This article first appeared in the October 2011 issue of my monthly ezine, The Relaxed Writer.
I'm posting it here with the encouragement of Jordan Rosenfeld, author, editor, fiction writer and writing coach, who emailed me with great comments before sharing this thought with her Twitter followers:
I appreciate the good words, Jordan. Relaxed Writers, I hope you'll find this article useful, too. -MB
3 Reasons Writers Should Say NO to NaNoWriMo
November 1 marks the start of National Novel Writer's Month (NaNoWriMo), and many writers around the world--over 200,000 last year-- are preparing to challenge their creativity and endurance.
NaNoWriMo offers many benefits to writers: community support, new writing friends, accountability, encouragement…and most of all, a very specific and time-limited writing goal. After all, it's much easier to stay committed to your writing when you know others are making the same choices you are to forego family fun for writing.
But NaNoWriMo isn't the right writing structure for everyone. Read on for 3 reasons NaNoWriMo may NOT be right for you.
1. Is This Your REAL Writing Goal Right Now?
A specific, time-limited goal is absolutely key to getting the most out of your writing intensive. But what if "drafting a new novel in 30 days" isn't your goal, exactly? Your life is short, my friend. If you have a work-in-progress, would it make more sense to complete your draft or polish an existing manuscript instead?
Think It Through: If you choose to “NaNoWriMo,” ask yourself if a new, rough draft of a novel is the goal that serves your writing career best.
2. Set Up for Stress
NaNoWriMo was founded in 1999 by 20-something writer, Chris Baty. He started the challenge because he and his friends wanted to get more writing done after they came home from work.
When I coach men and women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond--mothers, managers, professionals, executives, fathers--who've chosen to do NaNoWriMo, they often feel discouraged, frustrated or upset with themselves for not being able to complete the writing challenge. If you have significant family or job ties, NaNoWriMo wasn't really designed for you! Your writing goals may be much better served by choosing a different structure.
Think It Through: If you find it too difficult to fit yourself into the artificial structure of NaNoWriMo, stop straining and find another alternative that suits you better.
3. Short-Term Imbalance, Long-Term Effects
As a life coach for writers, I'm trained to help you pay attention and honor your writing in the context of your whole life. The writers I've coached who choose to "NaNoWriMo" have -- surprise! -- typically experienced quite an imbalanced month in November.
I know that short-term balance is often necessary if we're to complete a big writing project. But the timing of NaNoWriMo is tricky.
Baty founded NaNoWriMo in November because the weather’s typically rather rotten here in San Francisco in November. But for many writers, NaNoWriMo pits their relationships and home life against their creative work. And the NaNoWriMo novelists I've coached typically take weeks to recoup their verve and energy come December. In my opinion, a state of exhaustion is no way to start the season of gratitude, generosity and the promise of a new start in January.
Think It Through: Before you commit to a month-long intensive, ask yourself if your diminished holiday season/beginning-of-the-new-year energy is a worthy trade-off.
Participating in NaNoWriMo is a huge commitment of creativity, time and energy. If you're going for the challenge, I’m rooting for you! But before you say "YES," please make sure this is the right time and writing structure for you.
NaNoWriMo offers structure, community and a fantastically clear goal. But it's not the only way to get your writing done.
- My Two Days to Write™ intensives offer accountability, goal-setting and support without committing all of November to your project.
- Camp NaNoWriMo lets you take the novel-writing challenge during the summer--an easier time, for many folks.
If participating in this year's NaNo doesn't feel quite right to you, take a little time to explore what writing structure might serve you best. You owe it to yourself to do so.
And your writing career will thank you.
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