Five Lessons Learned from Camp NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo

Alright, we’ve officially ended April, and what a month it has been! So I might’ve failed to write a poem every day, and I might not have reached my 50k word goal, but that’s okay, because I still learned a lot from both experiences. Here are my top five things I learned from participating in Camp NaNoWriMO and NaPoWriMo, mostly from that failure. Still, enjoy!

1. Don’t break the chain.

First and foremost is perhaps the most obvious for those who follow my blog. I started out pretty great for NaPoWriMo. One poem, every day. I even wrote at roughly the same time, too, which probably helped with the motivation. And then one day, my schedule was disrupted, I didn’t get to write the day’s poem, and it was all downhill from there.

For Camp NaNoWriMo, also, this became a bit of an issue. After the first few days, I had too much work to do to meet my daily word count goal. 1,667 words is a lot, I might add. Still, there was at least a day or two where I was about to crawl into bed before realizing that I hadn’t written any words at all that day. So I sat my butt down in my chair and wrote a few hundred words, because it would’ve felt weird not to. Maybe you can’t write 1,667 words every day, but if you’ve got time to write even a few sentences, that’ll be a few sentences you don’t have to write tomorrow.

2. Sometimes you have to prioritize.

Although breaking the chain definitely had some negative impacts on my motivation, it wasn’t the only reason I ended up giving up on it. As much as I hated giving up on NaPoWriMo, it became apparent pretty fast that I wasn’t always going to have time for both it and my daily word goal. And since poetry has always been a side thing for me, I decided that making sure I had time to write every day held precedence for making sure I wrote a poem every day.

And sometimes you even have to set your writing aside. I said don’t break the chain, earlier, and I meant it. But the important thing I realized was that sometimes you have work you need to do, or you have a family that you should socialize with. You have more jobs than just writing. So if you have to sacrifice meeting your word goal, it’s okay. Just as long as you try to write every day, in whatever spare time you have.

3. Appreciate what you’re able to get done, even if you don’t reach your goal.

As I said in point numbers 1 and 2, there are some days you just won’t have time to write the number of words you want to. Unless you’re a full-time author, you probably don’t have hours to spend writing. You’ve got homework, or real work. You’ve got family who expects at least a bit of socialization. By accepting this, it becomes a little less heartbreaking when you don’t meet your word goals.

Just recognize that whatever you do manage to get that day is that much less you’re going to have to write the next. If you focus solely on the fact that you didn’t reach your word goal today, you might be hesitant to even try tomorrow. Applaud yourself for writing at all. Novel-writing is intimidating. Most people realize how much hard work it is, and they put the pen down. The fact that you made an effort to write even a little bit today speaks volumes of how much you care about this job.

4. Make goals that you know you can reach.

The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to teach new (and experienced) authors to ignore their inner critic while working on a first draft of a novel. The hefty word count goal is to encourage writers to just spit the story into the paper or computer screen, saving refinements for later drafts. But I’m on draft 4, and I’m hoping to have this draft perfected enough that my beta readers can read it and make sense of it and actually (maybe) enjoy it. Which means assuming I could reach that 50k just as quickly as an author writing their first draft might’ve been an oversight on my part.

As for NaPoWriMo, I walked into that knowing my poems would probably turn out to be trash. No one can write really good poems every day for thirty days. I also didn’t expect myself to be writing any epics, either, because I expected to have at least a few days where my best shot at fulfilling my goal would be – yup, you guessed it – writing haikus. Hence the handful of haikus I was able to post before my NaPoWriMo goal crashed and burned.

5. Mindset matters.

I’ve always wanted to be an author. To be a full-time author has kind of been a big dream of mine since I was a kid. So I thought to myself, this will be good practice, writing every day. It’s something I’ll have to do when my dream is finally realized, after all.

But the whole “have to do” turned out to be a real road-blocker. Writing is a job, but it’s not the kind where you just mindlessly sit at a desk and do the same work for several hours on end. It’s a creative process. It’s true that some people write better when they give themselves a word goal, or when they form a schedule for their writing. But when I told myself that I had to write, it became work. It’s basically the difference between reading a classic for a school assignment and reading a classic because you think you’ll enjoy it. When you do something because you have to do it, it becomes less pleasurable, and I think that this can dampen the whole creative writing process.

So I turned my homework workload into an advantage. It was a nasty pile. (Well, maybe not nasty, but definitely not fun.) It’s a weird little trick, and I can’t even guarantee that it’ll work for most people, but by taking stock of how much work I had,  it allowed me to think “I’ll set aside some time, and I’ll let myself write, despite everything else I must do.”

 

Well, that’s about it. But, good news, everyone: you can expect two book reviews over the next two days. I’ve managed to read through both The Young Elites (by Marie Lu) and Cress (by Marissa Meyer) since my last post, and I was a bit busy doing work and writing stuff to write a proper review. Once they’re posted, though, we’ll be back to our usual triweekly schedule. Feel free to post your own successes or lessons learned (or both) in the comments below.

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