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If you aim at nothing

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
~ Zig Ziglar

Aims.I didn’t win NaNoWriMo (again) this year.

I’m okay with that.

The first two years I participated in National Novel Writing Month—2010 and 2011—I won. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but I managed it.

The last two times I attempted NaNo were a different story. In both cases, I was in the middle of editing another manuscript while trying to work on my 50K. It was probably unrealistic of me to expect that I even had a chance when I wasn’t going to be able to devote myself more fully to writing. So why bother?

Because it’s not really about the 50K for me, it’s about the push.

Sure, I didn’t make my goal, but I still wrote 37,735 words! I accomplished that even though I only wrote on 20 of the available 30 days, which gives me an average of about 1887 words per day. For me, that's a really good average. If I’d done that every day, I would have hit 50K three days ahead of schedule.

The main thing is that I now have almost 38,000 words that I didn’t have on November first.

Score! If I got nothing else out of NaNo, that would be plenty. But I always get more out of it.

Michael-Jordan-Picture-QuoteI’ve reminded myself that I can keep writing even when I think I can’t. Those times when I thought I didn’t have any words left, but I still needed to squeeze out 200 more (or ten more minutes), I somehow found a way to keep writing. Several times I got on a roll and kept going for significantly longer.

In fact, some of my best work came after I pushed through a block.

My most productive day was 4.5 hours of writing that yielded almost 3200 words. It’s easy to forget that I have the ability to tune everything else out and do that, then repeat the feat again the next day. It’s a capability I have to keep in mind if I’m going to be as prolific as I’d like.

Participating in NaNo is the annual adjustment I need to remember what’s really important (the writing), and how to make sure I get it done (turn off and tune out distractions, keep putting my rear in the chair until I’ve met my daily goal, push through the hard times, write even when I don’t think I have nothing to say).

The more I write, the more the ideas flow. Somehow I always forget that. I tend to get stuck in a story and want to dwell on the fix for days by brainstorming, making outlines, reading other people’s books… 😉 But if I just sit and write—maybe even another scene or just random notes and ideas—the solution comes. Every time.

The few minutes after I awake each day are more productive than ever when I’m writing consistently. They produce very few ideas when I’m in “brainstorming mode.”

So for me, it’s not about the 50K so much as the rejuvenation of my writing mind and soul, the cultivation of the habits that help me get the work done, and the increased output that is still a huge leap for me, even if I don’t “win.”

For me, that is a win.

Image credits:
Aims, By Youth Hostel (Own work) (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
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  1. Reply

    Gwen, you will love this. I forgot the annual snow storm on your blog. Thought I was seeing “floaters.!” 🙂 Yep, NaNo serves many a purpose. The list seems to grow with each passing year.

  2. Reply

    Reblogged this on The Best of It and commented:
    Well, I clearly don’t need to write my NaNoWriMo post. Gwen wrote it for me. I DID win this year – but what I learned is exactly what she learned. It’s about the push, and what comes when you sit down and do the work. Thanks, Gwen.

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  9. Clive Harffy


    Thanks for the “kick up the backside” Gwen. I have just decided that my #1 sin is laziness, procrastination, idleness; call it what you will. This morning I decided that I would be sure to write at least one hour a day in future. Doesn’t sound like much, it isn’t much, but it’s much more than I have been achieving! Wish me luck!

    • Reply

      No problem, Clive. 😉 I think that’s a problem for most of us. But an hour a day is doable if you put your mind to it. And even if you only write 500 words in that hour, in a year that’s over 180,000 words! Two full-length novels’ worth. Not too shabby. So, good luck! 🙂

  10. Reply

    Congratulations on your NaNo win! I have to say that I agree that you don’t have to hit 50k to ‘win.’ I often tell other authors that they can use NaNoWriMo for whatever they need it to be. To do the whole novel in a month thing, to give them a push to start a story that’s been collecting dust, to finish a project – or a few.

    My first year, 2011, I ‘lost’ by about 49,950 words. I’d only just heard about it for the first time and wasn’t prepared at all. The second time I did win with a little over 80k words. This year? I was under a deadline to do two books in four months…and I used it to finish the second one (almost 45k).

    I like it so much that some fellow authors and I have decided to do a few non-NaNo months during 2014. Whatever personal writing goals we have, that’s what we’ll each aim for. I think it will be fun. Well, okay. I think it will be motivating. 😉

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