**I published this article last fall but with NaNoWriMo in full-swing I thought it would be useful to repost it with a few updates**
National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit that was created to inspired, support and encourage those of us out there who are crazy enough to dream of writing a novel. The idea is that you sign up to participate to binge-write a 50,000 word novel from November 1st to November 30th. This is a brilliant idea. As a writer, there are always a million reasons not to start and/or finish a novel. Signing up for NaNoWriMo is your first step to kicking all those excuses to the curb.
As a participant you will have access to a writing community, inspiration, pre-set goals and hopefully enough motivation to keep you going. Writing a novel is intensive, emotional, aggravating, infuriating, invigorating and leaves you feeling incredibly vulnerable, ergo, it is not for the weak-of-heart. Even if you are not actively participating in the November marathon affectionately known as NaNoWriMo there are still ways to feel a part of the community and celebrate the event:
Write, Write; Write
OK, this one seems obvious but it can be incredibly tricky. If you know someone who is a writer or if you yourself are a writer you know how fickle writers can be. For me to write effectively I need a significant portion of available time. Some writers can write a little here and a little there but that is not my process, I like to get into a flow and roll with it – this allows me to write for hours without stopping (trying to write within time restrictions only aggravates me and impedes the creative flow). However, that doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of small parcels of time by writing a quick blog post, a flash fiction piece or some really juvenile poetry. And herein lies the key to writing success: making, finding and utilizing time.
By watching an hour less of TV each day, spending less time surfing the internet, waking up an hour earlier or going to bed an hour later, taking advantage of waiting in long lines, or writing on your lunch break instead of chatting with co-workers gives you time you did not realize you had. Making writing a priority in your life can be the difference between finishing that first novel and letting the idea die in your head. This year I finally took the plunge and am a registered participant. By committing to NaNoWriMo it has suddenly thrust writing to the top of my priority list (and by carving out extra time in my day I have already written almost 9,000 words).
As a side note, you can’t utilize time if you are not prepared – I keep journals and notebooks everywhere (including my car and purse). If nothing else always be sure you have a working pen on you so you can jot your ideas down on whatever material is available: a napkin, the back of a receipt, your arm, etc.
Read, Read; Read
Someone once said that in order to be a good writer you must first be a good reader and it is absolutely true. Reading exposes you to different ideas, new ways of looking at things, creative ways of explaining experiences, shows you proper grammar and a vast vocabulary. Reading a lot is also a great way to be inspired as a writer. Someone else once said that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. You may find yourself oddly inspired by a descriptive scene, an intense character interaction or even a book jacket. Take that inspiration and run with it, er, write with it. Reading more can get you writing more and hopefully writing better.
Join the Community
NaNoWriMo definitely figured out how to utilize social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube and Pinterest) which gives you a ample opportunity to connect with fellow participants and writers alike. Being a writer can be lonely as you spend countless hours of isolation in your office, a writing corner, a bedroom or wherever it is you create. Alas, it is part of the process. However, taking a break to connect with other writers can be extremely valuable (who else will understand your quirks and nuance better than fellow writers?). So next time you have some down time or need to reignite that feeling of comradery search #NaNoWriMo and join the community. Show your support for those writers out there who were daring enough, brave enough (and just crazy enough) to participate in the marathon of all writing marathons.
Attend a Bookish Event
I am fortunate to live in a wonderful literary community. Minneapolis/St Paul is home to tons of quirky bookshops, coffee houses, writing groups and the legendary Loft Literary Center and Open Book. Where I live it is not hard to find book signings, readings, poetry beats, fundraisers or book clubs to participate in. Getting out there and being active in your local literary scene can not only help you rub elbows with fellow writers but grow your writing network and hopefully help you see the possible reality of your own dreams.
I saved the best and most frightful suggestion for last: share your work. For some of us, the thought of reading our work aloud to anyone other than our houseplants can be terrifying. I would rather go to the dentist for a root canal than read my work in public. Sharing your work publicly is no easy feat: you have people looking at you, listening to you (hopefully), glimpsing into your soul and interpreting your work through their own lens. Putting something out there that you poured your heart and soul into is a very precarious place to be; it is a bell that cannot be un-rung. However, there is also a flip side to every coin. Sharing your work can be empowering. Extremely empowering. In the moment you share your work you are forced to stand in your truth, expose yourself for who you are and experience the anxious rush of adrenaline as your words echo in a room full of listening ears. It’s a rush, but I hate doing it. I also understand that sharing my work is a part of being a writer. So I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone sometime this month and share your work.
Being a writer is an incredibly rewarding experience. It forces me to push the bounds of my comfort zone, challenges me to dig deeply and speak truthfully, and allows me to experience the world in countless different ways. I am thankful for organizations like NaNoWriMo whose only objective is to support writers and encourage them to write! However you choose to celebrate National Novel Writing Month I hope you achieve whatever goals you set for yourself, so write on!