If you’re a writer, you may have heard of NaNoWriMo (also known as National Novel Writing Month), where authors sprint to fifty-thousand words in just thirty days. If you’re not a writer, you’re probably wondering what possessed me to do something so stupid.
NaNoWriMo usually takes place in November, but halfway through April, I decided that I needed to write a novel now. I was tired of waiting for inspiration to strike from somewhere in the great beyond, so at the beginning of May, I did something I haven’t done in years: I just sat down and started writing.
The Death of Writing
For those of you who have followed me for a long time, you may remember a time when I was more dedicated to novel writing than I am now. When I was in high school, and for a brief period after, I did nothing but write. Between the ages of twelve and twenty, I churned out hundreds of thousands of words of fiction. And then I stopped.
I got busy. Busy with marriage, busy with work, busy with life. Much too busy, I told myself, to write. Because for me, writing was a time-consuming ordeal that demanded perfection or death. You might say it was sacred to me, and because I no longer had time to meticulously edit every sentence as I wrote it, I let it die.
Re-Becoming a Writer
For awhile, I figured that was just the way things were going to be now: no more writing. I’ve talked about how perfectionism destroys creativity, but apparently my mind didn’t save that bit of info—because I am every bit a perfectionist, and I let it kill my passion.
But I missed writing. I missed stories and characters, and so eventually, I tried to get back into the groove. I’d spend weeks planning a novel, only to lose interest in it because a plot hole appeared, and I didn’t have time to fix it immediately. A month later, I’d repeat the process. Depressed, I became desperate in searching for a cure to this struggle.
NaNo on a Busy Schedule
One afternoon at the library, I picked up a book on writing. The title caught my eye: it was called No Plot, No Problem! And I thought, well—no plot was exactly my problem, so I checked it out immediately, sensing I’d found the cure.
Turns out, No Plot, No Problem! was written by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. I’d always told myself I couldn’t do NaNo. After all, if I didn’t have time to write a novel on a “normal” schedule, how could I expect to write a novel in one month—especially with a job and a family? That would be insanity.
Naturally, I was very surprised to find the headline in this book that said, Being Busy is Actually Good for Your Writing. Baty went on to make the case that, when we have loads of free time, we tend to procrastinate (something that’s especially true in our age of internet addiction). But when we have only a short amount of time to accomplish a task, we often feel more motivated, and as a result, are more successful. And what’s more, he said—creativity would fuel itself and a plot would emerge once the process had started.
And that, friends, is what sold me on NaNo.
Deadlines and Creativity
Contrary to what we may think, healthy deadlines are beneficial to creativity for several reasons:
- They promote focus over procrastination
- They help enforce regular writing habits
- They slay the dragon of perfectionism
There’s nothing about writing a novel in a month that promises you’ll have anything but crap when you’re finished. But you’ll have something, and something is better than nothing, am I right?
- What is the craziest thing you’ve done to kickstart your creativity?
- What are some healthy deadlines you’ve put in place for yourself?
- What things have you been able to accomplish as a result? How have you shocked yourself?