Life lessons from NaNoWriMo

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Written by Rachel Wood, contributing writer

It’s finally November, so you know what that means – it’s National Novel Writing Month (lovingly nicknamed “NaNoWriMo”).

If you’ve never heard of it, here’s the gist: every November, aspiring writers around the world challenge themselves to write a novel in a month. Yes, an entire book. Most people aim for 50,000 words in 30 days, but plenty of writers set 75,000 or even 100,000 words as their monthly goal.

On the surface, it may seem absolutely insane. As a college student, it’s hard to imagine having the free time to even read a novel in a month, much less write one.

Even so, I found myself undertaking the challenge five years in a row from high school into my sophomore year of college. I never really had the aspiration of being a novelist for a career (which is good, because most of my stories weren’t stellar), but the experience has given me some fantastic life philosophies – some of which I hope can help you write your next essay.

In case you’re wondering, 50,000 words in a month roughly translates to 1,667 words per day. Looking at a project only by its end goal quickly becomes overwhelming; it makes a lot more sense to focus on smaller goals that will eventually add up to the final product. This was my first lesson.

Of course, 1,667 words per day still seems like a herculean task, especially when you only have an hour or two to dedicate to writing each day. This was another lesson I quickly learned, and one I still live by: all writing is rewriting. Organizing your thoughts and ideas while they’re swimming around in your head is much more difficult than getting them down on paper.

Your words don’t have to be good, or even make sense – the “making sense” part comes later. Move things around and rewrite them. You just have to write something first.

Finally, NaNoWriMo taught me that I can be proud of whatever I put my time and effort into.

I fully expect for the five novels I have written to sit, unread, buried in the files on my computer, and that’s okay. It is perfectly acceptable for me to do something I enjoy, even if it means my book isn’t going to become a bestseller. I feel as if we judge ourselves and our hobbies based on how “good” we are at them, but why should that matter? You’ll never get better at something if you don’t try.

So, go out there and write a book, learn some ukulele chords, bake some scones or maybe knit a scarf. Just be proud of it, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected. Despite my creative writing still needing some work, NaNoWriMo taught me a lot about big projects and being creative. You never know what you’re missing out on unless you try.