Let’s not mince words: 2020 has been a real crap sandwich. COVID has caused all sorts of struggles, anxiety, and challenges. Some of you have had work disrupted. Others wanted to travel to see loved ones and couldn’t. All of us are feeling isolated or overburdened, and everyone’s schedule has gone off the rails.
Recently I posted about the changing seasons and the big opportunity we have to mentally reset using our deeply rooted associations with fall. The symbolism of this month is all about preparedness and taking action, getting things done before winter sets in. This means psychologically it’s a great time to set small, achievable goals and mentally turn the page.
One goal I’d like you to consider is not a small one, however. I bring it up because it has huge potential as far as offering us a mental reprieve from current stressors by providing a powerful, communal goal to rally behind. I’m talking about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) of course.
If NaNoWriMo is new to you, basically think CHALLENGE MEETS CREATIVITY. Tens of thousands of writers all over the world take on the same goal: to write 50,000 words in the month of November. It’s a lot of words. For many, it adds up to a full novel. And for all, whether they reach 50K or not, it’s a way to shove aside all the “You can’t write a novel” voices in their heads and JUST DO IT.
Some of you might think I’m insane for suggesting taking on a bigger goal like Nano, but hear me out.
Reason #1: It’s been a disruptive year, and NaNoWriMo provides us with a sense of normalcy and routine. Many of us have Nano’d before, or we’ve watched others do it. Participating this year is a chance to set aside what we can’t control and focus on what we can: creating incredible stories.
Reason #2: It’s a great way to come together and support one another as we pursue a common goal. If you’ve felt isolated, there’s a huge virtual community of writerly brothers and sisters with the same passion and drive as you. Through NaNoWriMo you’ll meet some and might just walk away with new writing besties. (We all need those!)
Reason #3: It’s free therapy. 2020 has been a psychological rollercoaster that has likely pushed you to your limits. Use this time to pour your emotions into your characters. Give them struggles that allow you to productively use the feelings you’ve experienced. The best part? As they grow and find their inner strength, it’ll help you recognize and appreciate your own resilience.
Reason #4: It gives you permission to experiment. Many writers have struggled to work on current projects (they’ve lost interest, hit a wall, feel too distracted, or their mood isn’t a match for the novels they typically write). One beautiful thing about NANO is that it invites experimentation. What a great time to try a new genre, character type, or to play with plot elements you’ve never given yourself permission to try before. Don’t pressure yourself over quality. Have fun seeing what your imagination is capable of!
Reason #5: The world needs your words. This has been a difficult year and more challenges lie ahead. Stories provide escape, comfort, connection, and sometimes, a pathway for a reader to gain insight into their own lives and grow. What a beautiful way to use your gift right now to help others!
Not everyone will be able to do NaNoWriMo, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t. You didn’t ask for a pandemic or all the challenges that go with it, so this is just a gentle nudge. Use the spirit of NaNoWriMo to create something this November: a short story, a scene, or freewriting about something you’ve always wanted to explore. Do something that brings you joy.
Considering It? Let’s Build Your NaNoWriMo Toolkit.
NANOWRIMO: Sign up, introduce yourself on the forums, find local groups, and explore the treasure trove of links and resources that writers all over the world recommend.
TRELLO: This free tool is great for brainstorming. Gather together story ideas, research links, create columns for each character…Trello’s drag-and-drop cards are a great way to organize your ideas. (Free!)
ONE STOP FOR WRITERS: This creativity portal is LOADED with powerful resources to help you plan characters & their story arcs, world-build, create story timelines, slay story structure and plot using the Story Map & Scene Map tools, and so much more. (2-week free trial!)
BRAIN FM: I purchased a lifetime license years ago and have never looked back, and why? Because it helps me focus on the task at hand. This app plays special neural phase-locking music that engages with your brain, encouraging productive writing sessions. If you’d like to try it, use my member’s code to get a free month.
FREEDOM: If social media and email pings distract you, well, you aren’t alone. An unending stream of information is a blessing and a curse, so if you want to claw back your keyboard, try this app and website blocker. (There’s a free trial).
THE NOVELIST’S TRIAGE CENTER: If you get stuck at any time (write yourself into a corner, you run out of ideas, a plot hole happens, etc., visit this page. It’s packed with the many possible problems you might encounter and how to free yourself of them so the words continue to flow. (Free!)
NANOWRIMO PLANNER: Want a roadmap for 2020’s challenge? Eva Deverell’s handy planner guides you on what you should be doing to prepare leading up to November, and checkpoints during NaNo to help you get to 50K. Check it out. (Free!)
SHOW-DON’T-TELL PRO PACK: Description is powerful when you choose the right details. This powerful PDF gives you insight into some of the most meaningful areas of description and how to better utilize details to make characters leap off the page, push the story forward, and fascinate readers so they live in the world you’re creating alongside the protagonist. (Free!)
Whether you decide to jump into NaNoWriMo or not, we are in your corner!
Create something if it will help you, and if not, find ways to fill your creative well. Be kind to yourself. Reach out any time if you need someone to talk to and be proud of your strength. This has not been an easy year, but you are getting through it and we think you’re amazing.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.