 Tips for Writing a Novel While Working Full-Time” and “The Work/Writing Juggling Act” promise to help. Their advice isn’t bad, if rather generic: write every day, write whenever you have a few spare minutes, set small goals, be patient, etc.

It’s nice to read these sorts of posts. They might be redundant, but they fill you with hope – maybe you can find the time you need. Of course, you could spend this time actually writing instead, but it’s easy to justify “finding motivation.”

I won’t pretend I have the magic solution. Finding the time, energy, and inspiration to write is something we all struggle with. Maybe that’s all the more reason to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Maybe it’s exactly the kind of kick in the pants we need. It’s a commitment, but we’re noncommittal the other eleven months of the year.

That said, you might still feel like fifty thousand words is too much for you, especially if you’re not used to writing every day. If you’re too intimidated to even try, consider doing a “half-NaNo” of twenty-five thousand words instead.

Last year, I achieved a personal goal of thirty thousand words by the end of the month, broken down into a thousand words a day. It wasn’t as much pressure, but it was enough to get me into a habit of daily writing, and I kept up a similar pace through the end of March.

The best writing advice anyone ever gave me didn’t take up a whole blog post, or even a whole line. It was very simple: “just write.”

Now I challenge all of you (and myself) to “just write.” You have all of October to prepare, and I would encourage all of you to do some version of NaNoWriMo this year. Worst case-scenario, you don’t finish. At least you can say you tried.

I wish you all the best of luck!

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