What I Learned This November

It’s been five years since I committed to my first NanoWrimo. Five years since I took the plunge and attempted to write 50,000 words in one month. I remember that first year, I was so excited. I’d pushed off doing it for a couple of years, and I knew that it was the time. I could do it. I was meant to do it. And once November hit, I put in all I had and I finished my 50,000 words. I finished early, and I loved it. 

Since then, I knew I was going to do NanoWrimo every year. And I have. As I went to college, I found myself with a lot of time to plan and plot and get excited. I look forward to NanoWrimo every year, and I’ve always had more than enough time to finish. I wrote more than the daily word count goal, and I was excited year after year to write a novel.

This year, things changed. Not in the way you might think. I was still excited for my story. I was still excited about November. But as I had to deal with working all day on the farm, not having internet access to research, and traveling leading up to and during the month of November, it was the first year that I actually struggled to finish my novel. Nano does a great job of sending pep talks and encouraging you to write. I always enjoy reading these, but in the previous years, I never really understood it. How could someone be so far behind on their word count?

This year, I was that person. I was behind, worried about finishing. And though it was stressful, I realized that it was the first year that I really learned what is so great about NanoWrimo. You set a goal. And you make sure you achieve it. As the month started, I strived to meet my daily word count goal. I quickly started missing that goal, even though I made sure to write every day. I told myself it was ok, as long as I was writing each day, I was doing good. At about day 10, I realized it wasn’t good enough. Sure some days I was hitting the word count goal, but I wasn’t writing more. I wasn’t catching up. Each day I was falling more and more behind.

I began to make sure I had time in my day carved out to write. I told my family, making sure they would allow me to have this time that I thought would come naturally, as it had in the previous years. It helped, but it still wasn’t good enough. I misjudged how long it took me to write. And it wasn’t just writing. Without my plot map like in the previous years, I spent a lot of time staring at my words, thinking about what needed to happen. As we passed the halfway mark, I knew what I was doing wasn’t good enough anymore. I started focusing, thinking about my Nano even when I wasn’t at the computer. I could finish. I knew I could. I wanted to finish. I couldn’t bear the thought of not finishing, even though however much I wrote was an achievement within itself. I had set a goal for myself, and even though it was different than every other November before, I was determined to make it.

I put aside longer periods of time to write my novel. I made sure I didn’t go to sleep until I had hit my new word goal. And slowly, I started to catch up. As the final day of November approached, I knew I could do it. I would be finishing on the last day, but I could do it. And I did. I finished around 10pm on November 30. And it felt so good. Winning this time meant more to me than the previous years. My novel may not be totally finished, and it may not be perfect, but this is the first one that I struggled with. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have as much time before to plan it out. I had to catch up in the month of November. Whatever the reason, I’m so proud of myself, for setting this goal, facing a challenge, and conquering it.

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