Challenge Yourself! – A Guest Post from NaNoWriMo Member Alexis
NaNoWriMo is all about challenging yourself. For some, it’s a challenge to write every day, or to write at all. For others, the challenge is tackling fiction, or an unfamiliar genre, or writing without an outline. But we still place other limitations on ourselves, and this month is a great time to challenge the walls we put up around our creativity.
We all have stories. Not the stories for which we obsessively check word count, but stories we tell ourselves. I hear a lot of these limiting stories every November:
“I can only write at night, because that’s when I’m most creative.”
“I can’t write after work, because I’m too tired.”
“I can’t write in cafes, they’re too noisy.”
“I can’t write at home, it’s too quiet.”
“I only write in this one particular app/program, even though it requires wifi.”
Do any of these sound familiar? Or maybe your story is the reverse? Either way, take a closer look at any “I can’t” stories that come up in relation to your creative endeavors. Then challenge them.
My story was “I can’t write at home.” At home, there are a lot of distractions and opportunities to procrastinate – TV, housework, napping. At cafes, I reasoned, I was less likely to check Facebook after spending $5 on a soy chai, a drink I’m perfectly capable of making at home. But as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo’s NYC region, I don’t just focus on writing at write-ins. My attention is spread out over however many participants have shown up. I chat, answer questions, offer encouragement and stickers, direct participants to seats and outlets. So in reality, I don’t get that much writing done at write-ins.
This year, considering my word count was still less than 2,000 words on the beginning of Day 9, I decided to challenge the “I can’t write at home” story. Without distractions, I can make my daily word count within an hour, but at this point I was pretty far behind and struggling with the story. I started following along with the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter account, and spent more time in the NYCNaNo chat room for sprints and encouragement. I kept the TV off during writing time and set new daily goals. As a result, my two biggest writing days so far (7k and 5k words) both occurred while sitting in my living room on weekend evenings. I also wrote approximately 25,000 words during Week 2, which is usually when my word count suffers. By the end of Day 16, my word count was finally back on track, thanks to writing at home.
Whether this is your first or tenth time participating in NaNoWriMo, I urge you to challenge your self-imposed creative restrictions. For every “I can’t,” just try. Go all out. Figure out a way to make it work. I’ve seen a lot of people say, “I can’t write 50,000 words in a month!” and then do it. So why can’t you do anything else you put your mind to? (I’ll tell you a secret: You can.)