This year, for the first time, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Well, not exactly. I had decided to take the plunge only a day before it was supposed to start so, instead of rushing into it without any sort of plan, outline or even a solid story idea, I decided to try a daily writing exercise instead.
My original plan was just to vomit out some words every day – a blog post, a chapter of any one of the fanfictions I’m always aching to start on, or just anything that wasn’t work. The last two were easy ways out since the idea of churning out a daily blog post was ridiculously daunting. I mean, before that I was averaging one post a week, if that.
As I planned my blogging schedule, though, I found I had enough ideas to fill up most of November and, as I started the first few days, I realised it wasn’t all that bad! With the occasional new idea snapping up the remaining spots, I turned this this into a full daily blogging challenge. The quality or length of the post wouldn’t matter (although of course the more satisfied I was with the post, the better) – what was crucial was my consistency and getting a decent momentum going.
Before long, the month flew by and I successfully completed the challenge. That’s 30 posts in 30 days! I learnt a few things from the experience:
1. Writing consistently really isn’t as tough as it looks.
Of course, this comes with a few caveats. I was blessed to have nothing at work at that time requiring me to put in overtime or toil my nights away. I also didn’t have major personal responsibilities. Plus, my Sunday Wrap-ups were basically quota-filling cop-outs. Still, writing consistently doesn’t mean having to churn out essay length philosophical soliloquies every day. Five to ten minutes a day shouldn’t be a problem for most people and seriously, that’s all you need to get going if your main goal is to better your consistency.
(Plus, that focus on consistency rather than quality? Great for overcoming the perfectionist I-don’t-want-to-start-until-it’s-amazing procrastination.)
2. Having a deadline forces you to work.
The challenge goal meant that my deadline was at 2359hrs every day which, of course, meant several nights with me frantically tapping away in the half an hour or so leading up to the four zeros. Still, it really helped to have a concrete deadline, even if it was self-imposed. Plus, I refused to break my streak (and effectively ruin the whole challenge) of daily postings, a mindset which amazingly overrode my intense inertia on certain days.
3. Planning ahead is key.
The first few days of the challenge I sat myself down with a printed out calendar of November and spent half an hour or so just filling it up with whatever topics I could think of. This ended up saving the challenge. It really makes the blogging experience much easier when you sit yourself down with at least a somewhat clear idea of what you are going to write. It sure beats trying to brainstorm on the spot and it helps greatly with defeating the oh-I-don’t-know-what-to-write-about procrastination.
4. Scribble down notes as you think of them.
Supplementing the above is this little gem. Write down notes as they come to you. Don’t leave them till the day your post is due because you will not remember whatever amazing insights you were going to include in. Not only does it prevent your Pulitzer loss due to Dory memory, it also reduces that horrendous stomach-pit sensation you get when you sit down in front of a blank screen come crunch time. It might be a little tedious to whip out your phone or notepad everytime you think of something but it makes things muucccchhhhh easier.
5. It does get better.
Or, at least, it gets easier to start stringing letters together and keep your fingers going for just that one keypress more. Sure, my words might not be getting put together better but at least they’re coming easier now.
The fact that I managed to complete the challenge relatively unscathed has given me a huge boost of confidence re: my ability to post regularly. Sure, I might still be shoveling out crap, but at least I know I can shovel it at a steady clip.
Of course, just as with real NaNoWriMo finishers, this is not the end but rather the foundation from which I can now springboard from to reach higher plateaus (read: actually readable posts). With the consistency settled, I can now focus on writing quality and content.
Because, y’know, I’m not crazy, I probably won’t be writing a post a day but I do aim to write at least three posts per week (not counting the Weekly Wrap-ups). Having greatly benefitted from the blogging calendar I made for November, I have now done one for the remainder of December (and January) and I am greatly excited to get cracking.
Sort-of related aside
WordPress informed me that yesterday was my eight year anniversary here. Yes, that’s right, it’s taken me EIGHT YEARS (and more, actually, considering I had spent time dallying on other blogging services) to get my blog in some semblance of order. Still, better late than never right? Also, happy birthday blog! Be more awesome!
Dear reader, did you take part in NaNoWriMo (or your own version)? How was it? What did you learn from the experience?