30 Days of Writing Challenge: NaNoWriMo 2020

In November 2020, I’ll take part in NaNoWrimo for the first time. Tamagotchi what?

NaNoWrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and participants worldwide have produced amazing works —often finishing their novels—in just 30 days. 

Except I won’t be writing the next American novel. I’ll be publishing an article every day in November. 

Just typing out and seeing those words scare the hell out of me. That probably means it’s a worth doing. I’ve wanted to do a writing challenge for a while, but kept putting it off.

What if I fail? What if I publish shitty work? What if this is too hard? 

Maybe you can relate. 

That’s why I’m borrowing the container of NaNoWrimo – and its collective energy – to reboot this writing habit. 

How I’m structuring my NaNoWrimo month 
I’m inviting all my writerly friends to join NaNoWrimo with me. Some of them want to finish their book, others want to raise their social media presence. Whatever the goal, challenges are more fun with friends. 

To create accountability for this challenge, I’m going to do the following:

  • Create a Facebook event announcing my writing goals for November
  • Write and publish my work every day—even if it’s not finished 
  • Share my work openly via the event, Facebook live and other forms of social media
  • What happens if I don’t? For every day that I miss the NaNoWrimo challenge, I’ll have to donate $50 to Trump’s Campaign.
HIGH STAKES: For every day I don’t publish online, I’ll have to donate $50 to the Trump Pence campaign.

Social media has many ills. But I’d like to leverage it for accountability and goal setting. 

Why do NaNoWrimo (or any writing challenge)? 

I’ve been publishing on the internet ever since it was cool to be emo on Xanga. Since then, writing has helped me in every facet of life. It’s helped me make friends, start a business, and has lead to my current job of designing content for interfaces. 

Writing has treated me well, yet I have not treated it well. 

Building a writing habit has sat in the “important but not urgent” bucket for a while. According to the Eisenhower matrix, things in Quadrant 2 should be prioritized and scheduled

Eisenhower Matrix: How to Prioritise and Master Productivity | TechTello
Image from TechTello

This is why I’m doing NaNoWrimo, to kick start the habit with a structure in place. 

By the end of NaNoWrimo, I’ll have…

  • Published 30 pieces of content
  • Created a writing habit that feels efficient and effective 
  • Clarity in my writing 
  • Removed barriers and excuses to writing consistently 
  • Encouraged others who want to write 

After 30 days, I’ll have proven to myself that I can write consistently without dying. 

Things I’ll have to do differently 

What got you here won’t get you there 

I’ve never published 30 days in a row before, so I’ll need to drastically change my writing process. Here are the 3 personal barriers to writing I want to overcome. 

ONE “I don’t know what to write about” 

I have the opposite of the blank canvas syndrome. I write too many drafts, have too many ideas, and end up exhausting myself with paralysis analysis. “Should I write this because people will care about it? Should I write that because it’s more trendy?” 

These thoughts just lead to more unfinished drafts. Here’s a reminder to myself of how to blast through this paralysis analysis: 

  • If I have a hard time choosing, pick 3 ideas and do a quick outline of each idea. This will then help me see… 
  • How impactful is the idea?
  • How much fun will it be for me to share this idea? 

I also love the tip of writing for an audience of one. If I’m sure one person will get value out of my idea, then others will. 

When I’m stuck on an idea, another tool I can lean on is to consuming information. I often find that if I’m missing a compelling point, it’s because my understanding of a problem is incomplete, or needs more research. 

Tweaking this input/output ratio via conscious content consumption and having conversations will help unblock writing. 

TWO Leverage the outline

I don’t like to outline my thoughts, even though it helps me every time. My story around outlining is that “writing should feel natural.” I have this idea that good writers have words flow out their keyboard like Elton John on a the piano.

How I’ll change my mind: 

Outlining is boring. If I outline my ideas, I’m afraid I’m setting a structure too rigid, which goes against the freedom in writing that I seek.Outlining gives structure to chaos. I can change my outline any time, it’s not set in stone. Outlining will help me actually publish posts and get my ideas out in the world. 

THREE Shed the desire to look good

This is the big one. What if I write something and…crickets? Worse yet, what if someone reads my stuff and thinks I’m a terrible writer? 

I’ve held off on a 30 day writing challenge largely because I didn’t have the belief that I can create quality writing in a compressed timeline. This means that if I publish things that aren’t “ready,” I risk putting out low quality content. 

I’ll reorient my focus away from the mechanics of writing, and lean into the quality of the ideas I want to share. 

DO: Focus on the quality of ideasGIVE UP
Is there a clear takeaway, lesson or recommendation shared?Grammar and spelling. I can always go back and edit 
Does this have the potential of changing someone’s mind? Marketing my writing. This month will be about output and habit creation, not building an audience. If I do decide to put out a weekly newsletter, that’ll be considered extra. 
Can this help at least one person? Images. Sometimes half the work of publishing is creating relevant imagery to go along with it. 

In writing this meta post about my own writing, I’ve realized that the common theme is that I focused on the outcome of my writing, versus the process of writing. 

To write and publish more that I ever have before, I’ll have to trust in the process that the quality of my ideas will get better over time. 

I’ll have to allow things to get messy, whether that means publishing incomplete work or releasing an article that hasn’t been ran through with a fine-toothed copy comb. 

Interested? You should join my public NaNoWrimo event and share your work.

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