Learning from Our Mistakes and Triumphs: This Day in the Past

Originally published 11-17-2013

Can it be done?

When I decided to do National Novel Writing Month again this year, I was hesitant, if not downright terrified. I had participated several times (at least a baker’s half-dozen) before, and failed miserably every time. Each time I took part, I quit halfway through (or sooner), and my biggest word count to date was something like 25K. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure that I would make it through the whole month, let alone to the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.

a dog lying face down in a blanket
Did I really sign up for this?

A strategy to win NaNoWriMo

Then, something interesting happened. I decided, without knowing anything about the NaNo Rebels board, to do something different; I knew it wasn’t strictly following the rules, but I was more concerned with getting the words down than anything else. So, I collected a few works-in-progress that kept vying for my attention, and I added some quickly brainstormed ideas into the mix. I came up with ten stories that I could work on throughout the month.

One spreadsheet later, I devised a way to count all my new words, without worrying about those old words skewing my results. And I haven’t looked back since November 1st. I’ve written almost every day; when I missed a day, I wrote twice as much the next day to catch my word count up. I have rearranged my sleep schedule, gone through a job loss, and am about to enter finals week in college.

image of a brown and white puppy running in the snow
Like the wind!

Rebellion FTW

My word count is exactly where it needs to be. So far, I’ve only touched two of those original stories that I gave myself permission to write. One was a previous NaNo failure. The other I jotted down more recently and gave up on after life threw me a few curve balls. But the permission I gave myself to write those two stories, and the other eight, liberated me. Call it short attention span, or call it rebellion against authority; either way, it got my writing juices flowing again.

That being said, I still have a long way to go on my journey. These stories are still in their infancy, and need a whole lot of work each. But now, since this NaNoWriMo setup for success, I have permission to write whatever it is that strikes my fancy on any given day. And that is what will drive me to accomplish my writing goals.

a brown dog with a goofy face
It might not be pretty, but it’s progress.

So… what happened this time in 2013?

I ended up winning NaNoWriMo that year.

How? I gave up on the ideal of it I had. Instead of crumpling my creativity and motivation into a little box of rules (like I do everything else), I let myself run wild. I discarded almost all the rules that were holding me back, and that made all the difference.

Best of luck in your writing goals!

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