In November, I participated in a modified version of NaNoWriMo. If you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a month-long challenge to write 50,000 words, which is about a novella-length story. I knew I’d never be able to hit their word count goal, realizing my limitations, but I used it to keep me accountable and to dive into a project that I’ve wanted to work on but had only worked on in bits and pieces. It was a great experience and taught me some interesting lessons about the writing process.
Writing is really hard work.
It’s easy to glamorize a writer’s life but wrestling words onto a page is no easy task. I have a new appreciation and respect for anyone who’s ever written anything. It’s an emotional roller coaster of excitement, comfort, self-doubt, self-loathing, up and down…or at least that’s how it was for me.
When I’m focused and determined in one area of my life it spills over into other areas of my life.
When I started this project, I thought other areas of my life would suffer and I would fall behind on my to-do lists. The opposite happened. I became more focused, motivated and organized. I found pockets of time and put them to good use. Also, I quickly realized that I don’t necessarily need big chunks of time to get something done. If I’m motivated, I can make serious progress in less than an hour.
Imperfect progress is still progress.
As a recovering perfectionist, I think this was the most important lesson. One day I was beating myself up about the lack of words I had written (because NaNoWriMo is all about word count) when my husband pointed out that I was still making more progress than I would have without the challenge. It was true. I was still making a lot of progress and I needed to be content with what I had, not what I wanted to have. My imperfect progress was still progress.
I’m much happier when I’m doing something creative on a regular basis.
I don’t think of myself as a creative person. I’m not good at arts and crafts. I’m terrible at drawing. I don’t have patience for knitting. My paintings look like a toddler made them. Yet, I’m still a creative person. My creativity streams from things like cooking and writing. Since I don’t fit the “artsy” category in my mind, it’s easy for me to forget that there’s a huge part of me that still needs to create. When I was feeding my creativity this month, I was a much happier person. When we’re using our gifts, we feel better about ourselves.
Sit down and write.
The best part about the challenge is it forced me to sit down and write. If I want to write, I have to sit down and write. I can’t get distracted by other things or make excuses. It’s really that simple! How crazy! There are many people in the world who want to write but the prize goes to the person who actually sits down and does it. Throughout the month, this quote from Anne Wilson Schaef was an important reminder for me: “I don’t need to do something for my creativity to emerge. I probably need to stop doing some things.”
I’d love to hear your experience with your creative process! Have you tried NaNoWriMo or something similar? What gets you motivated? And how do you find the time to work on it? Please share in the comments!