The NaNo Experience
I don’t know how many of you have heard of National Novel Writing Month (held officially in November) but, as of November 30th at 12:58pm, I became a “winner” for the third year in a row! When people hear that I won, most ask what prize I received. I laugh to myself and tell them about the small badge I earned for my blog. After their quizzical looks and polite nods, I go on to tell them that NaNo (as it’s affectionately called) is not about winning a prize, it’s about what you accomplish to win – 50,000 words towards a finished manuscript. I still get blank looks from most people, but when I explain this to a writer, their face lights up and they understand.
I won’t go into anymore detail about what NaNo is (you can check it out for yourself at nanowrimo.org) but I would like to share a few things I learned during the 30 days of writing craziness. And when I say craziness, I do mean crazy!
By nature I’m a busy person. I will admit that I allow myself to get that way and end up adding on more things than I should. One of the first things that NaNo taught me was the importance of saying “No." I work for my church as my full time job, am growing a photography business on the side, volunteer with our high school youth group, sing on the church worship team, and love to be social with friends. All of these things are good, but as a writer and aspiring author, it becomes increasingly difficult to find the time to write with so much else going on. I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels these (and many other) pressures.
As the month of November grew closer, I sat down and had a little heart-to-heart with…well, myself! I knew there would be things I could not sacrifice – like work – but I also knew that there would be other times where I would be tempted to fill my free time with friends or other activates. During NaNo, I learned to glean the hours that I needed to write by asking what was best not just good or better. Only the best things were made priorities along with my writing.
Tackling a novel in a month was also very beneficial for my writing as a whole. If you’re a writer, you may have experienced this if you’ve been under a deadline. There is something about the pressure to complete a work by a certain time that can add to the creativity of the work as a whole. In addition to this, spending time with your novel every day tends to create a beautiful flow that can only be attributed to having your mind on the story all the time. I would find myself in the kitchen or at the grocery store thinking about what would happen next to my characters.
As I look back on my NaNo experience this year, by far the greatest lesson that I learned came during the second week. I was tired (already) and fighting with my characters (already) and wondering if the idea I had chosen was right. At the same time, I was focusing more efforts into my blog and really enjoying the benefits of my new membership to American Christian Fiction Writers.
I sat down one evening, about to start writing my 1,667 words for that day when I felt an overwhelming sense of doubt. It was as if the tasks I had set for myself were lining up to reminding me that I still have far to go as a writer. I placed my fingers on the keys, mind blank, and wondered if I was chasing the wrong dream. Would my writing ever amount to anything more than words on a page? My soul was heavy and I was close to slipping into despair when I remembered the words of my favorite verse, 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
It was then that my heart filled with warmth as I realized that I had given into fear. I had been so worried about what others would think of my writing, I had started to write for them and not for God. When I focused my mind back on Him, everything fell into place in my heart. I remembered that I do not write so that I may receive glory, but so that He will receive the glory.
I would encourage you fellow writers, authors, and readers that in everything you do, you would do it with a joyful heart unto the Lord. That is ultimately the best lesson I could have leaned from NaNo and I hope that it encourages your heart as well!